“I could really go for a good burger right now,” my friend says in a tone that conveys that a burger would fill not only her stomach, but her soul.
She leans against the wall expectantly. All night, she’s been flirting with another friend, a certain kind of guy who likes a certain kind of girl: thin, glossy-haired, and intelligent enough to be a sparkling conversationalist, quick with a comeback, but not necessarily intellectually aggressive enough to call him on any of his bullshit.
“I love hamburgers,” my small, pretty friend repeats, letting her tongue linger over the “l” as she twirls her hair.
Silent, I roll my eyes.
There’s this trope among women that eating meat makes them attractive. Actually, let me clarify: there’s a trope among skinny, desirable women that eating high-calorie, fatty meat makes them attractive. It’s not just a culinary choice, but a lifestyle, which means they get to say to men: “Hey, I might look like a girl, but I’m not really. Girls suck. I am different, a red-blooded animal who hungers for flesh, just like you. I am unlike those ludicrous women who insist on eating kale, those weak-hearted vegetarians who grow faint at the sight of animal flesh.” No, not the hamburger-eater. She likes her food solid, thick, and bloody: she is a beast with a voracious appetite and a body that suggests the opposite.
I understand that there are girls who sincerely enjoy the taste of hamburgers, who find them genuinely delicious. Most humans, I think, understand this: we are carnivores, we like meat. I’m a vegetarian and even I understand the appeal of a hamburger to Homo sapiens, who grew so strong and so tall because they learned how to kill things and kill them good. My problem is with girls who loudly proclaim, in the proximity of a desirable male, that they love burgers. That burgers are the greatest things in the world. That there’s just nothing like a good burger. And then, phrased emphatically, is the crux of the girl’s point, why she’s brought up her tastes in the first place: she just doesn’t understand how some girls don’t like hamburgers. Unspoken, but obvious to all, is the follow-up: whoever those girls are, there’s something wrong with them.
Well, I don’t like burgers all that much and most of the time I think there’s nothing wrong with me. As mentioned, I don’t eat meat, but even when I did, I never really liked burgers. I mean yes, they were tasty, but they didn’t bring me happiness in my soul the way, say, a good hot dog does (god, I miss hot dogs). And so when I hear a girl suggest I’m less desirable because I don’t talk about hamburgers like I’d like to have sex with them, I hate her a little bit.
I hate hating girls, because so much of my time as a woman in this society has been spent learning how to belittle other women as opposed to fighting mechanisms like this that keep women sniping at each other instead of reaching true equality. It is this mechanism that motivates a girl to suggest that her affinity for hamburgers makes her somehow better (read: more attractive) than I am.
It’s no secret that girls who scorn girls are considered “cool.” Part of growing up is realizing that what girls like—pink, dolls, glitter—is considered dumb, all frivolity and superficiality. Though there are significant numbers of college-age boys who loudly and proudly brag about playing endless video games, about their Pokémon card collection and their paintball skills, you don’t ever hear girls talking about playing Barbies. We’ve grown up. After all, it is an appreciation for characteristically male preferences that marks true taste. How cool are girls who smoke cigars (or even, to some extent, weed), who like sports, who eat burgers with bacon and cheese? Those are the girls who (straight) boys like: girls who are like boys.
Obviously, though, these girls don’t look like boys: the most important thing about the girl who uses her love for burgers to make her seem hot is that she is also pretty hot. No one likes a girl who eats bacon cheeseburgers who looks like a girl who eats bacon cheeseburgers. They get away with their unconventional preferences because they are hidden behind a conventionally attractive exterior. I mentioned this to a male friend once and he claimed it was evolutionary, proving that women with fast metabolisms are desirable. No: this is sexist. The hips and thighs that carbs and fats give you were once considered the height of female perfection, but now, beauty norms demand flat stomachs, lean legs, earned without trying too hard. There’s this double standard that women should look good, but not talk about it. Women who are too committed to their appearance are laughed at; a strict diet is considered annoying; facials and manicures are exorbitant and self-indulgent.
I realize that as I’m writing this article I’m putting down girls who put girls down and this seems hypocritical, so let me make it clear that I know a lot of this is a problem with our society as a whole, and not just girls who eat burgers. This is entirely my own sociological observation here and could be totally disproved, but in my experience there are many more men who do yoga, who are vegetarian, and who admit to some appearance-based vanity of their own here on the liberal east coast than I knew at home in Indianapolis. I think it’s great these gender norms are getting worn away. That said, it’s just as frustrating for a guy to do yoga to impress girls as it is for a girl to eat hamburgers to impress guys (though only one will increase risk of a heart attack). What’s crucial, though, is that we do things because we really enjoy them, and not to prove we are better than those around us.
Just because my tastes don’t match a man’s doesn’t mean that I’m somehow worse than girls whose do. The female who feels that loving hamburgers elevates her above women who don’t is, basically, defining her life according to what men expect of her. Men, on a societal level, are not compelled to sacrifice any of their personal tastes to please a woman. Where a woman’s tastes are stupid, fleeting and “quirky,” a man’s are moral imperatives. They are not phrased in the personal (“I like hamburgers”), but the universal (“hamburgers are good,”)—and the people who like them are good, too. Every time I see a woman flash her love of meat in a guy’s face, I see a woman obsessed with being found attractive; a woman who does not prioritize her identity over that of the nearest male; a woman ashamed of being a woman, who knows that, when she says she loves hamburgers, men will just eat it up.