Dating While Feminist: The Veggie-Feminism Correlation

We’ve established that there are feminist men out there who are looking for like-minded women, but what about other compatibility issues? I’d like to answer a good question I received from one of those men:

I’ve read a bit of your writing (by no means all), and as a single man, I’ll admit, I was drawn to the pieces on feminist dating. I’d like to meet more like-minded women, but I’ve run into the problem that many of those who share my political philosophy have a sort of ‘no non-vegetarians/vegans’ policy. I’m neither, and since my position on the matter goes beyond ‘I’m too lazy to not eat meat,’ I’m not likely to change in the name of sex. So here’s the question: Should I re-prioritize meat, or should I just get used to celibacy?       -B

Dear B-

There does seem to be a peculiar correlation between being feminist and being vegetarian or vegan. While working on the last issue of Ms., all three interns (of which I am one) were vegetarian/vegan. I have an abundance of vegetarian feminist friends, to the point that meat eaters are usually outnumbered when we go out. I’ve made the assumption that if you care about human rights, chances are you also care about animal rights. Feminist veggies have made the argument that animals raised for meat are dominated in a similar way that women are dominated and that all oppressions are interconnected. Reducing both women and animals to objects is a part of patriarchal society; both are seen and treated as things to be exploited. Making this connection, it’s simple to see why a lot of feminist women would want to have a veggie partner.

However, I personally would date someone who eats meat. Back home in the Midwest, it was almost impossible to find a guy who was veggie. I have dated men who ate meat before, and since I cook a lot they ended up eating a lot less meat because of it. I’m not bothered too much if I’m on a date and the other person orders meat, but it would be more attractive to me if they didn’t. I suppose I always hope that I will be able to convert them.

You said you are not likely to change your position on eating meat. Given the connection between feminism and vegetarianism, I would advise you to research the reasoning behind some women’s dating policies. At least understand why they are making that decision and acknowledge this. You might also want to look into becoming an ethical omnivore, someone who doesn’t eat factory farmed or unethically raised meat, but who will eat meat from cruelty-free farms or wild game.

On the other hand, there are plenty of women in the Feminist Majority/Ms. office who are feminists and who do eat meat. Also, of the vegetarians in the office, most would date someone who ate meat. I don’t think you have to give up eating meat in order to date a feminist. Keep looking! Don’t forget to highlight all of your other feminist qualities. And I still think OKCupid is a good resource for finding feminist dates, even though the site has questionable policies about looks.

Have a question about feminist dating? Email me at atweten@msmagazine.com.

Photo adapted from public domain.

Comments

  1. As a straight cis lady and a longtime vegetarian (11 years!), I’ve rarely found guys who are both vegetarian/vegan and compatible with me romantically. Really, as long as he enjoys cooking and eating fresh, healthy food and doesn’t turn up his nose at vegetarian fare, it’s fine with me. Even in the veg-friendly Bay Area, guys who don’t eat meat seem to be few and far between.

  2. Many veg*ns and locavores are in it for environmental reasons. It makes me wonder what his political philosophy actually is.

  3. I’m a feminist-minded male vegetarian (9 years), and I can barely find any ladies who want to talk about gender politics while I cook them tofu stir-fry. My last two “vegetarian feminist” female partners both started eating meat again and then broke up with me to date a string of more typical “dudes”…

    What I’m finding is that there’s no combination of beliefs that automatically make you more datable, and that old saying “opposites attract” seems to hold true, because as much as women I’ve been involved with say they want to date a certain kind of guy, I keep seeing them go in a different direction.

    But I’m not going anywhere! Veggie Feminist Guys are still out here and available!

  4. First a message to “B”. Don’t bother with women or men or anyone really who wont accept you as you are. You don’t have to change anything about you (unless you have something serious like alcohol or drug abuse) to please another person. Changing your dietary patterns for the sake of landing a date with a feminist vegan is:

    1) Unfair to the person you want to date because you’re showing them a side that is really not you.

    2) It highlights insecurities within yourself. Why do you have to change something about yourself to have someone like you? Be happy for who you are. Being happy about yourself comes off as confidence. Women and men love confidence.

    Changing your dietary habits should be about you; you’re personal philosophy and your health not for the sake of landing a date. Doing that is contrary to feminist philosophy anyways. You’re manipulating the feelings of a woman about you by coming off as someone else in order to have sex with her…isn’t that reducing woman to a sexual play thing?

    Now for all the feminist vegan woman out there. Don’t shrug off a guy because he tells you he eats meat. A lot of us have great qualities that can lead to a meaningful relationship. Besides, if you’re into a guy and he is into you most likely he will participate into vegan cuisine and eventually become one once he discovers HIS reasons for doing so.

  5. Dating while feminist and straight, I presume?

  6. I agree with Erick on most points.

    That being said, I have also had some problem dating inside the pool of progressive/feminist/human rights-minded women, though I’ve learned (through some arguably unethical experimentation) that my job turns them off more rapidly than other things. I’m in the nuclear industry, and there’s definitely some hesitation about it among even some of my friends on the more activist end of the spectrum. Perhaps a broader (and still relevant) question might be how steep the divide within the feminist community between the more activist and more pragmatist elements is.

  7. As someone who’s gone between being a vegetarian and occasional pescatarian since I was a child I’ve often fund meat eaters to be very defensive.I am not someone who tries to get other people to change their diet (although I’m proud to say a few I’ve lived with and cooked for have since cut out meat), I think what you eat is a very personal thing. Nonetheless, when the fact that I don’t eat meat comes up in conversation. I’ve had many people demanding to know why and get up set as in if I just said something racist, sexist or equally offensive.

    My theory is, that it’s easy to feel threatened by individual moral choices other people make, when this choice reflects a negative view of an activity that you continue to engage in. This could be anything from choosing to buy fair trade or boycotting particularly unethical companies, to choosing not to drive or fly for environmental reasons, or of course choosing a more ethical diet. I know of people who do all of the above and I wish I could include myself among them, but I can’t. All these actions are personal choices, but they are also make a statement that rejects a mainstream socially accepted norms. Those of us who still follow these norms may have never questioned their moral implications before we meet a person who rejects them and may suddenly feel that our world view and way of life is being challenged, simply because someone else chose a different way of life. Rather than either a) use the opportunity to find out why an activity we previously thought was harmless, might be morally questionable or b) simply see it as a personal choice that we might not want or feel able to make ourselves; a common response is to get angry and defensive about our own (now morally questionable) lifestyle.

    B obviously has reasons for eating meat, which he is apparently passionate about and if he explained them it would be interesting to debate. With no explanation given, however I can’t help but suspect that he may simply feel threatened because the choice to not eat meat challenges the morality of his own diet, which he does or he may believe that vegetarians they view him negatively, because he eats meat.

  8. Oops, sorry for the typos above and the slightly confusing last bit – I’m afraid I didn’t proof read it.

  9. And I agree wich Erik on the vegan cuisine, cooking good vegan food is a much more effective way to convince someone to change their diet than just criticising them – a clear case of the carrot and not the stick – pun absolutely intended.

  10. “Feminist veggies have made the argument that animals raised for meat are dominated in a similar way that women are dominated and that all oppressions are interconnected. Reducing both women and animals to objects is a part of patriarchal society; both are seen and treated as things to be exploited. Making this connection, it’s simple to see why a lot of feminist women would want to have a veggie partner.”

    I understand how one can make a positive and strong correlation between exploiting animals and exploiting women in a patriarchal society. In fact, with enough research one can make connections between a lot of sociological phenomena. I just don’t understand how and why modern feminist women would cast away a suitor because of his choice of consuming meat. I doubt most men who are omnivores are actively thinking that they are oppressing women because they occasionally eat meat.

    I agree with Holly that when the topic of dietary preferences come up both vegetarians/vegans and ‘meat eaters’ may feel threatened. I eat meat (mostly just chicken and fish, beef occasionally and mostly never eat pork) because I understand that I need protein and other nutrients that can’t be found anywhere else. Regardless I love vegetarian and vegan cuisine.

    And yes, as a meat eater I sometimes ask my vegetarian friends why they chose that lifestyle not as a way to question their moral choices but because I am interested in learning more about their beliefs. Many of them do it because of factory farming or because of health reasons-both good reasons to choose such a lifestyle.

    Occasionally I don’t get a response because they really don’t know why. Maybe all their friends are vegetarians/vegans or because its the “indie” or “hipster” way of living life.

    That leads me to wonder if the reason why vegetarian/vegan women that “B” seems to have a problem with really don’t know why they are vegetarian/vegan in the first place. Why would someone be put off by the things people eat? My guess is that “B” doesn’t fit into the “indie/hipster” culture these women are trying to live. Which leads me to tell “B” not to bother with anyone who was a “holier-than-thou” attitude. Isn’t that also contrary to feminist belief? After all, we are trying to dissolve or at least weaken many class structures that both separate men and women.

  11. Since people have asked me to explain things, I’m giving this a shot in the hopes of clearing things up without getting my head taken off.

    First off – Erick, you’re right, that is reducing the woman to a sexual plaything. That bit didn’t read as funny in public as it was meant to in private.

    My political philosophy is sort of hard to pin down, which is different from being poorly defined; I’m a strong civil libertarian, but don’t trust the profit motive enough to be down with free markets or other conventionally ‘libertarian’ viewpoints. I’m also not down with movements that align themselves with solipsism and other forms of non-methodological epistemological relativism (i.e. the Strong Programme is excluded, because most of them seem to actually believe in science). Some ideas are just wrong (e.g. sorcery), and are test-ably, demonstrably wrong. I also think that there is ordering on the set of cultural practices, and once we nail down what that ordering is, we should implement policy to encourage higher value practices. More directly – ideas like human rights are Western cultural constructs, but are desirable in the current world system. Power relations are real (and unavoidable) and powers of the world have more-or-less agreed to play by our system of international rules. Therefore, oppressive societies such as Saudi society are undesirable, and should be discouraged economically. The problem with this is the same as the problem with human rights in China – the west may have more power, but it doesn’t have enough power to force them to adopt our practices.

    This is all said as a way of pointing out that power relations are necessary, and ultimately dictate how a political philosophy can be implemented. As such, these considerations should impact the philosophy itself. In the case of meat eating, there are only two rational choices:

    1. We are apex predators, and our ecological niche involves meat-eating
    or
    2. Be vegan

    Normal vegetarianism doesn’t address important consequences that also involve killing animals such as not becoming a devout Jain, and eating things like honey.

    I choose option 1 for a variety of reasons, the most important being that while our farming practices have probably caused extinctions throughout history, we’ve also created a number of species, both through genetic engineering and normal selective breeding that probably couldn’t survive if we didn’t cultivate them for food. Those animals are here now, and as long as their lives are pleasant while they last, I have no problem eating them when that life ends.

    The other main reason is that when you get down to brass tacks, the meat industry’s environmental impact can probably be mitigated by good geoengineering. CO2 reduction (in the chemical sense) technology exists (one of the best technologies actually provides a use for all the depleted uranium Brian makes), and it’s hopefully just a matter of time before the tax code starts to encourage capture the way it encourages buying offsets.

    In the short run, the industry also provides many, many jobs. As someone from the rust belt, I know that the bar for what job is preferable to none is set pretty low. And before I get accused of something stupid – that doesn’t mean we should stop working to make sure that unions are strong and that workers rights and safety are respected. It just means that it’s hard to say you’re making an ethical choice when you’re doing something that might put someone else out of work. Workers’ rights are the only source second guessing I do when I eat meat that came from a source I don’t know.

    It’s late where I am. I will try to address other outstanding problems at some other time.

    -B

  12. For me there is a strong link between feminism and vegetarianism / veganism. i am a vegetarian on moral grounds, and believe other animals have a consciousness. If one has known a pet they have become familiar with that animal’s emotions – fear, anger, love, etc. They look out at the world through their eyes and feel pain as we do. It is generally ego and/or dogma that prevent people from recognizing this. i believe that people who recognize past sexism and that women have been wrongfully treated as inferior throughout history or even as chattel (therefore necessitating the eyes-wide-open remediation of herstory) are more likely to recognize that male humans don’t own the souls of animals (we all have souls). There is also the fact that it takes 20 times the acreage to feed cows for meat as it would to let people eat the soybeans and corn. With so many people starving in the world wouldn’t it be best to forgo meat and have 20 times as many people be fed?
    To me the best way to deal with someone who is addicted to meat eating if one wants to date them is to familiarize them with other good tasting non-meat foods. i’m lazy and eat a lot of Amy’s frozen dinners myself, but there are so may vegetarian and vegan dishes amongst the entries of Indian, French, Italian and Greek cuisines just to name a few. Maybe some people may are passionate about eating meat because they want to consume the extra toxins, pesticides, carcinogens etc. which accumulate in the animal’s fat which is generally marbled through the “meat”. i prefer to think of it as them eating a piece of dead burnt animal muscle and often call it that instead of meat.

  13. Brigham says:

    I’m a very progressive guy who wants a progressive woman, but if I’m told I can’t eat meat I consider it a deal breaker. I don’t even eat that much meat, but a cigar just takes better after a steak and I like a cigar from time to time.

    Here’s the thing, a relationship needs to be a partnership, not trying to change the other person to erase all differences. I’m looking for a partnership that draws value from the differences, not foodie insecurities manifested through veggie dogma.

  14. I’m a longtime feminist and longtime vegetarian (also cis-female and straight). My first husband was also a vegetarian, for nearly as long as I had been. That was nice, but it certainly wasn’t everything. It didn’t keep us from growing apart and divorcing.

    My current husband is a dedicated omnivore. However, in the 8 years we’ve been together, he’s been happy to try new vegetarian foods with me. We cook vegetarian at home, and he eats meat when we order or eat out. He comes to the local vegetarian food festival with me every year and looks forward to it as much as I do. In turn, I took him to a churrascaria for his birthday so he could eat as much meat as he like. We don’t try to change each other. We just love and accept each other as we are. That’s more important to a good relationship than our dietary preferences.

  15. Erick: “I just don’t understand how and why modern feminist women would cast away a suitor because of his choice of consuming meat. I doubt most men who are omnivores are actively thinking that they are oppressing women because they occasionally eat meat.”

    How would you feel about someone who actively tortured animals?

    That is what happens to some of the animals who are raised for food. They live in environments that are very unnatural for them, not just in technological ways like humans live in, but where they are separated from their young, not allowed to move around like they would in the wild, and so on.

    I generally have more respect for hunters who eat their kill than people who eat factory-farmed animals. A hunted animal was probably living its natural life and then, poof, it was shot and dead. Kobe beef would probably fall in the same category.

    My husband has a friend who raises pigs, and they are treated humanely and called by name. I am not pleased by their deaths, but I feel less bad about their slaughter than that of animals who were never treated as individuals and never had a chance to interact with others of their own kind in a normal way.

    It’s a sliding scale.

    It is not unusual for people to not know what goes on in those factory farms. I think it’s every individual’s prerogative to decide if someone who eats factory-farmed animals is doing so out of insufficient self-examination or just normal “go with the flow” thinking. I fall on the “they are going with the flow” explanation more often than not, but eventually, some fall in the “fuck animals, they are lower than me” and some fall in the “I would rather not be mean to these animals”. How people treat “lower beings” is a commonality between feminism and animal rights.

    To those who say, “give us a chance”? You are probably able to google and make ethical decisions. Is it necessary for us to convince you? Must this become a favor you do women, in which we need to do something in return?

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