The current fixation to conceptualise traditional and hegemonic masculinity using animal-derived foods has manifested into various gender related issues in contemporary society (Adams, 2015). For example, the expectation that men ought to consume meat to be masculine stems from historical findings regarding the symbolic value of these foods combined with societal expectations of gender-congruent food consumption (Cavazza et al., 2015). The connection between manliness and meat is strengthened by arguments from scholars illustrating its representational value for masculine domination, virility and physical strength (Gambert & Linné, 2018; Sobal, 2005). Despite the wide range of new possibilities to represent and interpret masculinities in contemporary society, the importance of meat and other animal-derived products as a synecdoche for manliness prevails. Consequently, disparities arise regarding the perception of masculinity when men actively subvert and repudiate gender-congruent food consumption – choosing plant-based foods and veganism over animal-derived foods and omnivorism instead. This study investigates these negotiations for alternative and recontextualised concepts of masculinities using experiences from male vegans from the United Kingdom. Not only does this thesis unearth insights regarding how veganism facilitates alternative performances and evocations of manliness, but it also exemplifies how mediated narratives and platforms, such as Instagram, are essential tools to induce and elicit socio-cultural change. The main research question in this study is: How do male vegan Instagrammers from the United Kingdom challenge and attempt to normalise existing gender ideologies in their Instagram usage? Furthermore, the sub-question is: How do British male vegan Instagrammers interpret different masculinities? Moreover, 11 in-depth interviews were conducted to acquire knowledge about the subversion of traditional masculinity via vegan foodways and how this was experienced and manifested by the respondents. The interviews accounted for approximately 14 hours of data. The data collection was subsequently analysed using grounded theory and thematic analysis, which provided four main themes: Development of Emotional Literacy, Amalgamation and Departmentalisation of Masculinities, Locus of Control and Ambivalence of Inclusion. As revealed in the findings, the participants used multiple tactics to normalise and challenge existing gender ideologies in their Instagram use. In sum, veganism aided the respondents in developing emotional literacy resulting in improved abilities to articulate their emotionality and empathy towards animals and other people. Further, the fluidity of masculinity was emphasised in this study; one’s perception is imperative to the experience and conceptualisation of manliness. Consequently, these revelations are articulated on Instagram to create an inclusive community based on relatability and accessibility. Nonetheless, the respondents’ endeavours illustrated the propensity of performing traditional masculine behaviour when negotiating and eliciting these social changes, which can be concerning. In essence, this study encapsulated vegan men’s ability to convey manliness without the inclusion and consumption of animal-based foods using a sample study concerning 11 male vegan Instagrammers.

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Dr. Radhika Mittal
Media, Culture & Society
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Sally Cheng. (2021, June 24). Rabbit Food for Men. How Male Vegans From the United Kingdom Prune, Shape and Challenge Existing Gender Ideologies Through Plant-Based Food Consumption. Media, Culture & Society. Retrieved from