Food Wars: Eating with High Achieving Females
Updated: May 7, 2018
Food has always been expressive; it is a signifier of class, culture and a hundred things besides. But then something went wrong. Food became tangled up with the toxic world of fashion. Our relationship with food – how we choose to fuel our bodies – became linked to how attractive we were, how good we felt about ourselves.
The media has long been manipulating the semiotics of food. Chocolate brands attached a terrifying moral dimension to our enjoyment - linking the act to Biblical sin - and women have ingested this language; “I shouldn’t”, “that’s so naughty”.
Unsurprisingly, food has become another way to win, another way to lose.
In the hands of ambitious, high achieving women, food has become a gun, not a gift. We arrive at girly dinner parties laden with wine and treats – nail bombs emblazoned with the cosy logos of high-calorie favourites. Communal food used to be a language of love, until it became one of threat and competition.
Amazing, strong women congregate around food in a sacramental ceremony of denial rather than connection, hands fidgeting anxiously in laps as we try not to reach for handfuls of crisps. Conversation rattles around the glassware, but the focus is pulled irresistibly inwards. A louder internal chatter of silent chastisement drags the focus to our stomachs as people wilt around full plates, resolve grinding, weakening.
These women who nurture tender friendships, watch each other beadily for a sign of permission, or vulnerability. There is a helpless awareness of what others are putting in their mouths, a noticing that just isn’t present when boys gather to break bread. We break bread, and then we roll it into little balls, play with it, pick it, regret it, abandon it. And then return to it secretly, from the other room to scoff it down miserably.
A demon crouches in the middle of the table and rots the feast before us - turning indulgence into churning failure. Food is not present at a girl’s dinner, it is a presence. Our perfectionism and insecurity has created a strange confusion around eating that drives us back from taking more even when we want it, sucking our energy and diverting our attention. The plates are removed quickly and a small sigh of relief is expelled - we smoke anxiously and drink too much wine to fill our hands and keep our feet from wandering back to the kitchen to pick at the remnants of what we were afraid to take the first time.
If this sounds familiar then you’re not alone. We are a generation that have learnt to punish ourselves, and our friends with food. We fear it, we fear ourselves around it, the loss of control, the ensuing self-loathing. Food has become another exhausting gender-specific problem – fuelled by the loathsome equation between attractiveness and thinness – that women are having to navigate.
We need a rallying call to all our beautiful, vulnerable, lost girls. This warped narrative has led us so far from food’s fundamental role that sometimes I fear we’ll never find our way back. But it is possible - and it starts with truly believing that this wasn’t our fault.
It wasn’t our fault. But it is now our responsibility. To change. To fix. And given the amazing work women are doing to change our treatment in the workplace, our role in the home and our worth in the world, I think we’re well up to the challenge.
Written by Anonymous
Illustrated by Jess Bird