I’ve been cooling my jets. Letting last week’s incident sink in and then out. Such an interesting connection to be made: gender and diet.
It is unfortunate that our dangerous addiction to meat has been declared a “man thing”. We hear it all the time: He’s a meat and potatoes guy, guys BBQ, just watch one Carl’s ridiculous commercials.
In fact, that’s a good place to start. Carl’s Jr has been making stupid-ass commercials for a few years now. At first, more conservatively-minded folk objected to the overt sexuality of their commercials aimed at straight males without brains and now barely a finger is lifted when the grossly oversimplified caricature of masculinity is paraded around in front of (relatively) cheap imitations of an unhealthy and barbarically prepared “all-american burger”.
These commercials are the most obvious pop-culture connection between the deeply flawed understanding of masculinity and the false promise of red meat and fast food.
Before I go further, I should mention that I am aware of my involvement. We are all complicit in this mess, hypocrisy abounds and we have to navigate our own tensions. The system will choke you out; it has a strangle hold on our agency (or does it?). So, judgement is given with a grain of salt and a package or two of ketchup, so to speak.
It is all too easy to recognize the obscene claims that Carls Jr is making about men and what it means to be a man. From scantily clad celebs, to cars, to messy burgers, at the absolute least, we should readily acknowledge the caricature, the falsehood. Of course, not every man like women, of course not every man like lame women rolling around on a soapy car, of course not every man likes to wear his burger, of course not every man can afford burgers, of course not every man has nice biceps or cares to, of course not every man fits so easily into this bullshit understanding that must come with having a penis.
But, I am suggesting something further. The stable sexuality promoted is just as much a lie as the burger being sold. See, the burger that you buy won’t look like the burger pictured. I guarantee no famous female is going to watch you scarfing down that burger and then run over to grant your every wish (the implied message, of course). The idealized “man” is adventurous and our natural spaces are being threatened by the mass production of these grimy slices of heart attack fodder. I know, I know, it’s advertising, but the point is that this meat is not some sort of abstract idea void of connectivity or source, but a once living animal and viable part of our eco-system, the lie is based on lifestyle and source and stability, like the burger (and sexuality) is not somehow derivative. It most definitely is.
It is not simply that this commercial is exploiting a small slice of masculinity and ignoring the rest. That is part of the story. The real problem is that we assume that there exists some center of meaning for gender. I have yet to find this magical place of pure maleness of femaleness. Certainly there are biological differences, but gender seems more tricky: always conditioned, always mediated, always situated.
Our dietary habits are also conditioned, mediated and situated. So, we all eat bacon because it runs slower than us and because God made it with meat. And, men eat bacon in dangerously copious amounts because we do. End of story.
Threatening one of these constructs comes with consequences; threatening both might be too much for the weak of heart. But, ignoring the nature of our experiences and realities is too costly a mistake. The bizarre need to defend one version of gender or diet is evidence enough that some secret is being protected at all costs, some dark secret we should start telling our neighbors and ourselves.