“Are you really going to eat that?”

Food, News, Opinion

“Are you really going to eat that?”

“A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips”

“Haven’t you got a dress to fit into?”

These are just a few comments which, if aimed at me just as I was about to tuck into my sandwich at lunch, would make me feel sick to my stomach. As someone who hates eating in front of strangers at the best of times, I struggle with any comments made towards my food, even the most seemingly harmless. “Are you really going to eat that?” My most abhorred question, fills me with shame and beckons the answer, “No, I won’t be eating it now, because you’ve made me feel incredibly self-conscious and insecure.”

When a woman sent a tweet last week to the Everyday Sexism Twitter page outlining her experience where a stranger told her not to buy chips in the supermarket because she was “too beautiful to eat them,” it commenced a cascade of replies from other women with similar experiences. It seems that total strangers (usually men in this instance) making negative comments on what women eat is an every day occurrence.

These are a few of my personal favourites:

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Of course this is everyday sexism at its finest, women’s bodies being viewed as public property, fair game for any man to comment on as he pleases. Obviously, before any morsel crosses a women’s lips she must first think about how this will effect her figure and therefore how attractive she is to the male population, because the only reason she would want to look good is for men, right?

Helena Christensen was recently photographed by the Daily Mail for eating a sandwich at lunch, the headline “Not a Model Meal.” The paper then went on to make comments such as “…better be careful with her eating habits in the future…she could end up losing those 35-24-35 that have made her the toast of men everywhere.” Are these people for real? She ate a sandwich.

As well as the obvious issues of sexism displayed in these women’s encounters, there’s the factors of self-esteem and body image, judgements like these can hurt more than a woman’s pride. I know from personal experience – and I’m sure even the most self-assured woman would agree – just how unsettling it can be to hear the words “Should you really be eating that?” or the alike, uttered just as you pick up your fork. It can instantly damage a woman’s confidence, fill her with shame and in some cases, can trigger eating disorders. It may seem extreme, but to someone who is recovering or even recovered from an eating disorder, one negative comment can spark up those overwhelming voices which she has battled so hard to keep at bay.

The message here is quite simple – mind your own business. Women do eat meals. Eating a sandwich for lunch is not “gorging” or “feasting,” it is normal. Men who wish to comment on what women eat really ought to keep their opinions to themselves.

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