A few weeks ago, the internet (or at least my internet) exploded with a scathing article published on Gawker about Vani Hari, aka “Food Babe.” The author, Yvette d’Entremont, is a chemist who goes by “Science Babe” online, which is also the name of her blog dedicated to debunking pseudoscience and taking down Food Babe.
So many babes, I know.
And like all great tales of two babes–this one ends in a chick fight. Stay with me!
Food Babe disseminates nutrition advice based on pseudo science (translation: SHE MAKES UP STUFF AND PRETENDS IT’S REAL), and creates her following by fear mongering. I cannot tell you how many times she’s written something that cannot biologically happen in the body, and states it as fact. She has no training in nutrition, medicine, or science. In the professional nutrition community, she’s a joke. It’s super frustrating.
So that Gawker article should be awesome, right? And Science Babe should be my new BFF, right? And I should have shared that article and told all my internet friends about my new BFF, right? Not so fast…
Science Babe sucks too.
Yes, she’s smarter than Food Babe, knows all the big words, and everything in her Gawker article debunking Food Babe’s work is dead on. But Science Babe goes far beyond debunking and fills her article with personal attacks that make my stomach churn. Food Babe’s work is ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean she, or any human being, is a “waste of skin.”
Those personal attacks, of course, gave Food Babe the ammunition she needed to respond to the Gawker article without ever having to address the critiques of her work. That’s right. She got to play the martyr and then launch into her own ad hominem attacks on Science Babe.
That’s how the babes got into a chick fight… and it was a complete fail.
This was a massive missed opportunity.
Science Babe had the opportunity to start a powerful dialogue about the merits of what I’ll call “opinion activists” like Food Babe. By including the personal attacks, Science Babe only strengthened the “Food Babe Army” as they flocked to her defense (heck, I want to defend Food Babe against some of these personal attacks because they’re completely out of line).
After the Gawker article went viral, there were only two camps left slinging mud: The people who were already aware of the terribleness of Food Babe pseudoscience and applauded the article, and then the die-hard “Food Babe Army” who came to her defense to criticize the personal attacks.
There was no middle ground, no room for people to ask questions or express uncertainty. And that’s disappointing. That’s a complete loss. I work with thousands of women who are neither chemists like Science Babe, nor card-carrying Food Babe Army members. They’re somewhere in the middle. They’re really not sure if Food Babe is legit or not. To be completely honest, if I didn’t have college degrees in food and nutrition, I probably wouldn’t be so sure either.
More #youcansitwithus, less Regina George, please.
I spend my days teaching women about nutrition science in the #AABikiniBody program. But more importantly, I spend my days building a community of women who never feel judged when asking questions, and are incredibly kind to themselves and other women, regardless of opinions, accomplishments, performance or beliefs. That’s where effective teaching and learning happens–in safe spaces, in empowered communities.
Launching an internet Mean Girl attack might get you attention, but it doesn’t allow for meaningful conversation to happen, or real change to take place.
That’s a loss. That’s why both babes are wrong.
Read Food Babe? Try this instead.
Are you concerned about the food industry? Do you suspect that you’re not as informed as you could be about the politics of food? Did you used to be a Food Babe reader? No worries, I’ve got something a million times better, and soooooo legit for you to read instead. Unfortunately, she’s not a “babe,” so don’t hold that against her.
Her name is Marion Nestle, and she writes at www.foodpolitics.com. She’s a nutrition and public health professor at NYU, with a PhD in molecular biology and an MPH in public health nutrition (translation: hella qualified to be talking to you about food and nutrition).
*Bonus* Dr. Nestle actually weighed in on the Food Babe, Science Babe story here. Of course she’s the most sane and civil mind to comment on the topic. Love. Her.