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Archive for November, 2009


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.

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My first time back in awhile. Put on your seatbelts. Commencing rant.

Sitting in a faculty meeting today, the leader of the meeting (read: boss) was defending the use of clicker technology in classrooms. Basically, use remotes (students and instructors) to increase interaction in classrooms. Good idea.

Then, she stated, “this might sound sexist,” to which I thought to myself “good reason to not say what you’re going to say.” She continued on, explaining that male students love the idea of having a battery-operated remote in their hand, that they learn better with the classroom resembling a living room where they are channel surfing. The fifteen or so instructors chuckled (men included) at the remark. Yeah, good one. Let’s all laugh at a joke meant to say guys are basically dumb-asses, that the idea of having a remote is fucking inherent to our identity as a man. I didn’t laugh.

Then, with the response overwhelmingly positive, she continued, “that and bacon. There must be something about the Y chromosome that includes liking remotes and bacon.” Insert numerous personal stories about husbands and bacon or personal male testimonials about putting bacon on everything. Nice. So, men are dumb-asses who are defined by their desire for an unhealthy meat that they apply to everything that goes into their mouths while they consume entertainment from their television sets.

A friend commented (jokingly) that he puts bacon on bacon. Fair enough. I said “gross” audibly. I guess that was my mistake. When a group of people all agree, if you think different you should probably just agree even if you don’t agree. Immediately 15 pairs of eyes were on me, the new guy, first time ever speaking in a meeting. “You don’t like bacon?” as if they should check between my legs.

“Well, I am a vegetarian.”

There was a strange moment of confused silence.

(What, a vegetarian? What does he eat? Is he a man? But, he seemed so normal, so cool, so man-ish?)

I did not make any value judgments. I didn’t even say the reason(s) for my dietary choice. The meeting moved on… for about 90 seconds.

The group quickly returned to the topic. Anecdotes about meat (God wouldn’t have made animals with meat on them if he hadn’t wanted us to eat them! Really? We should be talking about God in this professional setting, you’re probably right. Especially because the people in the room with theology degrees know and eat meat… oh wait, that’s me) and jokes about vegetarians ensued. I was silent.

Until the third or fourth joke (why are we talking about this? Don’t we have things that pertain to our job to discuss?), when I acted.

“If we weren’t supposed to eat animals, they would be faster!” Good logic, we usually do eat animals we can catch in a foot race like Elephants, Black Mamba snakes, Spiders and Sloths. Nor, do we ever eat animals that would beat us in a 100-yard dash, such as, Rabbits, Deer or Sheep.

Then I mumbled (too loudly), “Some humans are slow.” The laughter, which had been rolling along nicely for a few minutes with some momentum kept up, until what I said sunk in and abruptly stopped. Everyone looked at me like a creep. I never know when to call people on ignorance or not, but now I looked like a cannibal (which I’m not because I don’t eat meat).

The meeting then moved on, but I did not. I was pretty fucking pissed. Yeah! Let’s all laugh at the guy that’s different from us! Let’s all feel better about eating ourselves into a heart attack! Hooray! Faculty meetings are such fun!

End rant.

Commence critical thinking.

Why in the world is it okay to assign gender roles based on diet? This happens more than we realize, probably. Maybe I’m being too sensitive, but most of my old friends from Fresno look at me with an odd expression and then make a derogatory comment when they find out about my dietary choice. It is about gender for many people. Men eat meat (and, apparently, can’t control themselves around a nice looking female, love to have a remote control in their hand, drive trucks, scratch and enjoy football just because).

Why does the (known) presence of a vegetarian demand defense of carnivorous habits? I made no ethical or practical or health claims. I simply stated I was a vegetarian. And, the room full of carnivores responded with jokes and defenses mechanisms as if I had attacked their very way of life.

The most basic question: Why did we need to discuss these matters at work? But, that I won’t expand upon.

I will be further interacting with these thoughts and questions this weekend. If you don’t like reading about gender (which seems to be one of my favorite topics, recently), then tune in next week when I (maybe) talk about something different. No. Nevermind. Keep reading. Better yet, comment!!!

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