It’s no secret that there are more women than men in the world of animal advocacy. Did you know that 79 percent of vegans in the US are women? Why aren’t more men embracing a healthier, kinder, and more sustainable plant-based diet? Clearly women aren’t the only ones who care about these important issues.
Sadly, the stereotypical view of masculinity tends to label behaviors like fighting, hunting, and meat eating as normal and acceptable, and many men can feel pressured to conform. It’s likely that these outmoded views of what it means to be a man have been detrimental to the movement’s acceptance across the mainstream.
A new digital magazine, Compassionate Man, is tackling these stereotypes head on. With the tagline: “A magazine that does for compassion what GQ does for fashion,” the publication is out to reframe the modern concept of masculinity.
We spoke to founder Nicholas Coughlin about his new endeavor, the inspiration that drove him, and how men can join the growing meat-free movement to help change the world.
Compassion Over Killing: What inspired you to start the magazine?
Nick Coughlin: Popular culture glamorizes macho, meat-grilling, alpha males. Even good, kind, and compassionate men often strut around like peacocks in an effort to appear masculine, seldom stopping to consider: Is this really what being a man is all about?
The hyper-masculine narrative we’ve known from the day we were born taught us not to value what culture has feminized; caring for others, relationships, empathy, and compassion, just to name a few. But I believe those ‘feminine’ traits are actually essential qualities that, when combined with the more culturally accepted ‘masculine’ traits, actually form the building blocks of a good, complete man.
I had a conversation with an older man many years ago about how we both remembered loving animals as young boys, but always felt like that love was somehow a little ‘girly.’ I never thought this might be a common experience among men, but that conversation hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized there were probably a lot of guys in the world suppressing their love for animals because they were afraid of looking ‘girly.’ And on the flip side, I wondered how many guys engaged in certain behaviors or activities like hunting because they thought it might make them look more ‘manly.’ That’s sad.
As I got more involved in animal advocacy as an adult, I noticed that a lot of our efforts are directed toward reaching young women. They’re the most receptive demographic when it comes to our message of compassion, so I understand why it makes sense to leverage our limited time and resources in that way. But I also think it’s a bit short-sighted to largely dismiss a full half of the world’s population, especially when I know that guys have the very same ability to empathize with animals that women have. Many of them are simply hesitant to admit it.
I knew I needed to create a resource that celebrates men who challenge the simplified caricature of masculinity that our culture promotes. A resource that features guys who are out there making the world a better place; who are genuinely good men working to protect the most vulnerable beings on our planet. I hope that in doing so, I can inspire men and women to live in better alignment with their core values.
What do you think it means to be a compassionate man?
I don’t pretend to be the ultimate authority on the topic, but I don’t think there is only one kind of compassionate man. I happen to focus most of my attention on our treatment of animals, but many men are out there are fighting for other worthy causes out of a deep sense of compassion. They’re speaking up for others and lending a helping hand to those in need. They’re using their strength, their skills, and their blood, sweat, and tears to help the less fortunate.
Being a compassionate man doesn’t mean we have to be outspoken advocates, but ultimately, I do think that it requires us to look inward and question how our own actions and choices affect others. Are we doing things, buying things, or watching things, for instance, that harm others? How can we improve? What habits can we change to create more peace and less suffering in the world? Those are important questions to ask as we go about our lives, and I think that doing so will move us closer to becoming the best version of ourselves.
Masculinity is an ever-evolving concept, and I believe we are right to be curious about it. I hope Compassionate Man can play a role in fundamentally shifting our notions of what makes a man a man. As my friend Unny Nambudiripad says, ‘Today’s masculinity asks us to cultivate kindness and empathy, especially to those who are at our mercy. We have the opportunity to live a connected, full life with rich relationships and harmony when we embrace compassionate masculinity.’ I couldn’t have said it any better.
How would you like to see men participate in this new endeavor?
I want to stress the fact that reframing masculinity and cultivating compassion among men has a lot to do with women, too. We all ascribe to certain ideas, often mindlessly. We hear the man say ‘We have the meats!’ in Arby’s commercials and either consciously or subconsciously think ‘Manly.’ Our job is to challenge those unfortunate caricatures of men and ‘manliness’ wherever we encounter them. Mothers and fathers have an amazing opportunity to teach young boys that it’s ok to express their feelings, or that it’s not cool to hurt animals no matter how small or insignificant they seem. We can all show others that real masculinity is about protecting the vulnerable. It takes no strength of character or bravery to exploit those at our mercy.
Subscribing to Compassionate Man is a wonderful way to show your support for these important ideas. If we’re successful enough as a digital publication, we’ll be better prepared to attract the right investors who want to help turn this digital publication into a hardcopy magazine. If we want to create a kinder, more compassionate world, we need to not only reach, but appeal to the mainstream.
In the end, I want to inspire men to proudly embrace compassion and speak up for what’s right.