BY: JESSICA BEUKER
Gender affects our lives in a variety of ways, including climate change—and more notably, who is contributing to it.
Men overall tend to have higher carbon emissions than women. This is likely because they eat more meat and drive larger, gas-guzzling vehicles. But more importantly, men also resist many of the sustainable lifestyle practices that women have adopted. This includes using reusable shopping bags, driving smaller cars or commuting, and going vegetarian. The reasons for not embracing these changes boil down to masculinity.
According to The Guardian, men see certain environmentally friendly practices as feminine, such as carrying around a tote bag—you know, instead of those super manly plastic ones you get at the store. The Guardian also examined examples of men who have been mocked for driving a Prius. One man had adjustment problems after buying the car. He could no longer look down on others from the cushy seats of his sports truck. He was ridiculed by his friends who would constantly ask if he was carrying a purse.
One of the most common problems is this idea that meat is somehow masculine. We’ve seen it time and time again; the outdated television trope of the manly man. He has a beard, smokes cigars, drinks straight whiskey and eats steak.
According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, more women are vegetarian than men, but slightly more men are vegan. This could be due to the fact that veganism is considered to be more “hardcore.”
An NPR article found a group of athletes including triathlete Dominic Thompson, bodybuilder Giacomo Marchese, and mixed martial arts fighter Cornell Ward, who are fighting to change these stereotypes. For one thing, they are all vegans. “Everyone always thinks vegans are weak, skinny, frail, pale. I get people that think, ‘You’re like Gwyneth Paltrow’,” Thompson said to NPR. “[There’s] nothing more cowardly to me than taking advantage of something that’s defenceless.”
When asked “What’s something every guy should know?” Dominick Thompson answers: That compassion defines one’s intelligence with respect to all life itself.
Joshua Katcher, high-end vegan menswear designer and founder of the men’s lifestyle magazine, The Discerning Brute, thinks that masculinity should be reframed as protecting the planet, not dominating it. “Mainstream masculinity is a roadblock to sustainability,” he said in an interview with NPR. “It’s considered a sign of weakness to other men—like you’ve left the club.”
This isn’t just an issue for men; it’s problematic for women too. Why is something that’s considered effeminate automatically undesirable? It is all too often assumed that masculine behaviour is the default that everyone should aspire to. “Man up,” “Grow a pair of balls,” “Stop being such a pussy,” “Rub some dirt on it.” These are the things I’m tired of hearing in response to showing emotion or compassion. These are the responses that make giving a shit about the world, less desirable and subject to mockery.
Instagrammer @_VeganBoy_ challenges stereotypes by documenting his vegan lifstyle to show that it does not emasculate him.
“To me, compassion is the new cool,” said Thompson, who is the type of person who checks his clothing labels to make sure he never buys leather, wool or products tested on animals. Reframing what it means to be masculine is not only beneficial to both men and women—it’s vital for the protection of our beautiful planet.