The Facebook group "Women Eating on Tubes" (which encourages members to post candid, nonconsensual photos of the eponymous activity) might be a gentler, less sexually aggressive cousin of Creepshots, but it occupies the same ethical quicksand. Yes, it is technically legal to photograph women without their consent, no, I do not think there should be a law against it, but it is certainly a violation of women's boundaries and bodies and privacy (as if women needed another reminder that our bodies are not our own). Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Why do you want to be the worst?
Just read how the proprietor of "Women Eating on Tubes" describes his subjects and tell me that this guy is not the worst:
Everywhere I go I see women eating on tubes. Like little mice hiding packets of crisps and biscuits in their bags and purses. Slowly, secretly, guiltily raising each bite-sized morsel to their salty lips in the hope that no one's watching. Well, I'm watching. And I'm photographing, documenting the fascinating world of the Women Who Eat on Tubes.
...the way a wildlife photographer cherishes a kingfisher in a river...Women are embraced and cherished. We celebrate and encourage women eating food on tubes. We do not marginalize them. We always look for the story in the picture.
Excuse me, may I borrow a cup of your barf? I seem to have run out.
Intent is important. Taking a photo of someone without their consent, for the purposes of mockery and/or masturbation, feels like forcibly taking a part of who they are—touching and possessing every angle of it. It's not so much the moment that the image is captured, it's the fact that you get to have that photo forever. It's terribly intrusive and dehumanizing. Why is that something you, as a person, want to do?
This is a topic I've written about a lot, in various contexts—the idea that you have a choice about what kind of person you want to be. Why not choose "good"?
In case you're having a tough time grasping why this is not a "good" thing to do, Mary Elizabeth Williams in Salon lays it all out:
First of all, we females don't actually need you to "embrace and cherish" us, thanks, any more than we need to be compared to rodents or fish. You don't have to pretend your weird obsession is some homage; that's just an insult to our intelligence. Second, we're just humans trying to get from point A to point B, possibly eating some French fries along the way. When we open our mouths and put food in them, it's really, I swear to God, not for your entertainment. Creating a treasure trove of photos and enlisting others in your hide and seek game may be not against any of the rules of society, but it just plain rude. Commuting is bad enough without having to wonder if some dork is photographing your Piccadilly Line sandwich consumption. It's especially bad enough for women, who in their daily travels – especially in the crowded spaces of transportation — frequently endure catcalls, groping and all manner plain old unwanted attention. And do you know what photographing them while they're eating is? It's that last one: uninvited attention. Third, when a caption of three women sitting together on the Tube and eating is "Three little pigs," I don't believe you when you say this is about embracing and cherishing. When you note that "She just couldn't stop jamming those party wafers in her mouth," I am sensing judgment, sir.
Like, dudes, just fucking don't be a goober. WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE A GOOBER THAT BARFS ME DRY?
Image via IVY PHOTOS/Shutterstock.