Before we go any further with this post I’m going to state my opinion on this right now, Women Who Eat On Tubes is abhorrent. On the whole, I think it’s great to start a debate (rhyme unintentional) regardless of whether it’s over the Kimye Vogue cover, Miley’s twerking antics or the ongoing hubbub about peacocking at fashion week. All totally unnecessary occurrences that spur some pretty strong opinions. Whatever side of the fence you fall on, you’ve got to admit that things, be they fashion, music or pop culture related, are that bit more interesting when get people conversing, discussing and arguing. Hell, even angry, most likely misspelled tweeting is infinitely less dull than a nonchalant “meh”. But no matter how many people hold forth about Women Who Eat On Tubes, I refuse to even entertain the notion that, as the site’s founder Tony Burke claims, it’s any form of art, observational or otherwise. It has not “thrown up a number of little tributaries of discussion”, it had caused understandable offence and anger.
I take two main issues with the site. Firstly, that it’s purely women. I’m not saying that it would be all fine and dandy if it was People That Eat On Tubes (although I suspect that site might be rather less popular) but the fact that its focused solely on catching women in the act of snacking makes the whole thing particularly unpleasant. Many, if not most, women’s relationships with food are complicated things involving a fair amount of guilt and dress size anxiety. Again, I’m not saying men are immune to this by any means. But the fact that the guilt/food association is both so widespread and so openly discussed among women – ever opened a women’s mag without at least three features in some way relating to the subject? – highlights the fact that whether the individual in question is mostly healthy person who endures the odd fat day/regretted pack of peanuts, or suffering from something more serious altogether, it’s a loaded and often painful issue. With this in mind, how could taking and publishing surreptitious snaps of women eating not have the potential to make them feel like complete shit? Especially when you factor in the inevitably vile barrage of comments that will follow. And, call me old fashioned, but isn’t knowingly inflicting shitty feelings on an absolute stranger for no reason other than your own amusement and validation as a harbinger of LOLS a bit, well, wrong? I also can’t help but feel that Women Who Eat On Tubes rather ventures into women not being allowed to eat in public territory which harks back to an age of “her indoors” that none of us want to go near. Poorna Bell wrote a far better piece on all this than I ever could for the Huffington Post, you can read it here.
My second major issue with the site is the extent to which it seems to believe that social media makes us all fair game. This is something that particularly gets me as a) I heart social media and b) I know that this has a hefty element of truth to it. If we’re constantly uploading images of ourselves to the World Wide Web, how can we take issue when someone else decides to do it on our behalf? Doesn’t that just reflect an innate vanity? i.e if a snap’s not taken at the most flattering angle known to man and sexified with an X Pro II filter it’s not going anywhere. I suspect this isn’t an entirely baseless argument, but that’t not really the point here. Being mocked, critiqued and generally not treated like a human being online is one thing – and still a bad thing – if you’ve willingly uploaded selfies and belfies and art directed breakfast trays to your social media pages. But if you haven’t, it’s infinitely worse. There are some people, I’m told, that actively dislike the idea of social media. Hard to believe in their existence, much like unicorns or the Loch Ness monster but they’re out there and effectively forcing them to participate, against their will and their knowledge is a massive violation of the basic human right not to have your face plastered all over the Internet while you’re simply making your oblivious way to work. Even if you’re as much of an Instagram addict as I, that just doesn’t make it ok for people you don’t know to do this in order to publicly ridicule. How is that not the most obvious thing in the world?
That’s not, however, to say that the rest of us our blameless. I’ve lolled harder than anyone at Jeanz and Scheuxsss. I know several other sites where men are snapped unawares on the daily commute for us gals to ogle, rate and pick over like T.M. Lewin clad pieces of meat. Perhaps the real reason Women Who Eat On Tubes gets us so riled up is that it hits a little too close to home and makes the Internet population (i.e. everyone ever) feel a little uneasy about their own online ROFLS. In an age of paparazzi insanity and street style celebrity coupled with our almost universal compulsion to share every second of our day with thousands of complete randoms, the lines are admittedly rather blurred. But ultimately, if you’re playing the fame game or getting your gladrags on to parade around Somerset House you have, to some degree, given your consent to have unapproved pictures of yourself published online. If you’re simply on your way to work, you really haven’t.
Maybe the moral of this story is really just about not taking and publishing photographs of strangers without their consent, something that should perhaps be more of a given than it is. Women Who Eat On Tubes is the tip of the iceberg, not the entire problem. Nonetheless, I still think it’s appalling. There’s something about the idea of capturing women-only on camera at a moment of potential vulnerability to post online for laddish idiots to leave sexual and/or abusive comments that is both distasteful and cruel. It just can’t be validated with the argument that we should all get a bloody sense of humour. Does anyone really believe that a woman who discovers a snap of herself eating breakfast wraps alongside her fellow commuters, captioned “three little piggies” and followed by a barrage of body related commentary, would simply chuckle and get on with her morning? Maybe some would, personally I’d struggle. And as for Burke’s pathetic assertions that his cheap gag site “cherishes its subjects in the way a wildlife photographer cherishes a kingfisher in a river”… pull the other one, luv.
That’s about enough from me! What do you lot think?
Love Ella. X