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I'm a Girl and I Eat Meat

I’m a girl, and I eat meat. Unless you’re one of the 7% of women in the United States who identify as vegetarian, you’re probably thinking, “Me too!” So what’s the big deal?

Imagine this scenario: You’re sitting in a restaurant across from your male friend/significant other. The server comes to the table carrying a 1/3 lb. burger with fries in one hand and three tempeh tacos in the other. You look up at him and smile. You’re starving and the food has finally arrived! He slides the burger in front of your boyfriend/husband/friend. “Um, sorry, that’s mine actually,” you say. You get your burger, but the incident has left a sour taste in your mouth.

This is a recurring situation in my life. My husband is vegetarian and I am not. Whenever I order a meal that involves meat, the server assumes it’s for him instead of me. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is a big deal! I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what bothers me so much about this behavior and my husband has assured me that it’s offensive to men as well as women.

So why does it have to be the guy who’s eating the burger? There are so many stereotypes involved in that assumption: girls try to eat healthier than guys and watch their weight, men eat meat because eating meat is manly and real men are not vegetarian. So from the server’s perspective, the problem is this: if he gives me the burger, he risks suggesting that I eat too much and implying that my husband is somehow less of a man for not eating meat. But more than likely, the server doesn’t even think about it that much and just acts unconsciously based on socially rampant gender stereotypes. More than likely, he doesn’t realize he’s made a mistake. My problem with the situation is that these shouldn’t be stereotypes in the first place, and I don’t want me or my husband to feel judged for choosing to eat what we choose to eat based on someone else’s idea of what’s girly or manly. There are plenty of reasons for men to not eat meat, health concerns being a major one. Likewise, female customers should not be embarrassed eat steak if they want to or ashamed to eat a heavier meal than their male counterpart.

To make matters worse, I often find myself apologizing for pointing out that, no, the salad is not mine, I’ll take the pepperoni and sausage pizza, please. Deep down I know I’m acting based on the same stereotypes as the server. It’s a “Sorry for eating so much, I know I really shouldn’t, but it’s just this once, because this place has great burgers!” kind of apology. Or worse yet, it’s a “Sorry for being inconveniently a-stereotypical” apology that really makes me cringe at my own spinelessness.

I don’t have to apologize for what I eat (or don’t), and neither does any other girl or guy.

Yes, nearly twice as many women are vegetarian as men (7% versus 4%), but those statistics really don’t tell you anything about the combination of vegetarians and their meat-eating friends dining at your restaurant. So please quit assuming I ordered the veggie omelet instead of the pancakes with a side of bacon!

When we first started dating my husband and I would let the mistake go and switch our plates once the server left. I’d like to think that telling the server exactly whose food is whose is a step toward banishing this particular gender stereotype, but I’m not sure. Are we doing enough?

Statistics from this Gallup poll (2012).

You can read more from Mackenzie Warren on her blog and follow her on Twitter.

Feature image via.

  • Catherine Westcott

    This happens to me too. I don’t really think it’s a huge deal, I usually just laugh it off and say ‘err, that’s actually for him’. I’ve worked in hospitality and yeah, you should really ask the customer whose meal is whose before placing it in front of them. But at the same time plates are often heavy and precarious and you just want to put it down before you end up wearing someone’s eggs hollandaise. Also there’s a reason why it’s a stereotype, because it’s usually correct! For a rushed waitress, it’s easier if not the perfect solution. But I’m sure no one is out to offend anyone. It may be irksome at times, but I figure we have bigger fish to fry, so to speak.

  • Nathalie Wlostowski

    I used to be a waitress, so when I forgot who ordered what, I usually placed the beer with the man. Why? Because in like 90% of the cases, it WAS the man that ordered the beer.

    So, you have to understand that we, as waiters, aren’t gender stereotyping, we’re folowing the habits of the clientele, that is, unfortunately, gender stereotyped.

    I’m just happy to see your huusband’s a vegetarian. It really is refreshing, in contrast with all those men saying ‘I need meat’.

  • Tracey Munro

    “But more than likely, the server doesn’t even think about it that much and just acts unconsciously based on socially rampant gender stereotypes. ”
    Or MORE likely, based on significant experience as a server that 95% of the time it’s the bloke that ordered the beef.
    That’s not a “stereotype”. It’s a statistical probability.
    Sure, the server should probably not make assumptions and check first in an ideal world. And no, you should never have to apologise for your food choices! But it’s not something most people would get offended over.

  • Jennifer Wayne

    A similar situation would always happen to my parents. My mom woud order beer, but my father didnt really drink. My father is also diabetic so he would order diet soda if he did order soda. So the waiter would drop off the drinks- beer to my father, diet soda or water to my mother.
    when i was young I always asked my parents why that ALWAYS happend.

  • Amy Franklin

    What bothers me even more than this: My fiance and I go out to eat. The check comes, and if I’m paying, I place the card/money in the envelope and the server comes to collect it. Despite the fact that the card has MY name on it, or that the server may even have watched ad I paid, more often than not, they return and hand it back to my guy! I really don’t get this, especially in the instances where they saw it was me paying.

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