Meat As a Waning Symbol of Superiority of Modern Masculinity?!

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Jana RÜCKERT-JOHN, University of Applied Sciences, Germany
Nothing emphasizes superiority by eating like the consumption of meat. Because eating meat means first of all to kill and then to incorporate. Thus, meat as food becomes a symbol of power (Fiddes 1991). Superiority refers also to the nutritional characteristics of meat since proteins stand for strength and capability. This adds up to the symbolic superiority of meat-eaters, which is ascribed mainly to men in modernity. Indeed, this not undisputed cliché (Fischer 2015) corresponds with the nutritional behavior in everyday life.

However, the consumption of meat stagnates on a high level in Western industrial countries like Germany (or even slightly decreases). With that said, one can observe an increasing vegetable and vegan mode of nutrition – mostly women but also men. Interest organizations like the “Vegetarier Bund Deutschland” (German vegetarian association) as well as vegetarian and vegan food marketing address men by means of bodily fitness and capability.

This raises the question, if masculinity still needs to be symbolized in nutrition by meat. Are there rather other means for this purpose today? The paper bases on the assumption that meat has become too problematic in regard to the environment and health. It is also no longer a means for differentiation as a rather cheap mass product in Western countries. Capability as the core of male gender role attribution (represented as male habit) can be represented by nutritional means beyond meat. Nevertheless, one can observe counter-trends in the media as well, emphasizing a carnivore nutritional life-style. To answer the main question, the paper will discuss the actual symbolic means of meat as food for the reproduction of masculinity based on historic development and current nutrition trends. It becomes apparent, that meat is not primary about superiority, but rather about symbolizing capability as the core of male gender role attribution.