LabRat at Atomic Nerds, in a side point in a post about Michelle Obama’s new vegetables-in-the-military policy, says:
As a side comment from the “vegetable guy yet” remark, there is also a very weird sort of gender war going on in a lot of the comments I’ve read on other articles/posts talking about this story. Apparently this is somehow emasculating, and or we have to have fruit and green leafy things because we have female soldiers now and they require salad to survive.
OK, look. Men need meat and fat and protein to build and maintain their physical base, including bone and muscle mass. Women need meat and fat and protein to build and maintain their physical base because they also possess muscles and bones, and additionally to maintain the ability to become pregnant and sustain it. Children of both genders need meat and fat and protein because they are growing. Men and women and children need fruit and vegetables because they need the vitamins and possess lower digestive tracts. There is absolutely nothing biological about food types as gender signaling, it’s a very bizarre kabuki dance that sometimes involves people getting way more or way less of what they need and occasionally produces the specter of diminished masculinity via imposed cruciate vegetables. Real hunter-gatherers (usually) have division of labor, not division of food.
I think the whole “real men don’t eat vegetables” thing is, very possibly, my favorite crappy gender-enforcement technique, simply because it is so pointless. Who hates vegetables? I eat tons of vegetables: since getting to college I’ve eaten enough frozen mixed vegetables that I’ve started to have strong brand preferences. Vegetables are yummy! Admittedly, I’ve been vegetarian since I was five, so for a lot of my life the vegetables were the yummy bit I ate before I had to force my way through the crappy Boca Burger. (Never eat Boca Burgers. They are terrible.) Still I have a hard time imagining WHY someone would go about not eating vegetables.
But nevertheless the meme exists and you end up getting all this weird gendered shit around it. Like the ha-ha-only-serious meme of bacon as the best, manliest food, and the really weird femmephobic pressure on women to eat tons of it and profess their deep love of bacon because they are cool chicks who would eat bacon for every meal if they could (while, of course, still being skinny because ew fat people). And the odd fact that in Dirty Hippie School every third girl is vegan and I’ve never actually met a vegan dude.
I believe this “real men don’t eat healthy” meme probably has two roots. First, women are supposed to be unrealistically thin, which for the majority of women means they are constantly dieting, planning to diet, or binging because no one can fucking live on shitty-ass American pseudosalads with two tomatoes and a carrot for the rest of their life. So because men can’t do things that women do because… because that’s bad for some reason, men have to eat all the unhealthy food. Second, men are supposed to tough things out and not worry about their health (unless they’re jocks or bodybuilders), and eating vegetables is worrying about your health.
This meme also manages to survive, somehow, in utter defiance of the evidence. I mean, most gender memes exist in utter defiance of the evidence (see also: sexuality, the transactional model of). But very clearly eating vegetables does not emasculate people. First, most people live in households that have multiple genders in them, in which all of the people in that household eat the same damn food. Second, humans of all genders have pretty much the same nutritional requirements, and the differences between people are much greater than the differences among people. Third, athletes are generally agreed upon to be pretty damn manly and I am pretty sure they eat their veggies on account of you need vitamins and minerals to play well.
I mean, of course there are dudes who like vegetables. One of them is yelling at my partner about Left 4 Dead 2 RIGHT NOW. I CAN HEAR HIM. (Apparently there is a “tank”?) This gendered stereotype can be disproven with an ancient and powerful mystical technique I call “looking”!
While we’re at it, can I just point out the bullshit that is “healthy food tastes bad”? It’s the secular version of the weirdass Puritan/Calvinist notion that suffering is goodness and the more pain you feel the better a person you are. Seriously. Fresh blueberries in season. Strawberries with the slightest dust of powdered sugar on them. Vine-ripened tomatoes sold by a guy off the side of the road, with sea salt or basil, depending on preference. Giant salads piled high with olives and avocado and peppers and mushrooms and sunflower seeds. Stone crab caught this morning and tasting of the sea. Smoked fucking salmon. If you are not getting hungry now, I give up on you.