When students at the University of Queensland dared to use a bake sale to highlight pay gaps, the backlash was swift and horrible. The same sort of backlash women face whenever the patriarchy is questioned, writes Lauren Rosewarne.
Because there’s no relationship more special, more sacred, more time-honoured, than the one between a white boy and his cupcake. Threaten this and there’ll be consequences. Boy oh boy will there be consequences.
So the University of Queensland – pilfering an idea that drummed up attention in places like the University of Washington in 2003 or Bucknell University in 2009 – have organised an affirmative action bake sale.
Simply put, sugary delicious carby delights are priced according to the presumed earning power of the customer: Mr Whitey McWhitey for example, will pay premium for his red velvet cupcake because his earning capacity will – statistically – be better than Charlotte’s or Abdul’s.
Had this shop been a permanent campus store, sure, I’d have a problem. It’s not fair and nor is it legal to charge different demographics different prices. (Unless, say, you’re talking about pink vs blue-handled razors, and then apparently a whole other set of rules applies).
The key difference here, however, is that the bake sale is a one off. It’s about peddling cakes, sure, but more importantly it’s a protest and a piece of performance art happening on a university campus during Feminist Week.
Pricing cakes differently makes a simple but thought-provoking comment about earning capacity being impacted on by factors – like genitals – which shouldn’t be relevant yet remain so.
More interesting for me than all the math that went into those price tags though, is the inevitable bake sale backlash serving as its own piece of protest art: what better illustration is there for the ongoing need for feminism than to have a statement about inequality getting shouted down by those holding the very privilege that’s being spotlighted?
As every feminist knows of course, daring to do your politics anywhere, but especially publicly, comes at cost. Very few of us have any actual interest in man-hating, but – shock horror – that’s never mattered.