By Lydia Shiel, Staff Columnist
Three dirty martinis on the rocks. Dirty. Rocks.. Dirty. Rocks.. Three. Rocks. Olive juice.
“Do they want them shaken or stirred?” the bartender asks.
I trudge back to the table, adjusting my apron, thinking about whether these men want their martinis shaken or stirred but knowing that in their hearts they will not have a true opinion, wondering if I will ever understand why people drink olive juice in their martinis.
“Uhhh, I don’t know. Shaken. No stirred. No, actually I don’t care.” This particular gentleman is wearing a paisley Carolina blue tie. It is paisley but very plain. Earlier he reminisced long and hard about the buffalo chicken pizza at Mellow Mushroom. He didn’t say anything degrading to the only woman at the table. This is not true for most of the other men.
She’s the only beautiful person in their group. Everyone is white and everyone is wearing slacks. She looks miniature in her slacks compared to the others. Her hair and eyes are rich brown. She looks like she goes to the gym before work. I take her order third, after the guy beside her says “I bet you want a salad, Jessica.” I look at her and she yells “Guac burger!” I ask how she would like it cooked.
Her co-worker, the man to her left who has trouble making direct eye contact, responds for her: “No. She’ll have the lentil burger.” She laughs. She laughs too hard.
I don’t understand. She says, “absolutely not. Medium well please.” I ask if she would like lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. She interrupts, “Yeah so that’s gluten-free right?”
Five of the seven men at the table absolutely roar with laughter. It’s a jarring sound and I flinch. She’s funny, they seem to decide. I ask if she really would like a gluten free bun. She laughs, again too hard, says no.
Fries or fruit? Fruit would be a very embarrassing choice, the men decide. Just like how having celiac disease would be an embarrassing choice.
I continue taking orders. I really like this maroon pen. I wonder who I accidentally stole it from.
The last man at the table makes quite a fuss looking at the menu. I help him decide. He wants a watermelon salad, the full size, with extra avocado as his protein. His carnivorous co-workers are notably silent. I realize he hadn’t said anything degrading to the woman either.
What a … weird microaggression. Actually, no, kind of a macro-aggression. But why? Why is it so feminine to remove animal products from your diet? Further, why is it so mockable when a woman chooses to do so? Why didn’t anybody berate the man at the table who didn’t get meat after they spent so much energy antagonizing the burger-ordering woman? She was somehow a representative for the Gender of Dietary Restrictions even though she practiced none. Am I being too sensitive about this? I don’t care– let’s proceed. We’ll probably learn something.
A few weeks ago, I saw this guy talking about his “man card” on Instagram. It had something to do with the fact that he had chosen skis over a snowboard. I looked Man Card up on Urban Dictionary because it’s a phrase I haven’t thought about in a while. I posed a bet against the (less woke) other half of my brain: there would be something about meat.
Less woke half of my brain lost the bet. The entry mentioned the 3OH!3 lyric, Tell your boyfriend / If he says he’s got beef / That I’m a vegetarian and I ain’t f**king scared of him. According to Urban Dictionary, the guys who wrote this lyric lost their “man cards” in so doing.
Intriguing stuff, but I remained curious about why women seem to get so much more flack than men for lifestyle choices like vegetarianism. I spent an afternoon trying to figure out if that was actually the case, and if so, why?
In his research, Ben Merriman found that yes, women are in fact criticized more often (and especially within their families) for adopting vegetarian and vegan diets. Male vegetarians were met with neutrality and support, while women were met with concern and disapproval. Often, it seems female vegetarians are seen as unhealthy or naive.
Perhaps it’s just because more women are actually vegetarian/vegan, so there’s more of a stigma: This is true. TopRNtoBSN.com reported that of 1 million American vegans, 79% identify as women. And 59% of 1 million vegetarians identify as women. Why is that?
Ummm…is it biological?!: There are a lot of credible people who think so. They say it has something to do with our hunter-gatherer roots and gendered access to foods in centuries past. Interesting… but I bet it has more to do with advertising.
Could it also be that the ethics are more accessible to women?: Ah yes, all oppressions are connected and animals are oppressed. Maybe on average we eat less meat as feminists because we are empathetic to struggle in general? Okay. Fair. **This does not mean you should feel pressured, non-veggie reader.** Being a feminist probably makes a person more prone to supporting environmentalism, human rights, and yeah, animal rights. But wait seriously, I bet it’s advertising?!?
Yes, advertising: Brian Wanisink, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think and renowned food psychologist, suggests people are more likely to eat a food if they associate it with qualities they would like to embody. And for some reason, US advertisers have put a lot of effort into gendering foods. It has been suggested to us that eating “healthy” is a women’s affair, and that men should eat meat. Think Activia commercials, grilling commercials, whisky commercials, Special K. What about those frozen, meaty Hungry-Man dinners? Manwhich sloppy joes? It’s very strange to think about how gendered food is.
There are a few interesting implications here. As a society, we expect women to be the ones eating more conscientiously. But we also reserve the right to make fun of them for it. Even poor Jessica who just wants a f**king guacamole burger and fries. It’s because of the way food has been marketed to us for decades, and it’s probably not going anywhere for a while. I hope for a day when women have total autonomy over their bodies and diets, and of course I hope for a day when we stop eating animals save for necessity. Mostly I hope we don’t remain on this horrible trajectory where we don’t seem to be approaching either.