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Is there a gender bias inherent in a meat-heavy (Paleo) diet?

by 2782 · May 21, 2012 at 07:39 PM

http://gizmodo.com/5911825/why-real-men-eat-red-meat

I wonder what the gender breakdown is amongst the greater Paleo community. As mentioned in the article, both genders tend to associate meat consumption with masculinity. Would this result in a greater number of male adherents to a Paleo style of eating, due to men wanting to feel empowered and women fearing defeminization?

Should I feel obligated to slam down burgers while the girl next door noshes on yogurt and soy granola clusters? Or rather, does society promote that type of dietary compartmentalization?

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32177 · May 21, 2012 at 12:35 AM

Haha, not in MY world!

I eat more steak & burgers than my husband (former rugby player.) In fact, he's chowing down on a "girly" roast chicken as I type...

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7490 · May 21, 2012 at 02:21 AM

This is a good question for a few reasons.

  1. Paleo has been accused of valuing the masculine over the feminine. Frankly, I'm tired of that criticism, especially with CrossFit being quite equitable to and empowering for both sexes. I've never once felt I didn't belong due to my sex (F). But I've always been a kind of testeroney, tomboy type of gal anyway, so maybe I'm just used to ignoring that kind of bullshit.
  2. I think the male sex has a lot to lose in our current culture. With pervasive environmental toxins like BPA and phthalates feminizing them and the food supply messing with hormones too (especially stuff like soy), it's hard out there for a pimp. I love seeing the transformations of men from before to after Paleo: the muscles pop out, the tummy shrinks, their face gets squarer, they get more confident. LOVE that. Yum!

All that being said, it wasn't a group of women who came up with Epic Meal Time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wFB_vHVFM_8

So yes, I think men can take the meat love a little too far (tee hee). But this is not my surprised face. And I celebrate it too, in my own quiet way, with a huge effin' grin everytime I cook up some bacon or carnitas or grill a steak and I think, "I get to eat this and look/feel amazing too." What a life.

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4145 · May 21, 2012 at 12:43 AM

I get strange looks at work when I'm eating steak at 9am. I choose to interpret it as envy. I think my Five Fingers dock me more lady points than the steak, though.

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1540 · May 21, 2012 at 02:39 AM

I've always eaten steak; French women eat it raw. Your cited gender stereotypes are only from the last 30 years, and largely in North America. English people of both genders are happy downing the traditional Sunday roast. When I was in Oz, all the women were dead-on with a rifle on the sheep ranch in the Outback and they certainly enjoyed hunting. Travel more and realize how limited one's preconceptions are. . . :)

As a "diet" Paleo is according to the survey mostly women despite MDA's heavy Grok message. Considering how many women are seeking health, a more realistic and sustainable body weight, and to reclaim their fertility, I'm not surprised.

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275 · May 21, 2012 at 01:59 AM

I think there is a societal dietary compartmentalization, where men are supposed to be manly and gnaw on a steak that they hold with their bare, dirty hands, while women are supposed to be dainty and lady-like and eat a salad, in tiny little bites, and pretend it's filling.

But I do not care. Meat makes me happy, and it sates me, especially with coconut oil and butter. So, societies expectations be damned, I will continue to eat my steak, or roast, and I will enjoy it, very much. I'm pretty sure I eat more meat than my boyfriend, he's into veggies more than I am. I used to be obsessed with veggies and no-fat yogurt, so it's possible I'm swinging the other way, for a while, and it might balance out more, later.

I don't consider eating meat to be a gender specific thing, though, myself. I consider it to be a human thing, where we need meat, and men might eat more, because they tend to be larger and have a faster metabolism than women, thus needing more food, preferably meat. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong about that.)

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5809 · May 21, 2012 at 02:41 AM

Dieting chicks don't like to see other chicks eat meat- men, however, love seeing chicks eat meat :)

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12607 · May 21, 2012 at 02:19 AM

Andrew Badenoch (of Evolvify) had an interesting comment on this study: "It's also possible that this is an instance in which language and metaphor are shaped by the reality humans evolved to thrive eating animals".

Given that physical strength is often considered a masculine trait, perhaps meat's role in promoting strength gave rise to its status as a manly food. And perhaps meat's lower ranking on the list of feminine foods is due in part to society's view of strength (again in a physical context) as opposing femininity. Personally, I don't see eye to eye with society on this one, but that's just me.

A while ago I moved to an area where females usually do not shave their armpits. I've noticed how I no longer view hairy armpits as unfeminine. In the same sense, I've also stopped viewing meat eating as unfeminine–I think broader societal acceptance of this would be good. That's just my opinion.

I don't know. Either way, society, man. It's crazy.

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3774 · May 21, 2012 at 03:19 AM

The first sentence of that puff piece starts with, "We know eating red meat can kill us." So am I really going to take seriously anything else it says?

That said, yes, certain foods are perceived as more masculine or feminine--I'm old enough to remember the "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche" bumperstickers of the '80s. You never see men featured in ads for yogurt, flavored coffees, chocolate, or Lean Cuisine, and women are only in beer, frozen pizza, and chip ads as servers and/or decoration, rather than consumers. I know plenty of women who wouldn't dream of ordering a bloody ribeye steak on a first date, and men who would never order a salad in a restaurant--even if that was what they really wanted.

But to get to the question at hand: I don't see why not wanting to eat red meat would keep someone (male or female) away from paleo, if they were genuinely interested in it and understood the principles behind it. One could be a pescetarian and still "do paleo" (and I imagine someone will soon identify themselves as such). Eating red meat is not a necessity. And since paleo tends to attract a intelligent, inquisitive crowd--qualities women are as likely to have as men--there's no reason why individual women are less likely to investigate and try paleo as individual men. In fact, women may be slightly more likely to try it because actively seeking out information about food and weight loss methods is already a big part of many women's lives.

And since paleo goes against so much CW, those who are willing to try it are more likely to have already tried other ideas and ways of living that go against the grain. A woman who decides to try it may have long since decided that gendering foodstuffs is stupid, sexist, and arbitrary, and thus enjoys her steaks without shame. A man who tries paleo may have come to it through alternative diets such as veganism and vegetarianism--which are often considered effeminate--and still do paleo successfully without ever eating beef or pork. There's definitely room in the paleo tent for both.

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40551 · May 21, 2012 at 01:04 AM

I seem to be a frequent advocate of more moderate consumption of animal products than many round these parts. I don't attribute that to my feminine side, but to my actual connection with food production.

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2945 · September 07, 2013 at 12:44 AM

Lifting heavy weights is "manly" and worry about bodyfat is "womanly," but do you see that stopping anyone on here from doing either? I think that when making a lifestyle change as deliberate as going paleo, most people are more concerned with their own self than any predetermined, outdated construct.

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15380 · May 21, 2012 at 05:49 AM

As a wanna-be anthropologist I have researched many many tribes and with greater confidence (if there are other anthropologists here, I would welcome any correction) I can say - women always get less meat/fish/animal protein than men in indigenous people.

I know, I know, it is not a reenactment. It is just pure logic. In every single one of these tribes there is a gender division when it comes to sharing work load. Men hunt, women gather. In some tribes women are allowed to participate in hunting activities, in some tribes it is a taboo. In some tribes men gather as well, but women still bring up to 80% of daily food on the table by gathering.

So... men get a greater share of meat. Women had scraps or whatever is left over from the guys. Just something to think about. (Before you call me a sexist - remember, I am a girl too!)

Also, in all traditional cultures, especially agricultural, there is a believe that men require more meat to maintain their strength and virility.

It does not mean that men should eat meat all day long - that's why lents were "conveniently invented" but, according to many different cultures, men need more food and more meat than women and are encouraged to do so. Growing up I saw that my dad always was given the best piece of meat where the children would always get the best fruit.

I believe I need to explain this further because some uber-civilized American readers will not understand the context under which it happened. He DID NOT TAKE the best piece of meat. The women of the family would always LEAVE THE BEST piece of meat for him The explanation that I heard was: "Guys need to eat more meat, they do harder work." Which is true for traditional cultures. My father was expected to move heavy furniture (very heavy, I must say), plow the field, uproot tree stumps, carry the logs, chop the wood (starting with logs, without any chain saw, using only an ax and a hand saw), etc. He always carried heavy loads where the women were not allowed to carry anything heavy. If a girl picks up anything that looks a little bit heavy, a man in the family supposed to take it from her hands and say something like, "This is too heavy for you, I will take it." My father never allowed me to carry anything. He would always carry any bags that were in my hands. I wonder if you have ever experienced that.

I have just remembered reading some research that a plate of meat in front of men calms them down. You can google it. The funny caveat about the research is that it calms down vegetarians too, and the guy who actually did the research was a vegetarian himself. So, here is a piece of advice from him - if guys start to quarrel - make a big juicy steak for them, enough for a pride of lions!

And, just a reminder - women and men are not created... the same. Equality does not mean the same needs. We are very very different - our brains function differently, because our biology is quite different.

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560 · May 21, 2012 at 01:36 AM

Chalk that one up to society and just do what's healthy. As for the gender breakdown, according to the Paleo diet survey, more women than men were paleo (although that might just be a reflection of the people who volunteered to take the survey, and not all paleo dieters).

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65 · May 21, 2012 at 04:24 PM

I will continue pulling mid 300 deadlifts and eating copious amounts of meat, sometimes with my fingers. =)

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867 · May 21, 2012 at 03:44 PM

You should feel obligated to eat what is healthy for you & your body, and don't worry about what others think about you or what is on your plate.

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285 · May 21, 2012 at 03:38 PM

I read somewhere that women tend toward more high-carb diets than men because we're chronically low in seratonin and tryptophan levels, which carbs provide. The levels supposedly go even lower durin our periods, which is why we crave chocolate and breads.

I definitely also think that there is a mental ideal somewhere that was passed down that meat is manly, and pretty girls eat salads, and it seems to be a hard idea to shake.

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11476 · May 21, 2012 at 03:06 PM

I have noticed that women eating steaks or lots of meaty "manly" foods in North America has almost become fetishized. My guy friends are fascinated and almost proud of me when I put my beef ribs on over the fire pit- they usually say that they wish their girlfriends would just eat like that. My dad and I actually bond over meat eating and he is always very impressed at how much I can tuck away. My boyfriend finds it hot that I eat plenty of meat. I think because it isn't as socially normal or acceptable because of the persistent diet culture for women in North America, which puts it on a sort of fascinating pedestal.

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10 · May 21, 2012 at 08:41 AM

Not in my world either Nothing better than a brilliantly cooked steak. MM does know how to do that! Women and men need to eat this healthy way to stay healthy, loose weight and to exercise equally. Although metabolism is different the basic requirements are the same. Come on - let's all eat lean meat!!

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1579 · May 21, 2012 at 03:26 AM

I always thought there was a correlation between the cholesterol in steak and testoserone. I'm assuming that because the girls ive dated in the past that ate steak where very assertive compared to the ones that didn't.

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501 · May 21, 2012 at 01:10 AM

Dude! You said "meat"! Huh-huh, huh-huh!

Beavis and Butthead aside, I find as a female I probably eat less meat than my male paleo counterpart...but I don't consider myself any less paleo because of it.

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