Meat and Masculinity in Media


[Image description: supermarket trolly with an image advertising HP sauce. The background is blue. On the left, there is a picture of a HP sauce bottle. At the top in large red letters, the text reads ‘Puts the bang in your banger’. In the centre, there is a picture of a plate of sausages and mashed potato. Under the plate, text reads ‘A sauce of manliness’.]

The association of meat with masculinity is everywhere.

This weekend, two Anti-Speciesist Women spotted this advertisement for HP sauce at a supermarket. Advertisements are incredibly powerful tools of persuasion in our society, and are often overlooked or just accepted because they reflect the dominant perspective and societal norms back at us. But what are you actually being sold here?

The large text at the top of this image reads: ‘Puts the bang back in your banger’. In the UK, banger is a slang term for sausage, which the plate of sausages in the centre image re-affirms. The image is literally the dead flesh of pigs, but in our carnist culture we are conditioned to only see consumable food items. Carol J. Adams calls this the ‘absent referent’ – pigs are referred to, but totally absent from the picture. Just to clarify, in factory farms pigs are imprisoned in cages too small for them to even turn around and kept there until they are slaughtered for the benefit of humans. Hidden in this plate of ‘food’ is the exploitation and death of animals. And this advert is promoting this oppression.

At the bottom of the advertisement, the text professes HP to be ‘A Sauce of Manliness’. The reason behind using meat in this advert becomes clear – men have been chosen as the target audience for this product, and masculine gender traits associated with being a man connects masculinity with meat-eating. Hunting and killing animals is predominantly considered to be done by men. Plus, the protein myth (that humans get more protein by consuming dead animal corpses despite 100 calories of a dead cow equating to 5.4g of protein and 100 calories of broccoli equalling 11.2g of protein…) perpetuates the notion that humans need to eat meat for strength. Power and strength are stereotypically masculine attributes and thus society recognizes that men ‘need’ to eat meat. I have never seen this explained clearer than when my 12 year old brother cheerfully told my Mum that ‘men eat meat, women eat vegetables’.

The grossest part of this ad is probably the weird sexual tone. Sausages are often used in jokes to refer to a penis, similarly to the word ‘meat’. So using the words ‘bang’ and ‘sausage’ together is pretty inappropriate. Also note the use of the pun on ‘sauce’/source. Like using HP sauce is actually the source of manliness. Which is actually the consumption of dead animals. And making gross sexual jokes about it. Basically, the creators of the ad are maintaining the idea that what makes a ‘man’ is sex and killing animals.

You are being sold the stereotype of how a man should act in our carnist capitalist hetero patriarchal society. We need to move away from outdated gender stereotypes because they are being used to maintain the status quo and make profits. It’s really important to stay critical of the media we are constantly exposed to. Please feel free to send us any speciesist/sexist advertisements you come across. A-SW will continue to expose oppressive marketing.


Further reading:

Carol J. Adams – The Sexual Politics of Meat

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