Monday, 28 July 2014

Eat and be damned

Apparently it's quite routine for women's eating habits to be casually criticised by passing men - often complete strangers. Everyday Sexism gives numerous examples of women being told they should eat less, or eat more, or keep away from chips or ice cream, or watch their figures.

If it's not the choice of food that gets criticised, it's the way they're eating it. They're stuffing themselves, they're shamelessly gorging. They can't control their appetites.

A surprising number of men believe that what a woman is eating is yet another thing men have a right to comment on and control. It's just another way of making a woman feel inadequate and belittled.

It's bad enough that women often feel guilty about what they're eating in the first place. Blatant criticism by random strangers is the last thing they need. Yet how do they avoid it if they're obliged to eat in public?

How ironic that so many men feel entitled to eat and drink anything they like, at the cost of pot bellies and acres of flab, while at the same time ticking off women for every suspect mouthful. Of course they're well aware of the contradiction, but see nothing wrong with making a woman squirm.

Do they think women welcome this gratuitous advice? Do they think it's just amusing banter? Do they think it's their job to discipline careless females? Or are they just common-or-garden bullies?

It's encouraging that some women aren't intimidated and give as good as they get. This is Lindsay on Everyday Sexism: "Bloke: I find women who drink pints unattractive. Me: Great, I don't want to attract you. *buys another pint* "

I like her attitude.


  1. It's just as rude as any other personal comment.

  2. Only when I don't eat (having lost appetite) will people make disparaging remarks, like: "Why are you not eating?" I don't know. Let's change the subject. Ask me about Sartre or something.

    I once accompanied (and I may have related this anecdote before) accompanying father-of-son on some business trip. FOS was very busy so he asked ground agent to take me for lunch. I think it was Mallorca. Pedro was not delighted at prospect since he doesn't like members of my nationality. Then he saw me devour a lamb shank. Next day he asked my husband whether it'd be ok to take me out for lunch again: "I love watching your wife eat".

    My father, but I have been ticked off for this by another blogger, once remarked that there is little more sensual than watching me eating yoghurt or ice cream. No idea what he means. Still, one aims to please. To some it comes natural, others just agonize (like whoever wrote that article you are referring to).


  3. A perspective I have not considered. Cheers

  4. I know a woman whose husband made her get on the scale everyday in front of him.

    They are now divorced.

  5. Jenny: Absolutely. But some men think they're entitled to make such impertinent comments.

    Ursula: "I love watching your wife eat". How fascinating! What was it he liked so much, I wonder? Your whole-hearted enjoyment of what you were eating?

    Watching you eat yoghurt or ice cream is sensual? No, I don't get that either!

    Everyday Sexism is a blog that records typical instances of sexual harassment, the sort of thing women don't usually bother to mention because they're so "trivial" or "routine".

  6. John: Men's eating habits just aren't subjected to the same unwanted scrutiny, are they? Men can stuff themselves silly and women (or other men) will seldom comment.

    Susie: That's outrageous. Not surprised they got divorced!

  7. Much on the same theme: I was out walking my dog one night in the local park when an unleashed dog jumped on her. The owner, who was about 18-20, laughed when I asked him to obey the park rules and leash his dog. He told me to f*** off and then said as I walked away:
    "You're overweight, b****."
    It's something I've never forgotten.
    He being so young. The remark being so out of context.
    And abusive.
    It's all about control, isn't it?


  8. I have often been criticized about the small portions I take or that I refuse dessert. My FIL once subtly implied I was anorexic. It's hard to not comment on those people's overeating.

  9. www: I guess he was just trying to shut you up by aiming some totally unrelated abuse at you. What a bastard. All about control, as you say.

    Bijoux: To many people small portions look abnormal simply because they themselves eat such a lot. They should try looking at their own eating habits.

    Someone suggested I was anorexic once. I wondered how on earth they thought that. I'm thin but not that thin.

  10. It happened to me once. I was with friends, it was a hot day and we ordered ice creams.
    Eating them on a park bench a chap passing remarked that we should not be eating ice creams as we had enough pounds as it was.

    Thank you for the tip, said one friend...all together girls....

    I hope his cleaning bill was massive but it was certainly more than the cots of another round of ice cream.

  11. Helen: What a wonderful response to a totally uncalled-for remark. Indeed, I hope his cleaning bill was huge! And I bet he was far from slender himself....

    (Your comment came up on my email but not on the blog so I posted it for you)

  12. All my life I was painfully thin, yet I eat normal portions at every meal. Everywhere I went people offered me food, in an effort to fatten me up. One day while staying with a friend, another friend of hers called. This new arrival who I had met a time or two, actually poked me in the ribs exclaiming "Look how slim you are"! Anyone would think it was a crime. I bit my tongue and decided not to comment on her spare rolls of fat.

  13. I am a just a man, but I hope an educated man on the social side of life. I was taught, at school surprisingly, never to make personal remarks to anybody, about their appearance and habits, whether or not they are family, friends or strangers.

    I may think the things I would like to say sometimes, but that is another matter.

  14. Grannymar: I think people who're plump are more likely to comment on the "too thin" to make it look as if thin is abnormal. People often wanted to "fatten me up" when I was younger.

    Keith: Absolutely. Personal remarks like that are simply rude and inappropriate. They're only made to cause embarrassment.

  15. by standards now I have no back side. what with people wanting bums as big and wide as Kim Kardashian. she is like Jessica Rabbit. only looks good in a cartoon I think.

    heard it all, legs like pipe cleaners with knots in. Golf club legs.

    It was hard to take as a teenager. I have filled out. but I also am very active and only use the car when I have to.

    Everyone is unique and there is no average really. you cant go on the BMI either I have a friend who is extremely (naturally) muscular. there is no fat on her, but her height weight ratio apparently means she is fat? What the heck?

    Walk more I say. this will mean planning a head and getting out the door rather than leaving it to the last minute and having to drive.

  16. Sol: You can't win, right? Either you're too plump or you're too thin. I agree about BMI - people can have a so-called high BMI just because they're very muscular or they're stockily built. Doesn't mean they're unhealthy necessarily.

    And yes, what is this sudden obsession with big bums?

  17. I've been lucky not to have been on the receiving end

  18. Suburbia: You're very lucky. It must be utterly maddening if you're a constant target.

  19. I agree --- personal comments, unless they're true compliments --- are rude. Best to just give a scathing look and then ignore them.

  20. Jean: But some men take silence as an encouragement to dish out more of the same. It's not so easy to answer them back in kind though.

  21. This behaviour should rank right up there among the crassest of MCP behaviour and should be condemned wherever it is seen.

  22. Ramana: Oh, I think there are much worse examples of sexist behaviour, but certainly commenting on eating habits is totally crass.

  23. The recent hot weather has meant that we've had to bear with a lot of semi-clothed men wandering the streets. Usually pot-bellied and white men. Which has nothing to do with eating but your post reminded me of them.

  24. Liz: Oh, it has everything to do with my post. Isn't it interesting that semi-clothed and pot-bellied men are seldom the butt of rude comments, but for a slightly plump woman it's a different matter?

  25. People often feel free to comment on my weight or what I eat, but because I'm thin. If they see me eating something light they say I need to eat more. If I'm eating, say, ice cream, they demand to know how I stay thin eating like that. And sometimes even suggest that I must be anorexic ('m not) or that I'm not a "real" woman because I"m thin. Often, I just want to tell them to fuck off.

  26. Agent: That's an awful lot of unwanted comments. As you say, I think it's because you're thin and thin people are now seen as "abnormal" when so many people are overweight. And what business is it of theirs anyway?

    As for your not being a real woman. What the hell is a "real" woman?