Settle in with a nice tofu sandwich and some edamame as I tell you about soy boy and how it became the insult of choice among alt-right troglodytes – the sort of chuckleheads who call Trump “god emperor.”
The rhyme makes soy boy catchy, of course. But the epithet twists the knife, impugning not only a man’s manhood but also his adulthood. A soy boy isn’t a soy man like, for example, this pensive, slightly portly, but definitely gosh-darn-manly South Dakota soybean farmer.
Photo via AgWeek
The soy in soy boy comes from “the scientifically dubious idea that soy products feminize men,” wrote Will Sommer, the author of the Right Richter* newsletter about conservative media, in October 2017. Two years earlier, at the start of the presidential primaries, the favored label had been cuckservative, often shortened to cuck; I wrote about both in August 2015.
While “cuck” was about racial anxiety and animus — with the stereotypical “cucking” in adult videos featuring a black man doing the act — “soy boy” seems more about fears of internal weakness, and a distrust of the food supply and the rest of the modern world.
James Allsup, a participant in the fatal white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, claims to be one of the first to use soy boy to mock opponents. In July 2015, Allsup posted a satirical video, “How to Join Antifa,” on his YouTube channel, in which he mockingly praised the (imaginary) side effects of soy milk, including “blocking ‘all your testosterone’ and getting ‘rid of your internalized misogyny and white supremacy.’”
The soy-as-feminizing-agent trope is based on a fallacy. Soybeans contain phytoestrogens, which are not the same thing as the female hormone estrogen, notes Rosane Oliveira in a June 2015 report about soy myths published by the UC Davis School of Integrative Medicine. Myth #2: “Soy Reduces Testosterone in Men and Leads to Prostate Cancer.” Not so, writes Oliveira:
- A meta-analysis published in Fertility and Sterility which was based on more than 50 treatment groups, showed that soy products do not affect reproductive hormones, including testosterone levels, in men.
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published an analysis of 14 studies which showed that an increased intake of soy actually reduced the risk of prostate cancer by 25% while risk was reduced 30% when ingesting nonfermented soy products like soymilk and tofu.
Why soy boy, and why now? In an August 2017 article for Mic, Chris Caesar wrote that soy boy “falls into a very particular brand of alt-right humor. Some folks who tend to find it funny are serious white nationalist true believers, and some are nihilists who just believe being as offensive, racist or misogynistic as possible is harmless, transgressive humor.”
Of course, finding ways to malign one’s fellow men for being insufficiently manly is hardly a recent phenomenon. Sissy was first used in that sense in the 1880s, according to the OED. Film critic Mark Harris last week tweeted a list of comparable insults being employed by the sneering alt- (or not-so-alt) right: “Beta male. Cuck. Snowflake. Pajama boy.”
And let’s not forget pussy, which has been used as an insult for more than 100 years. “Soy boy,” observes the Canadian fitness trainer and author James Fell, “is a ‘scientific’ way of calling a guy a pussy”:
I don’t care how masculine a man is or is not. The whole alpha male concept is bullshit. What the users of Soy Boy attempt to do, however, is equate male support of feminism with being weak, a virgin, unmanly, a loser, unathletic etc. How ironic that those who use such an insult and spout that “feminism is cancer” often have the qualities they so vehemently deride.
Top definition for soy boy in Urban Dictionary.
More on pussy and alt-right in my 2016 Words of the Year post.
* Excellent name.