vegansaurus!

11/25/2009

Herbivore Boys and Carnivore Girls!? Japan, you so crazy!  »

The Japanese are famous for always coming up with the hottest and most obscure technology, but now they’ve expanded to re-appropriating terms. Enter the herbivores, or grass-eating boys: the Eastern response to our concept of metrosexuality.[Ed.: Love how the Japanese just take a concept and run with it! Hey America, you like suicide? Guess what, we do it in a group in the middle of a field and it’s a political statement, OKAY?! Or something like that. Also, GOD I love a broad cultural stereotypes, they are THE BEST.]

These are the 20- to 30-something men who are less aggressive, who resist the rigid prescription of a hardline education and the high-pressure business world and who profess a love for things that aren’t considered entirely masculine.

According to an article on NPR today, these self-professed herbivores are also responsible for the country’s lackluster economy and declining birthrate.

In short, young Japanese men are - whether consciously or not - rebelling against the stressful lifestyles set forth by their successful businessmen fathers, and instead prioritizing family and friends over monetary success and romantic conquest.

Now, it’s NPR, so I’m not going to call bullshit, but can we all agree that it might be a bit of a leap to draw this conclusion? Just disregard the fact that the term herbivore associates declining masculine attributes with people who don’t eat meat (remember: eating steak makes you awesome, eating vegetables makes you a pussy). But at the very least, here are a few things to think about:

First, the issue of the economy. Maybe it’s just simple math. The world markets have been in a recession for more than a year, and the natural response is to cut back. Eat out less and cook at home. Cut back on excess expenses. Are the consumer habits of herbivores directly linked to a decline in the country’s money flow? Or is everyone scaling back?

Second, the birthrate. The aging Japanese population and the self-inforced family planning that is demonstrative of the country might be something to worry about, but then again, the Japanese embody a traditional homogenous culture that has thrived for centuries, despite its staunch view toward incorporating outsiders into its borders or its bloodline.

Admittedly, a declining birth rate is something to worry about, but the United States is also showing signs of a declining birth rate. Again, a sign of the times, and an apropos scenario, given the inevitable aging of the Baby Boomers.

Which means you can’t say that herbivores (defined as 60 percent of men in their 20s and 30s) are responsible for less dollars and less babies circulating in Japan. It just feels a bit like attributing a problem to an anomaly in the population.

The article also fails to look at the positive things than can result in more Japanese men adopting the herbivore lifestyle. For example, what about the alarmingly-high suicide rate in Japan, which is often linked to professional men driven to succeed?If ridiculous performance expectations aren’t impressed upon men,  the chances of failure decrease, and what you have is a happier, well-balanced individual who derives pleasure from the little things in life and isn’t forced to repress that.  Maybe this step toward redefining values and ideas of what constitutes success is actually beneficial for the country. I’m no expert, but it’s something to think about.

Not only that, but I can identify with the converse, the “carnivore girls” - I’m educated, I’m (relatively) successful, and when I’m certain of what I want, I go after it and don’t take no for an answer. It’s gender politics. Maybe this shift in attitude is mixing up the idea of gender roles, but I would like to think that for every herbivore boy out there who decides not to make the first move, there is a carnivore girl out there who is going to put the moves on. Babies will still happen, but maybe the rules of how they happen have been tweaked a bit.

At the very least, I have a cool line for the Thanksgiving dinner table.
"Oh I’m a vegan when it comes to my eating habits, but my sexual appetite is voraciously omnivorous."

Natalye just started graduate school studying creative writing, which means that she no longer has a social life, and her drinking has increased exponentially. She has a shiny but relatively useless college degree in journalism and music, and does freelance work, sometimes writing about indie music in Oakland. When she has down time, she’s usually sleeping, but rides her road bike when she can and makes both a killer vegan pizza and the most amazing mixtapes ever. Her updates are private, but you can follow her on Twitter and she’ll probably accept your request if you’re cute enough.

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