Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Go ahead, call me a cupcake feminist

Have you ever heard the term "cupcake feminism" before? I hadn't until a couple of days ago. I googled something like "feminism and vintage fashion" (full disclosure, I just wanted to see if my blog was on the first 10 pages, which it wasn't. I really have to step up my SEO game), and an article called Half Baked: The Trouble With Cupcake Feminism came up.
It was a really interesting read, actually. I am pretty clearly the type of woman that she's describing. I like twee dresses and baking and buying shit off of Etsy. I loved one of the phrases that she used to describe the aesthetic - "Rouged, lipsticked, cinched at the waist, she performs big-F Femininity as the drag–show that it is." What I didn't love was where she went with the idea; that the women who fall under this umbrella are playing into the hands of "the enemy."

One of the primary tools of patriarchy is to divide women into the good and the bad. I find it highly problemtic for feminists to do the same based purely on an aesthetic. The author, Meryl Trussler, does make it clear that she doesn't think that anyone is "letting down" feminism, but the implication is still there that "cupcake feminists" are somehow in opposition to the "hairy dykes" that people apparently traditionally think of as the face of feminism. Cupcake feminism is feminism that's been rebranded to make it more palateable for the masses, packaged up with a pretty bow so that people can point to someone and say, "look, not all feminists are ugly and never get laid!"
It's hard for me to fully articulate what I disagree with here, but I want to give it a go. It's kind of a call back to the last post that I made about feminism and femininity - I don't like it when other people put their own preconcieved notions on me. I perform my femininity in a way that makes me happy, in a way that I find both subversive and aesthetically pleasing. If someone wants to appropriate that, to point to me and others like me to say that we're a better brand of feminists because we're more overtly sexy, or because we like traditionally feminine pursuits, that's on them, not me. I won't take responsibility for the assumptions that other people make about me, although I will make a point to contradict them if I disagree. The way that I look doesn't make me better or worse than anyone else, or vice versa.

If anything, I'm a brownie feminist.
Another blogger who responded to the original article talked more explicitly about the implications of DIY and crafting culture, and how that's pretty much the sole province of women with a certain degree of privilege. I think one of the phrases that she used was "poverty tourism", and she took serious issue with the fact that women were doing it not because it was cheaper, but because they liked the aesthetic. I'm not a crafter, so I don't really take personal offense to the statement, but that just seems like a silly thing to say. "Wait, you're doing something because you like it? What about tearing down the patriarchy? Bad feminism!" While she's right that it is still important to fight for income equality and gender parity, it seems terribly judgemental to assume that they don't. Just because you're a feminist doesn't mean you can't have a hobby.
I think what it really comes down to is that I don't want to be dismissed. I get the critiques about feminist culture, and the ways in which it lets down a lot of people. We really do need to work on being more inclusive of minority women, poor women, trans women, and the rest of the women out there that have serious issues that aren't being addressed the way they should be by modern feminism. The #solidarityisforwhitewomen trend on Twitter didn't come out of a vacuum. However, the way forward is not to dismiss a substantial subset of the movement as mere "cupcakes." Feminism is about inclusivity, about fighting for equality, not tearing other women down.


  1. Goodness, yes! The notion that one can't have a hobby (or a hundred hobbies), dress as they please, live as they please, and enjoy things that are perceived as being inherently girly and still count themselves amongst the feminist ranks is flat out ludicrous in my books. After all, one might think that the very elements which are so often associated with women, historically speaking at least, like crafting and baking (cupcakes) would be points that weigh in favour of the feminist cause, not against it. If one wants to bring women together for such a just cause, then why not embrace and encourage those very things which so many ladies in the 21st century have a profound passion for?

    ♥ Jessica

    1. I agree, it should absolutely be embraced. I do understand a lot of what the writer of that article said, and it definitely seems like the kind of critique that I hear from a lot of older feminists, the ones that felt like they had to prove that women aren't weak or dumb or passive or meant to be "barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen," as the saying goes. I see how they could feel like the current generation of feminists have been defanged. However, I think that we've won a lot of the battles about women's basic equality. The new frontier is really to show that "woman's work" is just as valid as more masculine pursuits, and that's what I think the whole cupcake feminism thing is really about.