A few years ago I was travelling on the District Line to meet a friend for his birthday. A group of tourists got on the train and sat opposite me. After a few attention -seeking antics, I turned the volume on my Ipod up, determined to studiously ignore them. It then became apparent that they were videoing me. They were laughing heartily as other passengers looked on uncomfortably and I felt increasingly miserable. I wanted to confront them but I worried what might happen if they followed me off the tube.
Fortunately they got off before my stop and I was grateful that I didn’t have to face them beyond the barriers. But as they victoriously departed I knew that they had that video and realised it was possible, with the added bonus of a zoom function, they were probably still laughing at me or parts of me and with the power of Youtube so might everyone else be.
The very specific subject of women on tubes is currently making the headlines because of the now defunct Facebook group ‘Women who eat on tubes’ where people, mainly men, discreetly photograph women while they eat on tubes and send them to the website. You can still see the Tumblr site here.
Catholic women are understandably wary of jumping on today’s feminist bandwagons, as we don’t usually accept many of their premises on gender and maternity. But we should feel genuinely horrified about this sneaky and invasive craze and one has to ask the question, why the sole focus on women?
Tony Burke, the architect of the group Women Who Eat on Tubes, defended the practice on Radio 4 today, while debating with Lucy Brisbane McKay.
Burke was good enough to explain to us all that he was “part of a creative community.” Aha! If only those sniggering juveniles who filmed me had told me they were just being creative! I would have seen the belittling experience in an entirely new light. And if I were trawling through Burke’s website and saw my mother or my younger sister on there, with half a sandwich stuck in her mouth unknowingly being photographed by the stranger sat opposite her, I would be comforted in the knowledge that it wasn’t in fact creepy espionage it was in fact art.
The culturally illiterate who remain troubled by this new form of art are encouraged to picnic on tubes on Monday to demonstrate their disquiet. I never eat on the tube because fortunately I don’t have to. I don’t work long shifts or have children and so I don’t have to resort to meals while I travel. But many busy working people and parents do.
However on Monday lunchtime, I’m tempted to make a tour of the Circle Line and bring a sandwich and a coffee. After all, there’s a creative community out there who really needs me.