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Women Who Eat on Tubes founder is, unsurprisingly, condescending to women

11th April 2014

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If you’ve missed the latest outrage sweeping the nation this month, there was a handy catch up guide on Radio 4 this morning.

The founder of the Women Who Eat on Tubes Tumblr and Facebook page had a fascinating, if odd, conversation about his “art project” with Lucy Brisbane McKay, a student and journalist who set up a counter movement encouraging women to picnic protest on the Tube next Monday.

Filmmaker Tony Burke created the page as “an observational study to capture a moment and create something artistic”, before conceding that the page had “mutated into a radioactive monster”, although in his opinion this was largely the fault of the press. Indeed, the Facebook page has since been deleted.

Despite being asked repeatedly by McKay, the self-styled creative refused to take responsibility for the comments and content of the page, repeatedly calling the page an art project. He also dismissed the concerns of feminism, calling it “irrelevant” in the context of his project.

At one cringe-worthy point, an exasperated McKay says “thanks for belittling me”, to which Burke says “you’re welcome” – probably not the best thing to say if you’re trying to avoid a reaction.

Burke’s condescending manner is frustrating, because he actually raises some good points about the controversy his project has created.

At its heart, the project raises issues about privacy rather than misogyny. Women Who Eat on Tubes is about sneakily taking pictures of people in a public place before posting on social media, nothing of which is illegal – dubious morally yes, but not illegal.

With everyone Instagramming their lunches, posting selfies and sneakily snapping z-list celebs on their mobile, what’s the difference with Women Who Eat on Tubes?

It’s likely that there dozens of pictures of you dotted around the internet. Most will be taken by you, some by friends, some by friends of friends, but more than a few will be unflattering, and at least one will involve a drunken night out where you’re doing something you regret. There will be images of you floating around that you’re not aware of.

Secondly, Burke claims that:

“There’s a small amount of people making a very large noise about it. The normal man or woman in the street, who’s going to work and going about their business is ambivalent to it.”

This is almost certainly true. Man posts unflattering pictures of women eating on Tube, aimed at his small circle of friends. Some people get angry about it. They think everyone should get angry about it. This is what social media has done to us.

However, these fair points will be lost in a sea of condescension. The moment he triumphantly said “I’ve challenged you though,” he’d lost the battle, giving his detractors the sexist moment they were looking for.

If nothing else, the interview gave us some great penis-related wordplay on Twitter. “Exquisite bellendry”, “thundering prick” and “oozing dick” were all terms used to describe Mr Burke. Challenging enough for you?

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