There's an interesting blog on images of women eating over at the Huffington Post. Emma Gray writes:
For many of us, our social lives are built around lunch breaks at work, mimosa-optional brunches and potluck dinner parties. We cook to de-stress, eat out to get a little bit pampered and order in when we just want to watch Netflix streaming in our beds (or perhaps that's just me). Food is undeniably cause for celebration and joy. Yet as women, many of us have complex and often negative relationships with food.
She then encourages women to send in photos of themselves eating to add to a slideshow, to show that we do eat (and eat a variety of food), actually, and should not be shamed for it. It's something I think is cool, certainly, but I also notice that a majority of women sending in images are average or slender- women somewhat less likely to be insulted for putting calories in their mouths (though not at all immune).
As a fat femme woman, I feel that pressure and raise it. Fat women not only have the issues of being women who are eating- this judgment of being unfeminine for stuffing our faces or being judged on how we eat (is it "ladylike" or not) but also around what we choose to eat. If we pick a burger over a salad when eating in public, we run a very real risk of being shamed, shunned and told off by strangers. I used to say that if I went on a date with a woman and she got a salad to pick at, only to complain later of being hungry, that would be the end. Penny, for the record, ordered a healthy 7 rolls of sushi between us and we packed them DOWN. Hence why she was my girlfriend. <3
Even though I think of myself as feeling very comfortable eating what I want in public generally, I still struggle to take seconds in most situations, and I don't tend to put as much on my plate as I might actually want. And photos of me eating are few and far between, unless the food is somehow remarkable. I noticed as I looked for ones to submit that most of the photos showed me eating dessert- something possible to eat in a sexualized, sensual way. And most of them were taken by my then partner, whose tumblr has dabbled in feederism porn (feederism porn being a subject I have many complex feelings about which deserve their own blog post). When he takes photos of me eating and I know it, I can see myself trying to make it look good, attractive, as if I need that in order to justify the picture or I risk being seen as another fat person stereotype. Hedonism, for fat people, is anathema. In case you needed proof of that, look at the reaction of people who watched the last episode of Mad Men, in which Betty Draper has gained weight.
The fabulous Milo Ampersand is working on a project to address just that issue of public spaces, fat people and food:
One of the most political acts one can make as a fat person (I feel), especially as a femme/feminine presenting person, is taking up space. Making yourself visible in a world that bombards you with messages to be smaller, to be quieter, to disappear.
This project was partially inspired by Kim Selling's poem, "Fat Bottomed Girls," particularly the line where they say, "I hold protests in my mouth every time I eat in public.”
I have always struggled to be able to eat in public because of the hypervisibility I experience. Especially eating alone. Even thinking about it causes me anxiety.
Thus, my newest photo project seeks to explore this fear and work towards an empowerment that reclaims and "stares back" at this hypervisibility though a photo series of fat folks eating in public, looking fabulous, and not giving a fuck.
If you are interested in such a project, please RSVP/contact hir here. (note: long since ended)
In the meantime, here is my own gallery of images of myself eating.