I think I have some insight into why there was so much backlash from the so-called ‘feminist community’ and women at large against the guy who started a Facebook group by posting photos of women eating on tubes. Several women complained about their photos being used, but he refused to take them down for a long time. There was lots of media interest in the issue, but no one could really pinpoint why this was apparently so sexist.
To focus solely on women and their relationship to food touches on a nerve, which men probably don’t notice, because there isn’t the same stigma attached to eating for men.
Most women will be able to identify with the awkwardness of eating at work – snaffling your lunch in front of other people, and having others pass judgement on what you’re eating. ‘Oh, you’re so healthy.’ ‘What – crisps? At 10am?’ ‘Why aren’t you eating any cake?’
I don’t think men tend to take any particular interest in the eating habits of their peers, but the opposite is certainly the case for women. I think this partly stems from the immense pressure on women to tightly control their eating habits, in an effort to reach that svelte size 8 – which is in reality out of reach for most women, or would be unhealthy to attain.
For women, life is a constant battle to look thin, while resisting the tidal wave of marketing and advertising from the food industry. From the cradle to the grave, we are assaulted with images of stick-thin women, from Disney princesses, to models and actresses. Ironically, the UK food industry is currently worth £175.4 billion and still rising; some people are obviously getting rich by making us fat.
It’s a special paradox that women are charged with the impossible duty of being painfully thin, and yet constantly deluged by adverts that urge them to consume.
Typical ‘subconscious’ messaging behind an ice cream advert: Eat this chocolate ice cream – it’ll make you look and feel sexy and meet the man of your dreams.
On the other hand, from women’s magazines: Don’t eat ice cream – Kate Moss doesn’t, and as a result she is sexy and happy.
How many women can look at a picture of a Big Mac without their mouth watering? And how many count the calories in that burger?
I think this originally ‘banterous’ Facebook group, which is still online (with all but one of the photos removed) inadvertently taps into women’s private torment, and subsequently unleashed the fury of millions of beleaguered women. This man and his acolytes were not just bantering about women eating on tubes – they were, in a way, pointing cruelly at the hell that exists between women and their food. It is hard to enjoy eating without guilt, and the woman who genuinely does is rare.
We must eat – but not too much, and not on tubes, it seems.