"Beef. It’s what’s for dinner," the baritone voices of
actors Robert Mitchum and Sam Elliott told us in the 1990s. "We’re
not gonna let Joe Biden and Kamala Harris cut America’s meat!"
cried Mike Pence during a speech in Iowa last year. "To meet the
Biden Green New Deal targets, America has to, get this, America has
to stop eating meat," lamented Donald Trump adviser Larry Kudlow
we’re reminded that red meat is the lifeblood of American culture,
a hallmark of masculine power.
association has lingered for well over a century. Starting in the
late 1800s, as white settlers expropriated Indigenous land killing
Native people and wildlife in pursuit of westward expansion across
North America, the development and promotion of cattle ranching —
and its product: meat — was purposefully imbued with the symbolism
of dominance, aggression, and of course, manliness.
There’s an associated animating force behind this
messaging as well: the perception of waning masculinity in our
settler-colonial society. Whether a reaction to the closure of the
American West as a tameable frontier in the late 19th century or to
the contemporary Right's imagined threats of "soy boys" and a U.S.
military that has supposedly gone soft under liberal command, the
need to affirm a cowboy sense of manliness, defined and expressed
through violence and domination, continues to take the form of
this episode, we study the origins of the cultural link between
meat eating and masculinity in settler-colonial North America; how
this has persisted into the present day via right-wing charlatans
like Jordan Peterson, Josh Hawley and Tucker Carlson who panic over
the decline of masculinity; and the social and political costs of
the maintenance and preservation of Western notions of
guest is history professor and author Kristin