It Is Impossible For The Impossible Whopper To Turn Anyone Into A Woman
Over the last week or so, right-wingers have been all in a dither over the Burger King Impossible Whopper and not for any reason that could be considered normal. You see, on Christmas Eve, an article titled "DOCTOR: Burger King's 'Impossible Burger' Has 18 Million Times More Estrogen Than Regular Whopper" sent shockwaves through the wingnut-o-sphere, resulting in a whole lot of panic regarding some evil Burger King plot to turn everyone into women through burger HRT.
They're putting estrogen in our meat and turing our freakin boys feminine https://t.co/1C9BPMZdP7— Dimitri Monroe🎁🎄 (@Dimitri Monroe🎁🎄) 1577219694.0
So apparently Burger King's impossible Whopper has 44 mg of estrogen in it and if you eat four of those Burgers a d… https://t.co/rLpIzbVOba— Bee (@Bee) 1577339129.0
The article, by the way, was published by a site called National File, which also recently published such super normal-sounding articles as "BLUEPRINT: Communists Takeover Towns in NC, VA; Plan to Flip South Blue"; "VIDEO: Boer Girl Sends Plea to Pompeo to Investigate South Africa"; and "Jimmy Hoffa Jr. Decries ICE Raids As 'Assault On Workers.'"
The doctor in this case is Dr. James Stangle, a South Dakota veterinarian who wrote an article in a poorly edited livestock trade publication asserting that the Impossible Whoppers would cause men to grow breasts. Or "boobs," as the good doctor put it.
Now, let's compare the estrogen hormone in an impossible whopper to the whopper made from hormone implanted beef. The impossible whopper has 44 mg of estrogen and the whopper has 2.5 ng of estrogen. Now let me refresh your metric system. There are 1 million nanograms (ng) in one milligram (mg). That means an impossible whopper has 18 million times as much estrogen as a regular whopper. Just six glasses of soy milk per day has enough estrogen to grow boobs on a male. That's the equivalent of eating four impossible whoppers per day. You would have to eat 880 pounds of beef from an implanted steer to equal the amount of estrogen in one birth control pill.
First of all.
If you are eating four Impossible Whoppers or four Possible Whoppers a day, more boobage is gonna be the least of your health problems. Odds are if a cisgender man does acquire breasts from eating four Impossible Burgers, it almost definitely will not be because of the soy in the burger.
Second. No one is drinking six glasses of soy milk, either. There have been a few reported cases of cisgender men with some minor hormonal changes as a result of drinking a positively absurd amount of soy milk (3 quarts a day, in one case), but the "effects" reversed as soon as they stopped doing that.
Third ... it's just not a thing. It's not. Look at the entire continent of Asia, where they have been eating soy-based foods since forever. They seem to be doing pretty okay! Lots of other non-soy based foods also contain phytoestrogens — red wine, garlic and olive oil for instance. My own personal research shows that there are many, many men out there with some serious toxic masculinity issues who eat diets rich in red wine, garlic and olive oil.
The "estrogen" in food products is different from the kind you would get from the birth control pill or from hormone replacement pills. It's not estrogen, it's something called "isoflavones." Most research on the subject of isoflavones and estrogen has been conducted on rats, which, you know, are not human beings — and it has shown that if there are any effects, they are largely positive. For instance, they may prevent prostate cancer and protect against bone loss in aged rats. Also, while wingnut armchair scientists love to claim that diets rich in soy are somehow resulting in cisgender men becoming less "manly," research has shown that male monkeys who consume diets rich in isoflavones actually experience increased aggression.
Fourth. No one is being legally required to eat an Impossible Whopper, never mind being forced to eat four of them a day. Like, if you do not want one, you don't have to eat one. You can still order a regular Whopper, as it is still on the menu You do not even have to go to Burger King if you would prefer not to. This is America and you are free to patronize the minimum-wage-paying fast food restaurant of your choice. Or even make food at home! There is literally no need for this panic, even if it were true.
Because I am not a scientist and you have no reason to trust me, allow me to present the results of a study showing that increased isoflavone intake does not "feminize" human men. It does not reduce their testosterone, it doesn't affect their semen, it does not lead to increased risk of erectile dysfunction, or to suddenly turning into Paul Lynde:
In contrast to the results of some rodent studies, findings from a recently published metaanalysis and subsequently published studies show that neither isoflavone supplements nor isoflavone-rich soy affect total or free testosterone (T) levels. Similarly, there is essentially no evidence from the nine identified clinical studies that isoflavone exposure affects circulating estrogen levels in men. Clinical evidence also indicates that isoflavones have no effect on sperm or semen parameters, although only three intervention studies were identified and none were longer than 3 months in duration. Finally, findings from animal studies suggesting that isoflavones increase the risk of erectile dysfunction are not applicable to men, because of differences in isoflavone metabolism between rodents and humans and the excessively high amount of isoflavones to which the animals were exposed.
Shockingly enough, this is not even the grossest iteration of this particular conspiracy theory/extreme misunderstanding of everything. Back in October, a bunch of neo-Nazis claimed that the Impossible Burger was to weaken all the white Christian males for the purpose of ... trying to take over the world?
This whole thing, really, has far less (nothing, in fact) to do with any understanding of science than it does with right-wing idiots wanting there to be some scientific explanation for people, particularly other men, disagreeing with them. It can't be that they're wrong or that other people simply have different perspectives than they do, it has to be because of the soy. Thus, the incessant screaming about "soyboys."
In reality, of course, this is all part of a grand historical tradition of masculinity policing. It's no different than Archie Bunker hollering about Meathead's long hair, or macho dudes in the 1800s fretting about dandies or whatever.
Or, uh, this.
Irving Kaufman sings "Masculine Women! Feminine Men!" LYRICS IN FULL 1926 songyoutu.be
At no point in history have all men lived up to any masculine ideal perpetuated by those men who think they have a monopoly on getting to decide what masculinity is. You say 1950s, I will raise you beatniks. You say Wild West, I will raise you multiple transmen. It has never happened, ever, and it's not because of soy or any other food product, it's because there is no one way to be a man, just as there is no one way to be a woman, and there never will be.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse