Louisa Ackermann

The retaliation against ‘Women Who Eat on Tubes’… and why it’s excellent.

If you spend much time on Facebook and are acquainted with some particularly voyeuristic dickbags, you may have become aware of a recent phenomenon called ‘Women Who Eat on Tubes’ (WWEOT). If you haven’t, it’s more or less exactly what it sounds like; people (usually men) take photos of unconsenting, unsuspecting women who dare to eat whilst travelling on the London underground, put said photos onto this Facebook group and invite comment and scrutiny on the display. Which most of the time proves to be fairly degrading, if not outright abusive. At time of writing, this group is about 20,000 members strong. A quick look at the 2011 census tells me that is about the same as the population of Amersham. Now, I don’t know where Amersham is, but I’m pretty sure that’s still a hell of a lot of people.

Why is it significant that it is only women that are targeted in this self-declared ‘art project’? Well as we all know, whatever a woman’s achievements, values or interests, it is most important, above all else, that she is thin, beautiful and decorative. Food is something she should feel guilty about, and hunger a sensation she should deny. She should also be modest, coquettish and compliant. By deviating from this and appearing apparently ‘unladylike’ in eating on the tube, she is transgressing these social boundaries, and she must be shamed. Obviously.

Tony Burke, the founder of WWEOT. Seen here in his natural habitat, with a shit bow tie.

Tony Burke, the founder of WWEOT. Seen here in his natural habitat, with a shit bow tie.

But, women are fighting back against this public ridicule, and they are doing it brilliantly. New groups have been set up, including ‘Women Eating on the Tube: A Circle Line Lunch Party’, ‘Women Who Eat Wherever the Fuck They Want’, and my personal favourite, ‘Men Who Post on “Women Who Eat on Tubes”’ (MWPOWWEOT). This latter group turns the tables on the men who take photos of women doing something as completely inoffensive and normal as EATING to shame them for it – it uses photos taken from these men’s Facebook profiles and provides equally enlightening, artistic commentary.

Some of the reactions from the subjects of MWPOWWEOT are truly something. Even beyond the usual misogyny and homophobia of ‘you all just need a shag’, ‘you’re all fucking lesbians’ and everyone’s favourite, ‘you just can’t take a joke’, the level of entitlement demonstrated is staggering.

If women don’t want to be seen eating on the tube, they shouldn’t eat on the tube’ (victim blaming)

Some of the women secretly want it. I’ve spoken to women who deliberately eat on the tube and are disappointed they’re not photographed.’ (‘I didn’t ask and she didn’t consent but I know she wanted it!’)

And the altogether sinister call for the women who post in MWPOWWEOT  to ‘stop playing the victim. One day you will be a victim and no-one will believe you.’ (Thinly veiled threats, the bastion of any anthropological art project)

But isn’t a reaction group just as bad? Isn’t it exactly the same thing? Well, no. For one thing because these are all photos that they have consensually made public anyway. For another because men aren’t subject to the same systematic oppression as women in wider society generally, and these groups don’t exist in a vacuum. But most importantly because it only targets those specific men who have indicated they think public shaming of complete strangers is acceptable. If it’s for a laugh. Or something. I’m not quite sure. I’ll mull it over with a packet of Quavers on the district line.

8 thoughts on “The retaliation against ‘Women Who Eat on Tubes’… and why it’s excellent.

  1. I don’t even support this group at all, and I know that what you’re writing is a load of bullshit.

    ‘Food is something she should feel guilty about, and hunger a sensation she should deny.’ Firstly, you have absolutely missed the point here, WWEOT is funny because of the niche nature of the humour, and the fact that eating on the tube it is such a mundane thing to do. IT IS NOT ABOUT SHAMING THE PERSON EATING INTO AN EATING DISORDER. They document in the persona of wildlife photographers because it makes it into a game, and therefore makes the humour inclusive. Besides, I’ve had a look on the group, and the vast majority of members are polite and take part in mere playful observation of the emotions being released while eating. While it is pretty ridiculous, therein lies the joke: something so mundane is being looked at so closely. They have only made it women in order to make the group more niche.

    Secondly, the retaliation group are frequently abusive, and take the work details and addresses of their targets in actually threatening manners. WWEOT is done in complete anonymity. Besides, have you noticed that a fair portion of WWEOT is made up of WOMEN??? I see only men being named and shamed by MWPOWWEOT. Critics of the group also seem to frequently claim that ‘women are fighting back’ as if you are all being systematically oppressed by it. IN FACT, women make up a decent portion of the posters on WWEOT.

    Now I am now saying that WWEOT is completely free of criticism, I think that the joke, after all this fuss, has died. People are becoming upset, and while the group was small, it was genuinely funny because of how ridiculous and niche the concept was. However, now some have come forward stating that they are not happy, the page should probably be taken down.

    However, you have made your argument based on completely the wrong ideas: the group is NOT trying to push some sort of patriarchal agenda, you are just twisting facts to meet your stupid feminist theories. They have just made a ridiculous in-joke that has got out of hand.

  2. I am indifferent towards the group. But what you have written in this article has been complete and utter irrational nonsense.

  3. You start your article with a predetermined conclusion, and then go on to reinforce it with generalizations against a group of 20,000 individuals, that they’re all males, that they’re all sexist, that they undermine females everywhere etc.

    Why is it so significant that the group targets just women? – It isn’t! The same way there are groups ridiculing males, racial groups, political opinions, religions etc

    You have over-analyzed and exaggerated the original intention of a FB group to justify your argument, and then go on to justify a group that you’re a member of that generalizes and is sexist in the guise that it is to show those ‘sexist males’ what it feels like.

    I have NO doubt that there are males on the group who ARE sexist, and I have no doubts that the majority now throwing sexist jokes about are doing so deliberately to cause a reaction which they have now got and are not necessarily sexist.

    A person empowered and cool-headed has no need to stoop to the level of those throwing **** around them and is in control of their own reactions, your entire argument is hypocritical even if in jest of the original group you are offended with.

    I personally don’t follow the feminist view, but you won’t see me ever make a sexist remark or generalize ‘you’ all to be generalizing, hypocritical feminists.

    I believe in males/females having roles unique to their own strengths, that a true man is responsible for his lady but ALWAYS puts her before his own needs, respects her freedom and opinion and never disregards either – a very old-fashion view that will probably make you assume much about me…of which all I can say is you’re entitled to think whatever you will even if I disagree.

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