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.