Women Who Eat On Tubes

In recent weeks something of a storm has appeared in London and the rest of the U.K. regarding a Facebook page entitled “Women Who Eat On The Tube” and predictably shows photos of women who are eating, sometimes scoffing their face on the London Underground trains and usually surrounded by passengers.  Once the photos are posted on-line then viewers are free to leave comments or poke fun at those snacking on the train.

Women Who Eat On Tubes

Opinion is divided on the group. Some think it is bullying, over 21,000 people subscribe to it and probably most couldn’t care less.

Things started heating up when a journalist by the name of Sophie Wilkinson was herself snapped whilst eating on the tube only to find herself on this Facebook page which she said was hurtful and humiliating.  However, Sophie admitted that she herself had taken many photos of people in public places and sent them to her friends to make fun of on various social networks.  Despite her hypocritical situation, she argued that  taking photos of women eating on the train was uniquely anti-woman although there are also popular websites with photos of men for women to leave comments on too.

Personally, I found the whole thing shocking though not for the same reason Sophie did.  Having never dreamt of taking a photo of someone in public or as far as I know, seen anyone take such a photo I’m wondering when did it become ok to take anyones photo without their permission.

It’s not illegal to take a photo on the London Underground, maybe it should be.  It’s not illegal to eat on the Underground but that definitely should be.  When I was little, everyone was taught that it was rude to eat or drink in public.  Whether it is drinking in the street or eating a subway walking to the office, it’s still wrong.

There are so many food shops and restaurants in London, that it really isn’t necessary to eat on the move at all and indeed most people don’t.  If it is illegal to drink alcohol on the London Underground which in many ways is much less intrusive than food then surely food should be banned too.

What could be ruder than eating in public just a few inches away from the person sat next to you.  The passenger opposite definitely doesn’t want to watch anyone stuff their face and who wants to have the whole carriage smelling of junk and fast food which is just as offensive and often worse smelling than cigarette smoke which is rightly banned.

There is little fresh air on tube trains, obviously as they spend hours or in some cases days underground.  Inevitably, the person eating doesn’t eat the whole meal and then someone 2 hours later ends up putting their feet or bottom on an old cheeseburger or bag of chips.

Besides which, everyone knows it is bad to eat on the go.  If you can’t spare 5 minutes to eat outside the tube trains then you’re obviously very bad at planning your time.  The icing on the cake though has to be just how unhygienic it is for the person eating the food.  Not just exposed to all the bugs from people breathing but the filth of the tube trains anyway.  Even though they are all regularly cleaned, it has been proven that the average hand rail on a tube train has more bacteria on it than a toilet seat.  Hhmmmm, yummy.

Maybe the people taking photos should stop it, maybe the women eating should stop it too.  Perhaps like in the good old days instead of banning either, people should just have a bit more consideration for those around them and if they don’t rather than take their photo, politely ask them to put their food away.    As it happens, if you don’t want to have your photo taken and have people make fun of you, a good starting point is probably not eat on a public train.

Today Facebook closed the page down but it has immediately re-opened.  Whilst more people are arguing that the group is wrong, the publicity is bringing more and more members, it seems more people hate eating on the tube than who don’t like being photographed eating on the tube.  Maybe this is the 21st century way of shaming people.

What do you think?  Would you eat in public?  Would you take a photo of someone without telling them?  Personally I wouldn’t do either and I definitely wouldn’t want to look at photos of people eating on trains, that is almost as bad as being there in person.


About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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12 Responses to Women Who Eat On Tubes

  1. Francis says:

    I totally agree. Eating is a social activity which should be indulged in places appropriately designated for them. I remember a train journey in a remote corner of Italy where one family opened up their salami sandwiches and offered me part of their meal (which i joined in) and it all became one lovely big party. and made our journey one big social pleasure

    The kind of scoffing of junk food in public trasportation system in metropolises like London is indicative of total alienation, of total insensitivity,, of total non-communication as is common in those parts of the world now being abandoned by people who have still a spark of humanity in them..

    If you must eat on an undergrouhd why not have restaurant cars on them?


  2. Oh I am so glad that you agree. So much of the argument is that it is wrong for peoples photos to be put up on the internet without focusing on the key point that it is rude to eat in packed urban trains.

    The very fact that they don’t notice someone is taking their photo shows how little notice they take of their surroundings. Even with a mobile phone, I’d expect to notice if someone was holding it at a funny angle to take my photo on the train.

    You’re right, in the right circumstances, eating with strangers is wonderful. Some of my best holiday moments have been sharing food with travellers but as you say in the countryside or spacious and quieter trains and buses and eating non-smelly traditional foods. Not much smells worse than kebabs or burgers in a humid, sweaty commuter train 200 feet underground.

    Thanks for your comment Francis and have a lovely weekend!


  3. Such an interesting post, Stephen. I, like you, remembered that when I was growing up it was considered incredibly rude to eat “in public” and you certainly wouldn’t have eaten walking along the road, on a bus or a tube. That etiquette has been lost along the way somewhere – the great thing about the facebook page is that it is making people think about manners again, and I agree no-one has the right to take photos of random strangers, without their permission, no matter what they are doing.


    • Thank-you and my apologies in the delay in replying.

      You’re right, it has opened a debate amongst people and their lack of manners. Many might not realise how unpleasant others find it and few would do something deliberately that most of us find offensive.

      If most of those who ate on the tube stopped, it would likely stop the sneaky photographers too and the world would be that little bit of a nicer place for everyone!


  4. wilsoi00 says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Personally Idont care at all if people eat on the tube or take photos or even have a conversation perish the thought! It’s the people who do care that worry me. Our freedom is constantly being eroded by people who know better than everybody else. Bad manners is one thing, a lack of consideration another, but talking about banning things and removing our individual choices is a cancerous rot that blights our society.

    I often take street photographs, as you know I love my photography. I rarely speak to the people I photograph. Imagine it becoming illegal to take your holiday snaps it there were other people in the shot. Madness.


    • Hi Ian,

      the quickest way to alienate the carriage is to talk to someone. That really is uncalled for!

      I think your photos are great and you take them for good reasons. It’s different though to take photos of people just for the purpose of embarrassing them or for having people make abusive comments about them.

      Personally I wouldn’t do either, there are so many better places to eat and photograph!


  5. Ankur Mithal says:

    Women eating on the tube, I think, is a manifestation of this fad about showing to the world that you are such a busy and important person. I think it demonstrates more about the personal insecurity of the person. That apart, eating is like playing loud music in a public place. It will affect some people. Hence, as caring members of society, we should respect that.


    • I think you’re precisely right, similar to people who drive expensive cars with loud music coming out of the window who get stuck at traffic lights. Are we meant to look at them and admire them or do as I do and ignore them and not give them any satisfaction that I might look and like their car… which I might have done if they weren’t so rude to play their music so loud.

      Unless we are in our own home we should always bear in mind what impact our actions might have on others even if it inconveniences ourselves.


  6. amaothman says:

    Humour! Some pics are probably really funny, but at the same time we live in a society where freedom is interpreted in different ways.

    I wouldn’t eat or take a picture, but I would waste my time flipping through the many captures lol.


  7. I haven’t seen that site, but I agree that eating in public is never attractive! Street photography in general, though, is an interesting issue. A good friend of mine is a street photographer, and there has been a lot of discussion on his Facebook page recently about privacy issues. His followers LOVE his work, but sometimes are uneasy about whether the subjects would be happy if they knew their photographs were being taken and used publicly. However – in Australia, at least – the law is clear. Street photography is allowed, and there are no privacy laws against it unless the images are for commercial use (in which case a model release form is needed). Street photography has a long tradition, and can result in some wonderful images. My friend, Richard Tommy Campion, is one of the best in Australia – check him out on Facebook or through his blog (I won’t put the link here, just google him).


    • Thanks for your great comment. I don’t think anyone looks at their best whilst eating. Lady and The Tramp were the last to pull that look off and they were at a table if my memory is right.

      I think the laws in the U.K. are pretty much identical to Australia, you can take a photo of anything and anyone. I think it shows how people now worry about privacy with the increase if security cameras and their image being shown on other peoples Facebook and photo sharing sites that people do have concerns that they wouldn’t have done 20 years ago.

      I was remembering when I wrote the post how 100 years ago many people didn’t like photography and people had to get permission to photograph individuals in a way that just doesn’t happen now.

      I guess as public photography is totally legal and as in your friends case, can result in wonderful imagery and legitimate works of art, the only deciding factor has to be one of decency and respect for the subject. If the photo depicts that person in a way that you wouldn’t want yourself or family and friends to be highlighted on the internet then it probably shouldn’t be taken.


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