Get ready to update your political slang. According to Right Richter, a newsletter digest of right-wing troll media for people who value their sanity enough not to read that shit themselves, “soy boy” is on track to replace “cuck” as the insult of our time. It is not, as you might assume, a reference to Michael Portnoy, the performance artist who crashed Bob Dylan’s set at the 1998 Grammy Awards by dancing around on stage with the words SOY BOMB printed on his naked chest. It is, in fact, something else. But what?
“Readers, I wish I knew,” writes Will Sommer, the editor behind Right Richter — though he theorizes it has something to do with bodily impurity. Just as “cuck” projected a sexual anxiety over genetic contamination (i.e., your wife screwing someone outside the white master race), “soy boy” betrays a fixation on diet as a measure of political vigor. In other words, you are what you eat, and soy erodes one’s manliness. The epithet “speaks to the fluid borderless zones between the right and conspiracy theory culture,” Sommer says. Recall Dr. Strangelove’s General Jack T. Ripper blaming his impotence on a communist plot to fluoridate American drinking water and you have the gist.
The difference here is that soy boys are voluntarily ingesting the chemicals that theoretically weaken them. The term combines currently popular attacks on masculinity (“beta male,” “snowflake”) with the long, strange tradition of demonizing liberals for “elitist” tastes that encompass everything from arugula to lattes to sushi. That line of rhetoric, drawn from the reactionary capitalist instinct to define a person by what they consume, and laced with you-think-you’re-better-than-me resentment, would naturally flourish under the aegis of a bitter, fast-food-addicted president who thinks a taco bowl is proof of goodwill toward the Latino community. Just as Trump’s overdone steaks mark a desperate bid to prove his machismo vis-à-vis authoritarian control, a soy boy’s tofu dinner constitutes a rejection of male identity — and a concession to the feminine.
You never have to dig that deep for the misogynist strain in alt-right jargon, and when it comes to calling men soy boys, a nutritional myth feeds the angst about feminization: Soy contains compounds known as isoflavones, which bear a similarity to one form of estrogen, a hormone key to the development of female secondary sexual characteristics, including breasts — hence the assumption that soy is to blame for Jimmy Kimmel’s “bitch tits.” But science doesn’t support this claim; studies show that isoflavones don’t lower your testosterone or boost estrogen in ways that could account for a feminized physique, even among male demographics with higher soy intake. Nevertheless, fringe personalities like Mike Cernovich — who has argued that Pizzagate and white genocide are real but date rape isn’t — routinely conflate soy with emasculation. Meanwhile, he doesn’t have the first clue about how to use a fucking grill.
That anti-soy ideology seems to square with Nazi hostility toward an ill-defined “vegan agenda,” which white supremacists protest in part by drinking and exalting milk, an animal product they associate with Northern European heritage due to unusually high levels of lactose tolerance in the region. (It may disappoint them to learn that this has less to do with racial identity than migration, a human habit they tend to condemn in every context.)
But for another faction of the hard right, vegetarianism and veganism are noble ideals, the outgrowth of “blood and soil” agrarianism and proof that Aryan society outstrips all others in empathy. For those who don’t eat meat, soy is often a favorite source of protein, so it’s hard to imagine these guys getting on board with the soy-shaming. I suppose when a splintered movement can’t agree on the propaganda value of a cartoon frog meme, it’s too much for them to reach a consensus on menus.
So, are you a soy boy? I’m not sure if the occasional bowl of edamame qualifies me as such, though clearly we should keep in mind that nativist dickheads like to approach foodstuffs as the stupidest possible metaphors instead of literal nourishment. Thank god the left has good vegetable slurs, like “corncob,” based on nothing besides Weird Twitter irony. Anyway, sure, I am definitely a sallow, bitch-titted wimp who stands no chance in a fistfight against any of the imposingly virile specimens posting on Reddit’s r/The_Donald every day. But if it comes down to a cook-off, I probably have the edge.
Miles Klee is a contributing writer at MEL. He last wrote about how much is too much to ask about your ex.