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A first time mum at 39, trying not to let my son kill me off too soon. Busy juggling a new family, a new house and a tricky recording schedule I figured blogging would be less expensive than therapy and less embarrassing than shouting at rude and stupid people in the street/on trains/at the supermarket.

Friday, 11 April 2014

People in glass houses...

Can I just start by saying that I do not like or condone the tumblr site entitled 'Women who eat on tubes'.

I just had to put up that disclaimer  because when discussing this with a colleague this morning, she clearly misunderstood and seemed to think I was, in some way, defending the actions of the person 'running' the site. 

For the uninitiated among us, this is webpage that invites you to send photos taken of women eating on the London Underground.  And 99.9% of the time, these women are blissfully unaware of their image being circulated.

My first thought was 'What? And men DON'T eat on tubes?'  closely followed by a number of alternatives I could think of involving chaps who open their legs so wide you can't sit on the seat next to them perhaps called 'I think I have a large **** dot com'.  You see, we all have our own 'thing' and pet-hate about public transport or public displays or basically the public in general.  But once you stop making them your own private pet-hate and putting them out on general display you do have to think about things a little more.

There are many things wrong about the concept of 'Women who eat on tubes' ( I'm sure it will be discussed ad nauseam online and off), not the least that photos are being taken and posted without permission.  The thing that particularly sticks in my craw is the condemnation in the 'witty' captions below some of the pictures.  For example 'three little piggies'  and my personal  favourite

"She had a bag of Vanilla Party Wafers and a carrier bag full of toilet roll and no matter how hard she tried she just couldn’t stop jamming those party wafers in her mouth. "

Not 'eating'?.  She was 'jamming them in her mouth'. Really?  So were they actually being forced in until she couldn't move her face or was she basically eating them one at a time but you thought this was gluttonous behaviour and had to make a big deal of pointing out how disgusting you thought this was?

From what I understand, the website became famous this week when a female journalist was snapped and posted online.  She was then told about her photograph being there by a friend.  Since then, the journalist has been in touch with the administrator of the site and had her image removed. 

But for her to know about the photograph being there, someone she knew must have been perusing the page to spot her.  So clearly they thought it was okay to look at strangers but thought it's not on for their friend to be ridiculed in this way.  

This made me think - as, it appears, did the journalist in question.  If this site is offensive to me (and her) then what about other similar sites?   'Look at my fucking red trousers' is one such site where, again, the public is invited to send in photos of (predominantly) men wearing fairly loud red trousers (you can see, the clue is the name ...).  I'll admit it , I've looked at that site and found it amusing.  I know many others who have thought the same. From what I recall, the captions are nowhere near as scathing although I may be recalling it through rose-tinted specs.   Would I be happy if my picture appeared with me eating a bag of crisps on the Circle Line?  Probably not. But in reality these two sites should probably not be treated any differently - in my most humble opinion.

You have to decide in which camp you are going to fall.  If you are in the camp who is happy to chuckle away at other members of the public in garish clothes (or similar) then personally I don't think you have the right to be offended by something like 'Women who eat on tubes'.   If you are offended (and that is your absolute right) then surely you have rescinded your rights to laugh at others in a similar way.  It's made me take an alternative look at things and hopefully will change the way I share online. 

If these webpages are to exist and are not intended to upset or offend anyone then all they need to do is ask the subject's permission to take a photo and upload it.  If the people being photographed are 'in' on the joke and are happy to participate then I can't see any problem with it. 

Oh and perhaps also not make a crass comment about being a pig just because they are eating would help too.  You know, that thing that everyone does several times a day...

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