By Sailor R.
I’m out to eat with a group of friends on a Friday night. When it comes time to order, I get a pasta without meat and ensure that they remember to avoid putting cheese on it. People start probing and I tell them I’m vegan. Some of the men at the table are almost offended by the fact that I choose not to consume meat. Although I present as a traditionally masculine American, the fact that I don’t consume meat shatters my image of manliness with some. In the American context, the consumption of meat has become synonymous with manhood. But why?
The Symbolic Anthropology School is interested in how symbols within a culture are interpreted within their own cultural context. Clifford Geertz’s semiotic perspective defines the method as, “Pertaining to the relationship between symbols and what they represent”. When an anthropologist observes the classic symbols of American machoism, the connection to meat consumption is clear. The most glaringly obvious symbol of American meat- tied masculinity is the cowboy. Characters portrayed by John Wayne and Clint Eastwood have helped reinforce the symbol of the macho carnivore by tying the meat industry directly into the popular culture definition of manliness. By portraying symbols of “true” American masculinity through such a narrow lens, men who feel unsure of their own masculinity are forced to fall in line with this rigid definition.
The Culture and Personality School believes that, “Cultures and cultural traits are uniquely patterned”. This school believes that specific cultures produce specific individuals and therefore, behaviors of individuals within that culture are a direct reflection of that culture. The symbolic anthropologist would look at why American culture specifically produces the connection between meat and masculinity. To analyze this, we must first look at cultural foundations between high meat consumers such as the US and low consumers such as Bhutan. The religious values of both nations are quite different and are clearly going to produce different individuals. The Abrahamic foundations of the US view human- animal relationships as hierarchical and view animals as tools to be taken advantage of whereas the Dharmic religious foundation of Bhutan emphasize non-harm. The differing values of these religious foundations can lend an important clue as to how men see their relationship with animals and their subsequent consumption.
The definition of traditional American masculinity is tied to a meat- heavy omnivorous diet. Starting with the cultural foundations of the country all the way to modern interpretations, meat consumption has always played a role in how men see themselves in their environment. Both the Symbolic and Culture and Personality Schools allow the anthropologist to analyze American macho-culture in different lights and break down what truly drives this social construct.
 In class lecture