Random AsidesSkepticism

Bad Chart Thursday: Cake as a Tool for Oppression

It’s my birthday, so I am being reminded from all directions of that insidious edible sponge with frosting also known as cake. All these positive mentions of cake only demonstrate how successful the Cake Lobby has been with its spin. How else could we continue to propagate the myth that cake is good despite all the evidence* demonstrating that cake is a tool for bigotry and oppression?

Cake as a device and symbol for class oppression

Probably the most well-known (but apocryphal) quotation of all time is the one attributed to Marie Antoinette, who in response to finding that the people had no bread said, “Let them eat cake.” In fact, cake has been out of reach of all but the wealthiest people until fairly recently, when ingredients such as refined sugar became more readily available and inexpensive.

Cake as a device and symbol for sexism and misogyny

The wedding cake in particular has been intertwined throughout history with traditions that reinforce women’s expected role as subservient wives making babies. One theory on the wedding cake’s origins traces it to the bread used in Roman times, which the groom would break over the bride’s head to symbolize his dominance and breaking of the hymen. This tradition didn’t carry over to cake for obviously messy reasons, but the color of the cake, as with the bride’s dress, continues the tradition of assuming and insisting that women be virgins until marriage. The lesser-known tradition of also having a groom’s cake also reinforces the double standard. The groom’s cake is traditionally dark.

Further, there are the traditions of smashing the cake in the bride’s face, women sleeping with a piece of wedding cake under their pillow so they’ll dream of their future husbands (for others, married women and all men, doing this is just for generic luck), and freezing the top tier of the wedding cake to be kept for the christening of the baby that will of course be born within a year of the wedding because what else is marriage for? Or women?

Cake as a tool to reinforce ageism

This one is almost too obvious to even mention, but it is impossible to search for a birthday card without coming across numerous age jokes related to the cake, particularly to the candles on the cake. These jokes are so overdone that the cliches are almost more oppressive than the ageism.

Cake as tool for body shaming

We shame ourselves and each other with jokes about cake and calories and other ways cake makes us that worst of all worst things in Worstville: fat.

Cake is even used to body shame children.

Cake as incitement to violence

Not only do we have the face-smashing wedding tradition, but we can see clearly here that cake will turn even the most adorable little baby to violence.

Cake as a tool to crush the human spirit

Finally, probably the worst of all its crimes, cake is now being used to Rickroll.

If that’s not enough to convince you to abandon cake, let’s take a look at the weight of this layer cake of oppression in graphic terms.

Layer cake - New Page

So really, the question isn’t whether you can have your cake and eat it too. The question is, do you really want to?

Ending cake oppression starts with YOU. And pie. Lots and lots of delicious pie.

*All “evidence” in this post is based on the gospels of Google and Wikipedia.

Melanie Mallon

Melanie is a freelance editor and writer living in a small town outside Minneapolis with her husband, two kids, dog, and two cats. When not making fun of bad charts or running the Uncensorship Project, she spends her time wrangling commas, making colon jokes, and putting out random dumpster fires. You can find her on Twitter as @MelMall, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

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  1. We’ve all heard of Pie Charts; is this a Layer Cake Chart? Are there other dessert-based mathematical diagrams I should know about?

    P.S. Happy Birthday!

      1. Parfaits, seven-layer bars, neopolitan ice cream. So many delicious layers of information.

    1. I’m pretty sure drizzled chocolate on just about anything is actually a line graph. Think of all the data we are eating!

      And thanks for the birthday wishes. I did in fact have a birthday pie, which is doing double duty today.

  2. Happy Birthday Melanie!
    Have you seen this before? If not it can be a little presnt for you and for everybody:-

    Most Dangerous Cake Recipe in the World

    4 tablespoons self raising flour
    4 tablespoons sugar
    2 tablespoons cocoa
    1 egg
    3 tablespoons milk
    3 tablespoons oil
    3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
    A small splash of vanilla essence
    1 large coffee mug

    Add dry ingredients to your largest mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using), vanilla essence, then mix again.

    Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high).

    Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.

      1. That’s why it’s so dangerous!
        You could even go try it right now to see if it works…..!
        (trust me , it does.)

  3. Actually, Marie Antoinette wasn’t talking about cake, but about brioche.
    When I uttered the German version “dann sollen Sie doch Kuchen essen” to a French friend, she didn’t understand (not because she doesn’t speak German). Because the concepts of cake/Kuchen and brioche were so different in her mind that she couldn’t understand it as a rough translation.

    Happy Birthday!

  4. Thanks! I am not at all surprised that brioche is in on it. :-P From what I’ve read, Marie Antoinette didn’t actually say these words at all (although I didn’t really dig all that deeply).

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