I have a confession to make: The entire first month that I go out with a guy, I can barely eat in front of him. It's not because I don't enjoy food—it's because I'm nervous and nerves make me nauseous. And according to a number of viral sites and essays that have popped up on the Internet lately, that means that I'm a high-maintenance, uptight, calorie-obsessed mean girl whose superficial priorities consume her life. And I am definitely undateable.
I have this crazy notion that there is a way to be positive about one woman's choice without tearing another woman's choice down. But this is not a popular opinion, clearly. The latest example of diet-shaming is "Date a Girl Who Eats," a lyrical essay by Valen Dawson over at Eating the Globe. The piece is a good example of what it looks like when you draw a firm, stereotypical line between life-loving, exuberant "women who eat" and superficial "women who don't eat."
"Instead of closets full of shoes, she's the one with the cabinet full of saffron spices she brought from Morocco.
"She will spend her money not on clothes but on truffles from the Perigord, salts from Okinawa, and spicy Tunisian harissa.
"When you go on vacation, she will choose your hotel not based on the thread count of the sheets or the size of the shower. It will solely be based on its proximity to good street food.
"She will give you a taste of her world. And only then, will you really know what it means to truly eat."
First of all, is there some kind of imaginary binary between "caring about shoes" and "enjoying good street food?" And secondly, are women who like clothes automatically frivolous idiots? This is just your good old Madonna/Whore complex, reworked, once again, to contain women in two separate boxes. "Smart" and "dumb." "Silly" and "not silly." "High maintenance" and "low maintenance." "Cool girls" and "needy girls." If other women are perpetrating these false binaries, how can we expect men not to?
In late April, Thought Catalog ran a piece called "Date a Girl Who Drinks Beer," which pretty much exemplified the problematic and ever-expanding Cool Girl archetype— by shitting on all the girls who don't drink beer. "Date a girl who drinks beer because she doesn't drink to get drunk and call up her exes. Date a girl who drinks beer because she is assertive enough to not follow stereotypes. She won't spend all that cash on clothes. Date this girl because she's no ordinary girl. She will travel with you and not bother about the dirty toilets and unshampooed hair. She will sleep with you and not expect you to cuddle. She will give you just enough space to live your life the way you want." As for the rest of us white wine-swilling, high-maintenance women? Well, we clearly expect to be married within the month. And don't even think about trying to get us to leave the country, I guess.
A newer cousin of the Cool Girl archetype that's been making life a little more miserable for the (Varied! Complex! More than one-note!) female population out there is the "If she doesn't scarf down a cheeseburger and instead picks at a salad, she's not Chill Enough to be with" Girl. It's the inverse of fat-shaming, but it's just as judgey and inappropriate, deciding that someone's personal eating habits says something negative about who they are and shoehorning them into some dumb category they don't identify with.
The bottom line is this: Female bloggers shouldn't have to "other" women those who don't eat or drink like them in order to say something positive about themselves. Why do we continue to insist on defining women by what they choose to put into their bodies and how much of it?
Last month, an Instagram called You Didn't Eat That began policing style bloggers' shots of macarons and pretty desserts, calling them out on not eating it (off-camera). Everyone, other than a select few people, thought it was hilarious—but continuing to monitor women's weight, assume things about them based on how they look, and shame them on the basis of whether or not they ate a fucking cupcake, wasn't funny to me, and it reeks of double standards. Are we watching Bradley Cooper like a hawk when he posts a selfie with a corn dog on Instagram? Where's the Tumblr of Zac Efron not eating a bagel?
In closing, I happen to enjoy a good Shackburger and a J.Crew Collection heel. Sorry if that sentence just gave anybody an aneurism.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.