Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cupcakes and Feminism are not incompatible


For a meeting of my feminist-orientated reading group, I made cupcakes. I made green velvet cupcakes, to be specific, because it's almost St Patrick's Day and half my ancestors hail from Ireland.

The reason I'm blogging this? Lately, I've been running into quite a bit of negativity around the issue of whether feminists should be quite so interested in cupcakes. A specific example? I discussed Linda Grant's recent piece in The Guardian with a friend and colleague. Grant concludes:

"And I don't care if some people think feminism is a dirty word, because without it, we'd still be back where we were, stuck forever, too scared to open our mouths in case men think we're not feminine enough. Enough of cupcakes and high heels, they have their place, but they didn't win me the right to buy them."

Well, aside from the fact that I bake my own cupcakes, I was a little baffled as to why cupcakes and high heels (after all, Louis XIV made heels fashionable - he liked the way his legs looked in them) should feature so strongly in her conclusions. I might not open my mouth while actually eating a cupcake - that's rude - but buying/making/eating cupcakes certainly doesn't stop me from speaking up. Likewise, I'm not quite so sure why 'feminine' appears to be used in a quasi-patriarchal manner here. You can be very feminine indeed - and still be an outspoken feminist.

I'm not saying every feminist should bake cupcakes and develop a fondness for shoes. Nor am I saying that every woman who bakes cupcakes and has a fondness for shoes is a feminist. It's just that they aren't actually mutually exclusive.

And there are bigger issues than cupcakes and high heels... which is in part why I'm puzzled that some feminists seem to think these are issues at all. They aren't, unless you're thinking of the implications of the rise of the domestic/maker culture. They're simply part of my life as a woman and feminist - an enjoyable part through which I can celebrate the fantastic baking skills of my grandmother and great grandmother and countless other women who were crazy creative in their kitchens, often keeping families fed and clothed in the most trying of circumstances.

Such anti-cupcake rhetoric trivialises and ridicules feminists who happen to enjoy a certain baked good, but who do believe passionately in women's rights. The thing that really disappoints me is that this ridicule comes from fellow feminists.

In any case, my reading group very much relished a range of baked goods while we hotly debated politics and literature and planned future events.

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