The Vagenda

Getting Baked

Every woman has her own battle. Be it a tempestuous relationship with a tanning agent, difficulty finding the perfect moisturiser, or the correct way to deal with being offered a seat on the tube, everybody’s got something that simultaneously really needs to be personally reconciled with and really, really gets on their tits.
Mine’s cupcakes.
Everything from recent girly meet-ups to those painful ‘Baking’ albums on Facebook is telling me that a) a cupcake is as an essential item in a real girl’s arsenal, and b) they are a conversation starter in the same way that a baby is, or a new piece of furniture, or a haircut. Girls and women now place a tenderly arranged plate in the middle of a social gathering to various coos and ‘oohs’ and ‘aaah’s. All that work, for something so tiny. Like our very own flour baby. A cupcake, far from being a dinky inoffensive chunk of sugar, butter and fairy farts, is as much a part of and a barometer of modern femininity as Veet and miniskirts. Despite championing the Pankhursts, we are also meant to want to be Martha Stewart. And that drives me mental. 
Jezebel posted an article today about how the cupcake has become synonymous with both the vagina and (weirdly) the female orgasm. That a cupcake is a private, sweet and delicate affair, while also being an item that is not to be shared, that is about selfish self-gratification. That a woman stuffing her face with a cupcake is a woman who has her cake and eats it, both in the bedroom and out of it. Go girls! You can put whipped cream ANYWHERE YOU LIKE! OWN IT!
Now, along with the sisterhood’s constant, naggingly sweet habit of making me feel like my ovaries are just for show unless I bake dinky cakes, I find it a deeply disturbing notion that women’s attitude to sex is now represented by a pastel-coloured, palm-sized confection. It comes from a shop called Hummingbird or Magnolia (unless you’re a badass and bought yours at Cox Cookies and Cake). It matches the wallpaper. Is this really what women want their sexual appetite to be represented by? A fluffy, cutesy, dinky little pastel cake? You’re willing to accept that your sex life is literally vanilla?
Sex (as Caitlin Moran rightly notes in her chapter that includes a description of her cupcake flavour being ‘a lovely pie’) is not sugar-dusted. I once went to cookery school and the chef, upon infusing a dish with truffles, noted that they smelled like sex. True, I wouldn’t wear them as cologne, but I don’t consider a night of passion thus if it’s scented with candy-floss. Personally, I’d prefer it to be represented by, say, lasagne – delicious, decadent, filling and satisfying. And NOT over in two minutes.
And it’s not just our own cupcakes. The bloody things seem to have become a metaphor for our confinement. Remember when you were a kid and you stuffed your face with birthday cake? (Use this blog post to remind you if not.) The cupcake represents a compromise between our desperation to fit into those tiny jeans and minidresses that we’re supposed to wear, while satisfying that inherently ‘feminine’ craving for sweet things – a mash-up between youth and adulthood. With frosting. Like us, they’re decorative, cute and essentially window-dressing.
Give me a big, messily filled but tasty Victoria Sponge any day. Now that’s a real cake. People gather round a proper cake and lovingly yet sneakily carve the uneven slices in a politically engineered eat-off that you just can’t get with a box of cupcakes. While the most famous cake-eater in history, Marie Antoinette, didn’t do so well out of her supposed affiliation, the cakes in those days were about wealth, status, position, and excess. Aside from eating three Hummingbird Bakery cakes in one go, you just don’t get the same sense of satisfaction as you would when you eat the bejeezus out of a roast dinner. You can’t lie around with your stomach heavy, groaning, and exhausted, after cupcakes. You cannot defeat a cupcake. That’d be like winning a wrestling match with a chick (yes, of the baby chicken variety.) Except a chick, being so cute, is far harder to get rid of. And that’s the conundrum with cupcakes. They are inoffensive enough to offend on a daily basis. And they will keep doing so, in all their deliciousness, every time I walk down Wardour Street.
Maybe I’m just bitter because I’m tired of bringing my sass, wit, banter and fabulous hairdo to gatherings and feeling second rate next to a pile of iced delights. Maybe I’m annoyed that, on a crap Sunday afternoon, I can’t exactly stuff my face with frozen portions of kick-ass bolognese. Maybe I’m depressed that my ovaries are worth nothing unless I can ice them with frosting. But I just plain don’t think that a small, doiley-wrapped iced fancy is an adequate representation of women, or their orgasms, today. A cupcake is a tasty treat and a nice thing to bring to a picnic. But the way that they are filtering stealthily into the popular pysche of what it means to be a woman (hell, Jezebel has a section on their blog dedicated to them) needs to be stopped. And replaced with a food item that better represents a modern woman. Our mothers cooked casseroles, made amazingly complex birthday cakes, and knew killer chicken soup recipes. When we’re mothers, no doubt we’ll know the same. But while some of us remain girls-not-yet-women, I’d rather not be represented by something that comes in that tiny a box.
Thanks for the pic

18 thoughts on “Getting Baked

  1. I love cupcakes me. They’re tasty, they’re available in a variety of flavours, they’re just… nice.

    But do you know what a cupcake is to me? It’s a FUCKING BUN. It’s not a statement, it’s not an expression of my femininity, it’s a BUN. It tastes nice then you eat it. The end.

    So yes, great blog post. :)

  2. I swear you ladies can read my mind, I never ever understood the cupcake craze. They’re cakes for little girls and dolls, not something to be loved, coveted, or even caressed by grown women, or those of us working hard to be one, someday…

  3. I think it was the cupcakes that pushed me over the edge, but it could just as easily have been the ‘lovely tea sets for sale from Mrs Stokes Vintage China!’ (Their exclamation mark, not mine, I assure you)

    What is it with the Burlesque movement? Why this mindnumbing appropriation and romanticisation all things American and vintage? (And by vintage, they actually mean a teeny decade’s worth of gear)

    You see tonight, I’m off to see my friend perform her Clockwork Orange routine at a Burlesque show in Bath.

    And there it all is, right there on the flyer, nestled in nicely between Cherry Blush, Kitty Curvaceous and the double act Moreorlesque, screaming out at me. Cupcakes. American domesticity at it’s worst meets UK Steampunk HighTea. Objectification. A clingy, needy desire to be adored, to be thought of as what? Sexy? Cute? Perky? Quirky? Cultured?

    I don’t know. And with my alarm bells wailing, I still can’t put my finger on the precise wrongness here.

    And we all know how the punters are going to be dressed tonight. Themed to within an inch of their lives, sticking to the dress code as though it were their true phenotype. Tight floral prints and matching tattoos stretched across their various curves, pencil skirts and fishnets, manicured fringes, painted nails, eyeliner and red lips. A uniformity as chilling as a Midwich child.

    And we can have a pretty good idea of what is going to be happening on stage.

    But what I want to know is, what is it that’s being said here. What’s the message when some plump, middle class, privilaged girl strips down to thong and tassels and starts to thrust her arse in my face, from high on stage. Whilst I nibble my cupcake from the vintage china.

    And what does it say about me (and corsetRich) that we find it dull and boring?

    When I pierced my nose, ripped my bra off and started wearing a tie and monkey boots in the late 70′s, it was as a revolt against an establishment so arrogantly sexist, racist and ageist as to begger belief. So I find it a little jarring that an entire ‘movement’ mostly women, should suddenly start appropriating cupcakes, domestic goddesses and Betty Page, in fact doing a lot of the things associated with patriarchal society at it’s worst. And let us not forget that eventually, even Betty suffered from extreme depression, violent mood swings and converted to Christianity. So what’s looming for the burlesquers? Valium, tranquilisers and all the neuroses of the 50′s.

    I know there’s a lot of trumpeting of how burlesque accepts and beautifies the female body in all it’s shapes and forms, but does it?
    And if you listen closely they are still worrying about what they look like, and possibly feeling even more objectified and meatlike than if they had stayed working in the dayjob.

    All this cutesy cutesyness, the rigid feminity, the tassel swinging (and God knows I love a tassel myself) the plumpness: it all conspires to push me over the edge back into the empowerment of punk. To rise up and revolt against this burlesque enforced smiling, pouting flesh show.

    And yet, I still can’t figure out what is actually being said by the burlesque girls, and to the burlesque girls.

    But I have a feeling it’s not so good. There is no message of individualism, empowerment and equality, maybe there is nothing in it at all, but my alarm bells are still ringing.

  4. Thank you for voicing my alarm bells about burlesque. It’s always felt like stripping for the middle classes to me. The objectification goes away if it’s your choice to strip?

    It smacks of the happy hooker school of thought: ‘it’s ok if you’re an escort not a prostitute’, because it’s ok to do sexual things you don’t want to if you’re being paid enough.

    I feel like burlesque would be ok if if didn’t come with it’s own set of rules, its own dictats for how and why we should get naked. To be honest, I’m so sick of being objectified that I quite fancy reverse burlesque. I’m going to get dressed into jeans and eat real cake of paper plates. Still sexy?!

    PS The anti-cupcake brigade may still appreciate, who do a fabulous range of feminist cupcakes with slogans like ‘don’t call me sweetie, it’ll hurt your teeth’.

  5. “Every woman has her own battle. Be it a tempestuous relationship with a tanning agent, difficulty finding the perfect moisturiser, or the correct way to deal with being offered a seat on the tube”.

    Ok, now imagine this to be the opening line in an article in the Telegraph, written by a bloke, about women and their cupcake struggles. Take a moment.

  6. You ladies are actually inside my head. Living in the States for the last year has made my anti-cupcake stance even harder.

    I do bake, because I like to eat cake. I make fruit loaves, and hot cross buns, and ginger cake. I don’t bake because it’s feminine.

    p.s. LOVE the analogy of lasagne or gorging oneself on a roast dinner for sex. that’s how i do it.

  7. “And replaced with a food item that better represents a modern woman. Our mothers cooked casseroles, made amazingly complex birthday cakes, and knew killer chicken soup recipes. When we’re mothers, no doubt we’ll know the same. But while some of us remain girls-not-yet-women, I’d rather not be represented by something that comes in that tiny a box.”

    Why do we need to be defined by a foodstuff? I don’t get it.

  8. Personally I always thought of sex as toast. Fairly readily available, hot, salty, and with the ability to spread exciting things on top if you want more than butter.

    Also, easily burned if you don’t pay attention.

  9. I like eating cupcakes/fairy cakes, and I like baking them. It has nothing to do with being a woman. This is one of the most ridiculous articles I’ve ever read. Also, if you insist on defining yourself as food; lasagne sounds sloppy.

  10. THANK YOU SO MUCH for this comment! you’ve read my mind and articulated all my thoughts about the questionable and actually quite mysterious acceptance of burlesque among seemingly emancipated women. I’ve been convinced by a friend to go and see a burlesque show a couple of months ago here in Vienna and it made me so sick! I absolutely agree with you, there was no sense of empowerment whatsoever, only a room full of horny guys and red-lipsticked women in boring retro-clothes constantly checking their make-up and panicking over their horny boyfriends being too much into the burlesque dancer’s buttocks!

  11. Okay. NO! It’s cake that doesnt even have funky dried fruits or nuts and it’s not sweet, lovely stodge like a brownie or a dessert, it’s just a boring, sometimes lemon or chocolate or carrot sponge WITH a piled up turd of icing. TOO sweet and boring. I’m not a health crazed person but if I’m eating something that’s a treat, i want It to be worth the calories! Tasty, have textures and so feel so good in your mouth that it feels illegal to eat in public.

    Cupcakes are purely eye candy. Like Burlesque.

  12. Seriously? It’s a fucking cake. So if I’m not eating a Victoria Sponge then I’m letting my gender down somehow? Crazy. Shockingly, I choose not to define myself by food. I just bloody eat it and enjoy.

  13. Thank you for making a good point here! I bake cupcakes because they’re easier to transport to a group of people with whom I share the cakes. It had literally never crossed my mind that they were a symbol for sex and frankly it makes no sense. Yes they can be pretty, yes they often taste of vanilla, but does that undermine the fact that they taste good. And we can beat them, that’s the point, if I end up having to lie down with a painful stomach, then the food has beaten me. A cupcake gives me satisfaction without pain, ergo, I win.