Yesterday, Sam tagged me on a video that said there’s a new term for “masculine vegans.” The term is “Hegans.”
According to the video, men want to pursue “a plant-based diet” but they’re waiting for permission because it’s not masculine. Busting that myth, the video shows a bunch of masculine, even “beefy” men, singing the praises of their vegan diet “without losing a sense of masculinity.”
When Sam tagged me she asked if I was a “Shegan.” Ha ha.
The association of meat-eating with masculinity is not a new idea. In 1990, Carol Adams published The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. In it, she explored the connection between patriarchal values and meat-eating. Nevertheless, it’s been a long time since I considered in any explicit way that in this day and age anyone would think that a vegan diet might be emasculating.
I’m not sure why this surprised me because in fact the most frequent question vegans ever get asked is “what about protein?” And there is still a strong sentiment out there that animal protein is higher quality than plant-based protein. And we all know that in order to build strong muscles, we need to include protein in our diets. And masculine men have strong muscles. Therefore, they need to eat meat. (I’m just saying what the argument is — not saying it’s a good argument). If they don’t eat meat, then they risk their masculinity because they might lose muscle.
But wait! The Hegans show this line of thinking to be false! In fact, according to the video, they have even stronger personalities than meat-eating men because “acting on what you believe in describes true strength.”
I’m all for any promotion of the vegan message and the dispelling of myths, especially those associated with an un-nuanced understanding of what it means to be a man. And I like the revised narrative that the video promotes: “the most manly thing you can do is show compassion to others.”
That said, the whole idea that we need to gender the plant-based diet, by labeling the men who embrace it as “hegans” strikes me as at best unfortunate and at worst inserting gender differences where they aren’t needed and don’t help the cause.