By Shayne Silver-Riskin
As we all know, college brainwashes young people. In this context, “brainwashing” involves qualified experts providing students with strategies to analyze new information and arguments while handing them tools to build their own opinions. Often, this leads students to question their own worldview. They challenge old systems that they previously accepted. They open their minds to new ideas that they previously rejected or never confronted. In only four years, this dangerous brainwashing process transforms young people from obedient followers of societal norms into freethinking agents capable of adopting new and radical ideas. These “socialists, atheists, race-baiters, and sex-crazed narcissists” dare to contest gender norms, mainstream ideologies, and even the most well-established institutions. Luckily for most male students at Denison University, their diet somehow manages to survive this process unscathed.
One may fear that progressive-minded students at a college like Denison would turn away from American meat— after all, the meat industry tortures oppressed populations, exploits workers, and decimates the environment. Indoctrinated college students often fight against issues like these in a variety of situations. But while some of these students (mostly women) have adopted a diet tied to fewer injustices, the vast majority have not. With this in mind, it’s important to consider which students have most loyally stood by their meat and to consider how they were able to do so.
It’s surprisingly difficult to measure exactly which students turn their plates away from meat. Some students refuse to eat any meat and many students happily consume a traditional diet that includes meat, but a smaller number of others fall somewhere in the middle (pescetarians, paleos, etc.). Thus, for the purpose of understanding which students eat meat and which students do not, let’s assess only those who fall on one side of the dichotomy or other (vegetarians and vegans versus omnivores). A sizable minority of female students identify as vegetarian or vegan, but very few men do (left panel). These numbers are not far off when we last measured this in Spring 2018. Even at a conceptual level, women at Denison view eating meat significantly less favorably than men (right panel).
Perhaps one should thank masculinity for playing a role in allowing students to remain committed to meat even as plants plot to infiltrate their diet. Indeed, the more masculine that Denison students identified, the more likely they were to express positive feelings toward meat eating. The relationship between masculinity and meat evaporates among women, but holds especially true for men. This does not prove that masculinity causes men to like meat. It does, however, demonstrate that men who feel highly masculine tend to express warmer regard toward meat eating. Thus, it is worth looking closer at aspects of masculinity that may relate to consumption of meat.
A real man dominates. He fights for power which he then uses to keep those below him in their place. At least, that’s how mainstream culture (without the interference of brainwashers in universities) often instructs a man to behave and feel. Perhaps as a result, men generally express greater willingness to support social hierarchies that rely on dominance. Social scientists classify predispositional support of dominance and hierarchies under the term “social dominance orientation.” Social dominance orientation (or SDO) refers to the extent to which one is inclined to favor dominant hierarchical social structures. Put simply, people with high SDOs view the world from a “dog-eat-dog” perspective (or maybe a “man-eat-animal” perspective).
In line with national trends, men at Denison were more likely to indicate higher levels of SDO through responses to survey questions (although, SDO scores were fairly low across the board). Like support for meat-eating, SDO generally increases along with masculinity among Denison students. This relationship is strongest among men. Meanwhile, among women, masculinity inversely correlates with SDO, reinforcing that SDO is often about maintaining traditional gender roles (feminine women and masculine men). None of this proves that masculinity causes social dominance. It does, however, suggest that men who value masculinity also tend to value hierarchy.
Intuitively, one can infer why someone who strongly supports social hierarchies could feel more comfortable with the notion of a food chain that places humans on top. Ted Nugent best expressed this sentiment when he said, “I’m adhering to the natural order, tooth fang and claw is it! To try and tell me that I can’t eat flesh is just weird. I dunno even how to respond to such stupidity. This meat is food, case closed.” Unsurprisingly, students with the lowest SDO scores are least favorable toward America’s favorite diet. Moreover, the gendered differences in support of meat eating appear less significant among students with comparatively high SDO scores. Still, SDO does not solely explain why men appear particularly willing to stand with meat.
In truth, no one knows for sure how men at Denison have protected their meaty diets from the brainwashing that occurs during college, but multiple factors likely influence the minds of men. Countless cultural depictions of masculine men salivating over edible corpses likely support an association between meat and masculinity that functions independently of SDO. Indeed, despite evidence that suggests otherwise, many men may still attribute their ability to build muscles to their animal-based diet. From the time they were boys, they were taught that men hunt, consume, and dominate. Western culture groups strength, dominance, hunting, food, violence all into one meatball of manliness. With effective societal influence over men it’s no wonder that they remain so immune to brainwashing techniques that could threaten their financial contributions to some of America’s largest corporations.
Shayne Silver-Riskin is a senior Political Science major. He is clearly not vying for the World’s Most Masculine Man award, but he does hope to help save the animals.