Here’s what I see.
Firstly, I see all white women, almost all brunettes.
I also see emotional eating.
You know why I see emotional eating? Look at what they’re “indulging” in. They’re indulging in cupcakes. Cakes. Pies. Comfort food. Things that are good for making you feel. You can’t eat emotionally on broccoli (unless your Mom loved you with broccoli… and that’s a tad bit rare.) It doesn’t have the tools – read: sugar and fat and salt – to give you what you’re looking for.
I see women eating in silence. In hiding. I mean, because you’re overindulging so much that surely, you can’t eat this way in front of another human being, right?
I see women who were never raised to understand that there’s no shame in enjoying the pleasures of food. I see women who were never given the tools to destress and detach themselves from their day.
There was a movie I saw once, where the girl was an active cutter. She used cutting herself as a way of relaxing and decoupling from the stresses in her day to day life. I bring this up because she was painfully meticulous about it. She’d carry her cutting kit with her everywhere she went. She had a little routine to her set up, too – she’d retrieve her kit, open it, lay out her tools (first aid, blade, sharpener), sharpen her cutting tool, exhale… and go to work.
This reminds me of that.
I see addiction. From the DSM IV:
- Preoccupation with use of the chemical between periods of use.
- Using more of the chemical than had been anticipated.
- The development of tolerance to the chemical in question.
- A characteristic withdrawal syndrome from the chemical.
- Use of the chemical to avoid or control withdrawal symptoms.
- Repeated efforts to cut back or stop the drug use.
- Intoxication at inappropriate times (such as at work), or when withdrawal interferes with daily functioning (such as when hangover makes person too sick to go to work).
- A reduction in social, occupational or recreational activities in favor of further substance use.
- Continued substance use in spite of the individual having suffered social, emotional, or physical problems related to drug use.
I see a few of those embodied in this picture.
Can you imagine seeking pleasure from something that, when you finally bite into it, doesn’t even compel you to crack a smile? I mean, I wrote a while back a post about being afraid of food… and this is what I see, here. Women who are afraid of food in a sense that compels them to deal with the duality of “knowing better” but being addicted to the feeling they get from the food… and having no one to talk to about food addiction do things like this. (the people around them may even say things like “you’re supposed to be addicted to food! duh!” or “food isn’t an addiction. you just have no self control.”)
I know lots of people normalize this kind of behavior – “There’s nothing wrong with this… I do this all the time, and I’m just fine…” but it worries me. The woman sitting in the bathroom near the toilet? Terribly troubling. The woman hugging the pie in the bathroom? Cringeworthy. Food shouldn’t “love you” like that.
The Society Pages opens their post on these paintings as follows:
Growing up in America, we learn that sweets and junk food are “guilty pleasures.” Women, especially, are supposed to refrain from such indulgences. And, if they cannot — if they, for example, desire more than that modest slice of cake served to each birthday guest — then they should feel not only guilt, but shame. For overindulging is grotesque and it, accordingly, should be hidden and kept secret.
This is the cultural background to Lee Price‘s realist paintings of women (mostly her) eating sweets and junk food. She draws two contrasts. First, she makes very public something we are supposed to do only in private. Not only do the paintings literally display the transgression, the birds eye view and frequent nudity exaggerates the sheer display of the indulgence. And, second, she takes something that is supposedly disgusting and shameful and presents it in a medium associated with (high) art, challenging the association of indulgence with poor character and a lack of refinement. Fascinating. [source]
I must admit, though, that the fact that they don’t bring up the fact that these images embody the characteristics of addiction or the visuals of emotional eating is troublesome.. but it just lets me know that there’s a lot of work to do in regards to getting out the message.
What do you see, here? Do you see yourself in any of these images? I know I did.