Men Who Follow Vegan And Vegetarian Diets, Such As Brad Pitt, Promote ‘White Masculinity,’ Says Sociologist

Male celebrity vegans and vegetarians such as Brad Pitt and Jason Mraz typically get described as 'hot and sexy' by the media, adding to the new prestige for men who follow plant-based diets, claims university instructor Mari Mycek.

Men who follow vegan and vegetarian diets, such as Brad Pitt, are promoting 'white masculinity,' claims a sociologist.
Stephen Chernin / AP Images

Male celebrity vegans and vegetarians such as Brad Pitt and Jason Mraz typically get described as 'hot and sexy' by the media, adding to the new prestige for men who follow plant-based diets, claims university instructor Mari Mycek.

Vegans and vegetarians typically cite a variety of reasons for going on plant-based diets and giving up animal-based products, ranging from health concerns to environmental. But according to a sociologist, men who go on vegan and vegetarian diets are actually promoting “white masculinity,” reported Fox News.

A teacher at North Carolina State University, Mari Mycek, is a vegan. She interviewed 20 men who were vegans and vegetarians. In the wake of those interviews, the instructor authored “Meatless meals and masculinity.” The article discusses the “intersectional understanding” of eating plant-based meals and masculinity.

Male Vegans And Vegetarians Are ‘Redoing Gender,’ Claims Sociologist

Using her interviews as the basis for her conclusion, Mycek said that male vegans and vegetarians “uphold gendered binaries of emotion/rationality and current ideas of middle-class, white masculinity.” She admitted that the results of her study were the opposite of what she anticipated prior to conducting the interviews.

When Mari began the project, she assumed that men who were vegans and vegetarians would say that they had stopped eating meat for emotional reasons. The instructor also anticipated that the plant-based male dieters would get negative reactions to giving up animal-based food products. But based on her interviews, she was wrong in her initial assumptions.

“[Vegan/vegetarian] men justify their identities as not only reasonable and rational, but not emotional. [It is a] manhood act…redoing gender.”

Moreover, the sociologist claims that male vegans and vegetarians are promoting gender inequality. She claims that they turn to “masculine-coded discourses” because their decisions to go on plant-based diets are the result of “scientific research rather than personal opinion or emotions.”

Going On A Plant-Based Diet Has Become A ‘Feminized Practice,’ Claims Sociologist

In contrast, Mycek believes that women tend to become vegans and vegetarians for emotional reasons or personal opinion. The sociologist views following a plant-based diet as a “feminized practice.” However, she argues that male vegans and vegetarians “masculinize” their diets as opposed to choosing to “feminize themselves and their consumption identities.”

Mycek believes that alternative diets, including both Paleo food plans and vegan diets, are mainly followed by people who are white. She also believes that women are oppressed by the power given to masculinity.

“Masculinity receives its prestige, privilege and power…at the expense of women and femininity.”

Based on her interviews, Mycek contends that plant-based diets have become an example of “cultural capital.” This theory claims that vegan diets are symbols of cultural and social prestige because “a certain amount of privilege is needed in order to eat a [vegan/vegetarian] diet,” according to the sociologist.

Male Vegan And Vegetarian Celebrities Earn Hype As ‘Hot’ And ‘Sexy,’ Says Instructor

The media is partly to blame for this situation, claims the sociologist. When male celebrities become vegans and vegetarians, such as President Bill Clinton and Tobey Maguire, they receive praise as “sexy” and “hot” for giving up steak and other animal-based products. That praise has added to the prestige involved in becoming a male vegan or vegetarian, says the sociologist.

Dax Shepard and his wife Kristen Bell follow plant-based diets, which Dax credits to watching the documentary 'Forks Over Knives.'
Dax Shepard and his wife Kristen Bell follow plant-based diets, which Dax credits to watching the documentary ‘Forks Over Knives.’ Eric Charbonneau / Invision for Warner Bros./AP Images

However, Mycek did note that because she herself is a female vegan, she may have been slightly biased in collecting data by interviewing men. Therefore, the sociologist believes that additional research should be conducted on the subject. The future research would ideally include interviews from different economic, race, and ethnic groups, she clarified.

Supporting the sociologist’s claim about the media hyping celebrity male plant-based dieters as “hot,” Shape magazine recently named the 25 “sexiest” male vegans and vegetarians, listing “sexy singer” Jason Mraz among them. Mraz recently turned to Instagram to praise a book about the power of food for healing the body and the earth.

On his blog, the singer also praised the benefits of his plant-based diet.

“I ride longer distances on my bike, can do more pull-ups than ever, and my brain seems to have a larger capacity for new projects [on a plant-based diet]… It also makes me a lot better in bed.”

Dax Shepard, Woody Harrelson, and Russell Brand are among the male vegans labeled as “sexy” by the magazine. Among the “sexy” male vegetarians are Big Bang Theory star Johnny Galecki and Angelina Jolie’s estranged spouse Brad Pitt. Although Brad reportedly has been following a vegetarian diet for some time, Angelina reportedly does not want their kids to follow the plant-based food plan.

Pitt famously received People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” honors twice.