Cake Is A Serious Matter

This article is old news – late 2017, to be more specific – but it’s new to me. Frankly, I did not think I could discover anything more delusional than the MLM posts I mocked before. If only I could’ve foreseen how wrong I’d be.

A YouTube channel I’ve recently gotten into is how I was introduced to this extreme oddity. To be clear, I am referring to the post, not the person.

Take The Cake: No, I Won’t Cut You A Smaller Slice Of Cake

This article supposedly explicates the misogyny and “fatphobia” (I despise that word!) of… not wanting a large slice of cake. Yes, yes, I’m serious. And if you think I’m trolling, I don’t blame you. I thought this was the case as well. But no, this was written with one hundred percent seriousness.

Let’s see how far I read into this article with the remainder of my sanity in tact.

There is a ritual that happens at birthday parties and office celebrations all over the country. There’s a good chance that it’s happening somewhere right now as you read this. It usually goes something like this:

Person 1: “Do you want a slice of cake?”

Person 2: “Well maybe a small piece. A really small piece. Oh my god, not that big. That slice is bigger than the planet Saturn. That slice is bigger than all the tiny sea creatures at the bottom of all the earth’s oceans throughout all time. I need like half of half of that. No smaller than that. Smaller!”

Absolutely no one asks for cake like this. I understand people exaggerate for comedic effect, but remember, this article is supposed to have a completely serious tone. Nobody in history outside of this author’s mind has asked or would ask for any amount of food in this manner.

A Cake Related Fatphobic Incident — or CRFI for short — is that moment when it’s time to eat delicious cake, and an otherwise joyous experience gets ruined by a moralizing impulse.

First of all, not all cakes are delicious. I love cake, and sweets in general, but there is such a thing as too much sugar! Personally, I do not enjoy foods and drinks that are too sweet. This is why although chocolate sweets is my most favorite, I dislike double chocolate. In fact, double chocolate looks unappetizing to me.

Also, you cannot create an acronym out of nowhere and treat it like a scientific term.

There’s almost always at least one person who delays the cake experience because they personally feel compelled to publicly declare that their slice is too large or that it has too much frosting on it, and that the person cutting the cake (almost inevitably a woman) needs to do some disproportionate amount of work in order to accommodate their need.

I haven’t attended enough parties in my adulthood to double check this, but I don’t think cutting a cake is a hard task. It can be a bit tricky. My hands tend to tremble, so I sincerely have a slightly hard time with cutting anything, but it’s hardly what I would call strenuous. And requesting to be cut a smaller slice, or to do it yourself, isn’t rude or the equivalent of a public declaration.

Now, I do know certain menial tasks tend to be thought of as being for women (getting coffee, etc), and I agree that is sexist. But if we’re simply talking about wanting a small slice of cake and there’s zero implication the woman is cutting the cake in spite of their desire not to, I don’t think sexism applies here.

Recently someone on Facebook told me about a CRFI during which she was personally asked to scrape off the frosting from one person’s cake and add two forks to it because they were planning to share the naked cake.

I will agree this is a bit of a strange request. If I don’t want frosting, I’ll scrape off the slice myself and I imagine most people would. But this story comes from a third party, so there’s no way to know what happened. That said, asking for a second fork isn’t weird, nor is sharing a slice. Heck, when I was a kid and I was full, I gave my sister the remaining food. Or vice versa.

I was aghast. If you have never been relegated to cake-cutting duty let me explain to you what it feels like. Cutting cake is way more difficult than you would imagine. I am sure that it is because of misogyny that people believe that skills such as cake cutting are things that all humans are endowed with and that anyone can just do.

Misogyny is expecting women to know how to cut a cake solely because they are women. Expecting anyone to be capable of something solely because they are a particular gender is sexist. But if the expectation is that everyone – presumably that means all people of all genders – know how to cut cake, that doesn’t sound like misogyny. Not sure what you would call it, but not misogyny.

For average person, cutting a cake is not difficult. I could see that as the case for someone who has a disability with their hands or a child who still has immature hand-eye coordination. But for the regular, able-bodied adult, not really.

I was one of those people who mistakenly believed this odious lie. Until I had to cut cake. There are specific challenges that I hadn’t anticipated. To begin with, you must figure out how to make the establishing cut: do you want to trace gently into the frosting with a knife so that you can use it as a guide or are you going to be cavalier and just free cut? Triangles or squares? Everyone has an opinion about how to cut a cake and so you’re going up against long-held belief systems on the “proper” way to cut and serve.

As someone with a bad habit of overthinking, I understand this to a degree. I often struggled with thoughts of “if I don’t this right, if I don’t this perfectly, everyone will hate me”, or similar. To me, this sounds like heavy anxiety. But my limited experience with cutting cake has taught me no one cares as long as they get their slice.

Then there’s the fact that the knife gets dirty very quickly, so it makes the incisions less and less precise with each slice. You’ve got to balance the cake once it’s been sliced. You’ve got to get it onto a plate, which is a very complex combination of physics and geometry or something. Then you have to enlist someone else who’s willing to pass out the cake because otherwise you’re doing double duty.

While this is true, I don’t know if “a very complex combination of physics and geometry” is a fitting description. Maybe if a toddler is handing out the cake. Also, you can wipe off the knife in between cuts if it gets that dirty.

And above all of that, you often additionally must deal with that one or two people who inevitably start a chain reaction. Someone needs to let everyone know that the cake is too big for them. Then once that person says it inevitably others join in. What could have been a wonderful, beautiful, and joyful experience is now a race to the bottom.

Is she talking about sharing cake or a religious ceremony? Well, she did call it a ritual at the start of the article. Not my idea of a ritual, but a ritual is defined as “a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence”, so I guess it could fit? I don’t know. I didn’t write the dictionary.

Let’s take a step back and view what’s happening through a critical lens.

Someone wants a smaller slice of cake. The end.

CRFIs typically happen in environments where there are primarily or exclusively women. Women are disproportionately negatively affected by diet culture because diet culture maps onto sexism. Like many parts of diet culture, there is a significant performance component. You have to show others that you are being “good.” Controlling how much you eat is part of what it means to be a “good woman.” You get to establish your moral superiority and also enlist other women into falling in line. It’s pretty atrocious patriarchal stuff, but it is perceived as fairly innocuous when in fact it isn’t.

So much to unpack here! Now, I agree most “diet culture” is aimed at women. Most of my childhood took place across the early 2000s, when being “fat” meant you were over a size 5. I remember thinking I was fat at the age of 14 because I gained ten pounds after hitting puberty. My weight was 122 lbs. However, I never thought I was “morally superior”, nor was I trying to be a “good woman”. I just really thought my body was terrible. The teen years are not a good time for the brain. Also, kids are mean.

That said, this is assuming the person in question has a body image issue. This is assuming they are trying to lose weight or change their body. It’s totally possible they don’t want a lot of cake and it goes no deeper than that. My niece, when she was a small child, would sometimes reject sugar. Why, when she usually loves sweets? We’d never get a reason. She just didn’t want it at that moment.

I would argue it’s sexist to assume someone not wanting sugar means they have body dysmorphia.

Recently, a CRFI happened to me at a birthday party. There was a very expensive and very gorgeous cake. Chocolate. I was ready for that cake. I was pretty sure that there was ganache inside of it. Sure, there was buttercream on the outside, but I could sense the sneaky ganache.

Okay, I’ll admit this is me when I see a sweet treat I’m craving. This is indeed what my brain does. Can’t say I’d publicize it.

In the midst of my ganache reverie, I was interrupted by a woman who felt it very important to convey that the slices of cake that my friend was making were too large. She really, really needed to have a paper-thin slice of cake, and she felt that it was her right to ask that my friend perform an extra level of labor to the already pre-existing, previously detailed difficulties of cake cutting.

Translation for the sane people: this woman wanted a small slice of cake. I have a feeling “paper-thin” just means “smaller than the current size” in this context. And once again, cutting cake is not hard for the average person!

I was very annoyed. I sort of suppressed a tiny eye roll. I may not have succeeded in suppressing it. I can’t be sure. But I found that her proclamation shifted the energy immediately.

No, it shifted your mood, and if your mood is soured because someone wants a differently sized piece of food, that is 100% a you problem.

Certainly, it shifted my unequivocal ganache-lust into a flurry of frustration. It stirred up old feelings and the recollection of my weight cycling, food restriction years. Immediately, her words made me consider that perhaps she was judging my slice of cake and that perhaps it was not a safe environment in which I could glut on cake freely (because, honestly, we all know that no one just judges their own slice of cake if they’re a cake judger). I was very frustrated that she was choosing to be an agent of patriarchy when we all had the opportunity to be cake allies together.

In a word, projection. This author projected her insecurities onto this unsuspecting woman. Again, I’ve been there, but the author’s insecurities are not the problem of the woman who made the request or any of the other guests. Having insecurities isn’t self-centered, but projecting them onto another person absolutely is. “Projection” really sums up this entire article.

Also, that last sentence. I have my own overactive imagination, yet I don’t think I could conjure up something so dramatic.

It’s important to see this ritual for what it is — a public practice of fatphobia.

Or someone simply doesn’t share your insatiable love of cake.

This kind of behavior is a way for people to keep other people in check through food moralizing, surveillance, and policing. These are the mechanisms that are at the core of diet culture and weight control. The idea that you can position yourself as superior to others through self-control and self-denial is deeply hurtful. It’s important to recognize that even if this may not be an individual’s intention, that CRFIs have a history of creating a hierarchy among women and ultimately in maintaining misogynist expectations in primarily or exclusively women’s spaces.

Has anyone told this author the world doesn’t revolve around her? I grew up being bullied severely from elementary all to the way to high school, so I understand the feeling that all eyes are on you. The truth is, thankfully, most people don’t think about you. Not because they’re uncaring, but because they have a thousand other things on their mind that take priority over a party guest they’ve seen a handful of times.

And those few people who do care what you eat? Tell them to bug off. The irony here is she doesn’t realize she’s doing the very thing she’s criticizing. It’s hard for me to comprehend this is really about cake.

I know that some people do not love cake or don’t want to waste cake, and I know that some people are sensitive to sugar or have allergies that make their feelings about cake complicated. Obviously, these are all legitimate.

Yes, but they’re also none of your business. No one needs to justify their preferences in portion sizes. Whether the reason is personal or medical isn’t your concern.

However, I’d like to suggest considering the following: practice just taking the slice you’re given or simply saying “no, thanks” without any further exposition or apology. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you might scrape the frosting off your own cake or why you ate half the slice and not the whole slice. Don’t make it someone else’s job to scrape your frosting off or cut a slice even thinner and more precarious than the one they’re already cutting.

Okay, back up! This author, who has been preaching about misogyny throughout this whole article, is really suggesting that instead of a woman speaking up for herself, she accepts something she doesn’t want, or reject having anything at all? This author is trying to bring down a woman for saying exactly what she wants and speaking for herself? That doesn’t sound feminist.

I agree about scraping off your own frosting, and again, I think most people would do that. But if someone insists on being the one who cuts the cake, I don’t think it’s in poor taste (no pun intended) to ask for a smaller slice.

For folks who hate wasting food, please know that there is a good chance that the cake is not going to be finished. Most of the ingredients that go into making a cake are very cheap. It is very likely that part of the cake is going to be thrown out regardless of how big or small your slice is. And it is okay if part of that piece of cake that is going to be thrown out was on your plate. At the end of the day, this article is a plea for an end to cake negotiating and public pastry processing. 

I’m not a chef or a cook or a baker, but in my late teens and early twenties, I was very into artwork. I didn’t become an artist, but one thing I learned for certain is it is work. Yes, I believe food is an art. Even those inexpensive cakes at Carvel’s are someone’s time and effort. The author previously described this particular cake as “very expensive and very gorgeous”. If it’s not cake mix out of a box, the ingredients are not cheap. Honestly, it sounds like a cake I’d admire and not want to see cut solely for that reason.

And even if it is a cheap cake, wasting food on the grounds of “the cake won’t be finished” is still ridiculous. At every event I’ve been to, if the cake isn’t finished, the host takes it home. As a kid, when my sister and I had birthday parties, any uneaten cake was taken home and saved for leftovers each following night until it was gone (not that it lasted long with two sugar-loving children in the house).

If you are a repeat CRFI offender and feel implicated by this article, no need to be defensive!

No worries! Zero offense taken. If anything, the author has been defensive throughout her post about why someone’s preference in the portion size of a cake slice is significant.

You live in a culture that is dedicated to our collective dehumanization, and you were unwittingly enlisted in the project of sexist complicity, friend.

Can someone translate this for me? My brain just made the Windows XP shutdown sound.

You can totally stop investing in patriarchy, like, right now and join my friends and me in committing to the collective liberation of women and fat people by ending the policing and moralizing of cake products.

I’d rather keep a 1,000 yard distance from you and your friends. Also, why cake? Really, why did she choose cake? There are hundreds of sweets out there. Why did she target specifically cake?

Well… that was… I’m at a loss for words. I don’t why I did this to myself. But I certainly don’t want any cake right now.

One of the related posts is “That Time I Went To Adult Fat Camp”, and the first two sentences are:

“When I was a little girl deep in her body image trauma, I dreamed of being sent away to “fat camp.” After my violent introduction to fatphobia at the age of five, most of my dreams centered around transformative experiences that began with the jiggly body I had and ended with the taut body I was supposed to have.”

Assuming she’s not exaggerating (and I have my doubts), it sounds she has some deep childhood wounds. As mentioned above, I was severely bullied throughout my school years, and I come from a family that is obsessive about image and appearance. So while I certainly don’t agree with her outlook on cake slices, I can have empathy for what seems to be a trauma response. Absolutely no child deserves to feel ashamed of their body or that their body is “bad”. If a child needs to lose weight, there are ways for a parent to do that without harming their child’s self-perception and self-esteem.

However, that is something for the author to work on. Her trauma, while tragic, isn’t the responsibility of anyone except her. The environment we grow up in isn’t our fault and we’re not responsible for what it does to us, but as unfair as it may be, we are responsible for healing the wounds it causes us. We shouldn’t be – we didn’t rip ourselves open – but no one will close them for us.

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