Fashion's 'you did not eat that' problem

21:53, May 29 2014
FASHIONABLE FOOD: To the left, Victoria's Secret model Iza Goulart, aka she of the insanely toned bod, posing with a deep-fried treat. The pic is jokingly captioned by Instagram account You Did Not Eat That: 'After reviewing several dozen photos of @iza_goulart in various states of undress we are going to go with #youdidnoteatthat'. And to the right, the caption is, 'She appears to be chewing on a cookie, but... LOOK AT THE FEAR IN HER EYES AT THIS OUTRAGEOUS COOKIE MERELY TOUCHING HER LIPS!! @negin_mirsalehi #youdidnoteatthat'

It could have been Moschino's French fry iPhone cover that suddenly became the only thing worth holding while being street style papped, or Chanel's supermarket catwalk show that descended into the fanciest food fight ever.

Perhaps it was Cara Delevingne attacking cheeseburgers with little mercy on her social media feed, or the delightful fact that a magazine called Cherry Bombe debuted last year dedicated to "sustenance and style" and which featured Karlie Kloss on the cover eating chocolate chip biscuit dough off her fingers. 

But mostly I blame donuts and macarons for fashion's sudden, mad and all encompassing gluttony for anything food related. Because there is nothing that fashion people like more than donuts or macarons.

Well, that is according to Instagram, where it you can't scroll past a photo of your friend's attempts at homemade poached eggs (guys these are not photo worthy) before finding an exquisitely curated still life of a fashion blogger posing with either donuts or macarons - though it must be said that there are other iterations in the genre.

It's not just the kooky donut over the eye shot while wearing a bikini, or a neutral hued manicured hand hovering delicately, naughtily, over a box of pastel macarons, but as my colleague noted, "The fashion bloggers are really into their Game of Thrones style feasts".

By this she means the sweeping aerial shots of a vista of brunch fit for at least ten members of the Sydney Roosters rugby club.


So when Instagram feed You Did Not Eat That started appearing all over the internet last week, it felt like someone had finally said what we've all been thinking (apart from, "I'd probably give up my first born for that donut right now'), - 'do they really eat that?'.

The premise of You Did Not Eat (YDNET) is deceptively simple. It re-posts images of fashion types posing with food with a hilarious/snarky captions.

It's compelling stuff, and has of course attracted the attention of the internet and the wrath of several fashion bloggers who have either blocked YDNET or huffily declared that they did, in fact, eat that

This includes the awesome Leandra Medine of Man Repeller who made a vine of herself hoeing into a cupcake which YDNET then captioned with She. Totally. Ate. That. Check out the Instagram video below.

The point of YDNET (who works in the fashion industry herself and is choosing to stay anonymous) told The Cut was not about "thin shaming" but pointing out that (for most people) you can't have your cake and eat (all of it) too.

"It's just presenting this curated life that's beautiful and perfect and totally unrealistic. More power to you for rocking that! You look awesome! Don't lie about how you got there! It's fine," YDNET told The Cut in an interview last week.

However the project has attracted criticism that it is policing women for eating in public, that we don't know what these women eat and of course that some women are naturally thin and can eat whatever they fancy with no consequence (which is of course monstrously, unfairly, true).

As the 'women eating on tubes' Facebook that attracted a viral backlash to its cruel commentary earlier this year demonstrated, there exists a weird dialogue around women eating in public, and indeed, eating at all.

And it's an impossible ideal that Hollywood perpetuates too - the cool, relaxed (and thin) girls eat hamburgers, we applaud when home girl Jennifer Lawrence says that she adores pizza. But if, say, Melissa McCarthy said the same thing would the reaction be as adoring? And what about when Lena Dunham ate cake in the nuddy and posted it to Instagram?

You can bet the comments, unlike what you see on the likes of fashion bloggers and their donuts/macarons, wouldn't be "first like" or "you are so amazing and beautiful please follow me back."

As Julianne Ross wrote in a great piece for Policy Mic,

"Women face a catch-22 when it comes to eating in public: We must be thin, yet relaxed around food. We need to fit a narrow ideal of beauty, but cannot show the work it takes to get there; guys want the carefree girl who's not afraid to order the burger at dinner, not the uptight one who gets a salad. Friends, too, shame each other with taunts of "you're no fun" if you forgo dessert or ask for dressing on the side."

Ross invokes the work of New York Lee Price who explores the complicated relationship many women have with food in her series of self portraits eating. We see Price eating fitfully, compulsively and shamefully in private and it says a lot about how women are a victim of how the world thinks we should eat in public. 

And all of this unease about women and eating makes the way that food is presented as a prop on social media more problematic than you might first think - especially in the fashion industry which is generally agreed upon to be weird about food.

But for that reason, while not perfect, YDNET is still refreshing, and fun. Not least because the aspirational angle of fashion's food obsession is something worth talking about

In the strange world of fashion as The Cut pointed out in this piece imploring people to stop talking about their diets, you are more likely to hear about somebody's juice cleanse than, say, their recipe for salted caramel brownies.

But it's also true that anyone with a fashion person's eye can see that fashion and food share a similar aesthetic, as our fashion writer Kathleen Lee-Joe wrote in her round-up of blogs that pair fashion and food, both are" visually stimulating, beautifully crafted, both guilty pleasures." But food isn't just for pinterest, or for making a fashion blogger's life look even more perfect than it already is. Um, it's for eating.

Perhaps instead we just need to be more honest, and maybe even brave. Which might mean eating something that you take a photo of, or being on a diet and owning up to hating it (or loving that kale smoothie sick, whatever), or ordering whatever you darn well feel like it and eating it wherever you want.

It's a stance that Katy Waldman at Slate agrees with, writing that a little more honesty when it comes to food would be helpful in dismantling impossible beauty standards.

"If we want to shift beauty standards in a saner direction, we need to be more open about the fact that the price of a whisper-thin physique is often a degree of misery (and sometimes poor health too), and that the price of eating whatever you want is usually being not whisper-thin. (Of course, that's not true for everyone! But it is true for most.)",writes Waldman.

Pretending that you're going to eat a cupcake is, as Katy Waldman points out, a "big, counterintuitive production."

And there's no Instagram filter that can properly mask that.

If there was, I'd eat my Moschino French Fry iPhone cover/hat. For real.

A few more posts from the You Did Not Eat That Instagram page:

- Daily Life