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Women Who Eat on Tubes Facebook page: hilarious, right?

Women of London, it’s time to acknowledge the fact that we are revolting commuters. That’s right, if you get the Tube and have a vagina, you’re exposing your fellow commuters to a disgusting display of behaviour.

But what is it exactly that we’re doing? Are we coughing without covering our faces? Perhaps we’re emitting fumes of stale coffee and ash over our travelling companions? Or maybe, the worst commuter crime of all, it’s because we’re noisy breathers?

Actually, it’s none of the above. In fact, it’s that we’ve been caught eating en route. Not only that, some lovely chap has decided to document these acts and has created a Facebook group, and tumblr, titled Women Who Eat On Tubes, for the sole purpose of presenting pictures of women munching on their way to and from work.

We were first alerted to this when Caitlin Moran tweeted about it last week:

There are some who find it funny and, in some respects, creating content on a niche area is what the internet does best, you need only look at the popularity of Hungover Owls. But we're not talking about the hilarious faces owls make (they don't even drink alcohol - lol!), this is about women being photographed without their knowledge.

A friend of the creator, Nathalie Gordon, wrote a blog piece for the Huffington Post about how we need to lighten up and not get so offended by such matters, and suggests that women stop using the word ‘victim’. She says that the Facebook group, created by her friend Tony Burke and with 4,650 followers (at time of writing), should be celebrated and that because both men and women post images and comments, it’s OK.

But what is it about women eating that is so funny? It's clearly a joke that many people don't seem to get.

More than that, none of the comments seem to be as innocent as Gordon suggests. True, both sexes post but they appear to deride rather than celebrate (as they say they do) the fact that women are eating.

Here are just a few comments you can currently read on the WWEOT page:

“McD's smelly onion rings, complete with unknown dip. Had to hand it to her, these round fried delights were dipped and devoured feverishly in the 7 minutes it takes from Waterloo to Bank.”

“Gobble gobble... Piccadilly line 6.12 dry white sandwich with ham and what looked like mayo...”

“Looks as if she is about to pull a snake out of there”

“No wonder it takes women so long to leave the house if they’re worrying about whether or not they’ve packed the Tommy K”

After reading various posts on the page, they at least don't tolerate rude language. At one point, one of the featured women is called a slut, and an admin steps in and says it's unacceptable. But when the subject is all about women, what do they expect? You need only look at the comment sections on websites, or witness the abuse that prominent (and not so prominent) women get on Twitter to realise how quickly language can escalate into something more threatening and sexual in nature.

It's misogyny disguised as ‘a bit of fun’, for ‘a laugh’ and, that horrendous word, ‘banter’. Perhaps there’s nothing overtly sexual about it (although there are some interesting fetishes out there) but it’s incredibly creepy. Why do we need to see these pictures exactly? And how do these women feel about being photographed? The implication here is that female mastication is amusing and grotesque.

A similar "project" in the US titled Train Pigs offers the same sort of shooting and shaming process but they include men on their Facebook page too. While Burke says this isn't a gender argument, if that's the case, why not rename the group to People Who Eat on Tubes?

The next time I get on a Tube and I want to eat a packet of Mini Cheddars, I don't want to be worrying about if I'll be surreptitiously snapped and then posted up on Facebook without my consent. And in a world where women are constantly judged for being too fat, skinny, pretty, not pretty enough, not having a thigh gap, having a thigh gap (etc, ad nauseam), we can do without worrying about this too.

(Images: Rex Features)

(Words: Elinor Block)

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