by Niamh Higgins-Lavery (1st year French with English BA student), Isabel Rice (1st year Nutrition and Dietetics BSc student), Emily Ritchey (1st year French and History BA student) and Nancy Rose (1st year French and Spanish BA student)
Social networking frequently provides a platform for sexist bullying, allowing the perpetrators to mock from behind a computer screen without ever witnessing the damage they cause.
The latest discriminatory Facebook group to receive recognition entitled ‘Women Who Eat on Tubes’, is apparently designed to ‘celebrate and encourage women eating food on tubes’, more often than not in the most subjugating and crude positions possible. Boasting over 1,800 members, since 2011 1,032 individual photos have been posted on the site, the majority without the knowledge or consent of the women themselves.
Whilst the group claims to be ‘observational not judgemental’ the photos posted are open to ridicule and humiliation with comments such as ‘Go on girl’. It dehumanises and objectifies the women, going so far as to seem to criminalise their actions: this offender. This clearly goes against their assertion that the site ‘doesn’t intimidate nor bully’. Furthermore, many comments have sexual undertones; one user describes his victim as having their ‘eyes…closed in satisfaction’. Whilst the site claims not to ‘marginalise’ women and would deny being sexist, the fact that no men are shown in the group directly contradicts this. Clearly we are not the only ones who feel this way as one woman brought up her concerns on the page; however, she was met with responses such as ‘don’t ask such silly questions, either enjoy the group or leave it’. Various members of the KCL Feminist Society have reported the group, but Facebook has so far failed to see any problems with it.
Imagine finding a hugely unflattering picture of yourself with a mouthful of food on one of the most widely used social networking sites, having had no idea that this image was ever taken. Women should be able to use public transport without fearing judgement and humiliation. The voyeuristic, creepy nature of the Facebook page is deemed acceptable by many, encouraging men to behave in this way to gain the respect and approval of their peers and promoting the hugely harmful mentality of the ‘lad culture’ that is prevalent in so many aspects of society today.
Not only does this page promote derogatory behaviour, it also highlights the gendered implications of eating in public implying all basic bodily functions are seen to be unladylike and animalistic. The group reduces women to the level of beasts as one user comments ‘her actions resembled a lizard. Excellent tongue movement. Predatory in a way’. Comments such as these suggest that we ought to keep our physical needs behind closed doors and not show our desires, an expectation which calls to mind the commonly-held conception that women should not show sexual desire. Such ideas are damaging to all of us as they are ultimately barriers to self-acceptance.
Surely you have the right to control your own image? The photos are taken without the permission of the women, degrading and mocking them and at times even ‘naming and shaming’. In a society where women are already under so much pressure to conform to restrictive body ideals this vicious form of bullying only serves to fuel the insecurities many women suffer from. In our society food is inseparable from guilt; we see it as impolite and even a weakness to eat in public, a display of a lack of self-control. This idea is so deeply entrenched that it is often thought that eating ‘bad’ foods makes you a ‘bad’ person whilst to be overweight is not only seen as a measure of attractiveness but also of a person’s personal qualities. Whilst this does not directly cause mental illnesses such as eating disorders it could certainly be seen as a trigger and for a person in recovery makes the process considerably more difficult. By eating in public, it is easy to feel that you are going against all of society’s expectations of you: losing weight and eating meagrely is often seen as synonymous with being ‘good’. To go against such expectations is not just a personal matter, as Abra Fortune Chernick agrees:
Gaining weight and pulling my head out of the toilet was the most political act I ever committed
Therefore this group perpetuates these ideas and so could potentially be incredibly damaging to a person with an eating disorder, in recovery or with a history of any type of eating disorder.
In response to this group, the KCL feminist society is proposing to take back the tube by staging an ‘eat in’. We want as many women as possible to enjoy their lunch on the tube safe in the knowledge that any picture taken will be with their approval. We feel it is important to take a public stand to highlight how offensive and potentially damaging these posts are.
To hear women tell it, we’re never hungry. We live on little Ms. Pac-Man power pellets. Food makes us queasy, food makes us itchy, food is too messy, all I really like to eat is celery. To hear women tell it we’re ethereal beings who eat with the greatest distaste, scraping scraps of food between our teeth with our upper lips curled. For your edification, it’s bullshit.
– Marya Hornbacher
MEETING RESCHEDULED, CORRECT INFORMATION BELOW:
- 12th of Feb, 6pm Skills room (Macadam Building, KCLSU); planning meeting. What do we do on the eat in? Where do we go? CLICK HERE FOR EVENT PAGE
- KCL iFemSoc host an Eat in: will be discussed at the planning meeting