Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - 30/9/18 -

Although I’m a fem­i­nist of course, there is one way that I re­main de­ter­minedly sex­ist. And that’s in re­gard to di­ets.

I just can’t abide the sound of a group of men wang­ing on about carbs and trans fats like – how can I put this ac­cu­rately? – a pack of chicks.

Yes, when it comes to health and diet there should be equal op­por­tu­nity, as with all things. But in this case, the push for equal­ity is head­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion. In­stead of women join­ing men in ac­cept­ing their bod­ies and em­brac­ing their ap­petites, it’s males get­ting all “do I look porky in this?” and “so many hid­den sug­ars in that!”

Men are ac­tu­ally far worse on this topic than women, for two rea­sons. No, three rea­sons. One: they bring a te­dious trainspot­ter­ish el­e­ment to di­et­ing that wasn’t there be­fore (i.e. much read­ing of la­bels and down­load­ing of apps. At work I sit in within earshot of the al­most all-male IT depart­ment and I’ve never heard so much de­tailed carb anal­y­sis).

Two: they are sud­denly THE ex­perts in an area (self judge­ment and de­nial) where women have reigned supreme for cen­turies. Just try ar­gu­ing with a male pa­leo about the po­ten­tial for a healthy diet with­out meat. He will mansplain you all the way to Gore and back about the shape of our mo­lars and how some Amer­i­can pres­i­dent tried to get bread banned in the 1950s. Never mind that he only started pay­ing at­ten­tion to his diet in April while you were read­ing Les­lie Ken­ton and throw­ing your lunch in the bin in 1986.

The third – and worst – rea­son: while women have long learned to hide their neu­rotic be­hav­iour and self ob­ses­sion, men flaunt it proudly and bor­ingly.

“This has to go!” a man said to me re­cently point­ing to an al­most in­de­ci­pher­able roll around his mid­dle. “I can­not ac­cept this.” We were at a so­cial func­tion, drink­ing wine – which to me sig­nals that an ap­pro­pri­ate topic of con­ver­sa­tion might be, I don’t know... What­ever hap­pened to Nick Rhodes, and boy did he nail that eye­liner.

But no, I was stuck in the cor­ner with Jenny Craig, if she wore Docs and had a five o’clock shadow. He con­tin­ued in the same vein un­til I faked the need for a fresh drink and made a dash for free­dom. I wasn’t just bored by the con­ver­sa­tion, I was an­noyed that male body dys­mor­phia is so am­a­teur­ish. What do I mean by this? It’s just, when it comes to diet, women are like old money – we’ve had these is­sues for so long, we’ve learned to hide them, down-play them, call them by other names (clean eat­ing, any­one?). We are de­cep­tive and dis­creet. Men , on the other hand, are nou­veau neu­rotic: flash­ing it around, gauche and new to the game.

And yes, like all sex­ist rants, this one is ap­pallingly gen­eral. There have al­ways been men on di­ets and some with de­bil­i­atat­ing eat­ing disor­ders, too. And of course, men have the right to strive for health and fit­ness. This isn’t about that.

But a lot of men used to be a re­lief to be around, the way they just en­joyed food and didn’t over an­a­lyse it. My part­ner thought as re­cently as last week that gluten was raw egg and I have to ad­mit that I loved him for that.

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