Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Cupcake Fascism

I haven't published a blog post in quite some time because I have been unexpectedly busy over the last month. Since my schedule is yet to alleviate I thought it might be some time before I was able to write something. However, today I came across an article that enraged me to such an extent that I cannot possibly restrain myself from writing a rebuttal. 

What, you may wonder, could have evoked such apoplectic rage in this gentle soul? The Guardian today published an article portraying cupcakes as abominable and decrying their ubiquity as a form of fascism. As someone who bloody loves a good cupcake, I could not in good conscience let such a slander go unchallenged.

To start, author Tom Whyman pronounces that the cupcake "possesses none of the ideal essence of cakiness"; it is "neat, precise and uniform... dry, polite and low-fat." That is indeed a disparaging list of adjectives and I am left wondering where this poor sod has been acquiring his cupcakes. A good cupcake is absolutely smashing. Festooned with a crown of buttery, creamy magnificence, a cupcake is just as decadent as its full-sized brethren, just travel sized for your convenience. I know many splendid perveyors of baked goods who produce glorious concoctions stuffed full of jam, chocolate mousse, praline, gooey salted caramel, nuts and generously sized chocolate chunks. These gastronomical masterpieces are not uniform or polite and they are certainly not low-fat. 

I think poor Tom Whyman may have let his inexplicble bias against cupcakes blind him from their numerous advantages. He misconstrues their size as an attempt for "flat-stomached people who think consuming sweet things is 'a bit naughty'" to stop themselves from over-indulging. I don't eat cupcakes because I am under some illusion that they are somehow healthier due to their diminutive size. I don't eat cupcakes because I am trying to count calories or watch my figure. If I want to consume a whole, full-sized cake, I will do so. Unfortunately, cakes can be somewhat cumbersome and, luckily for me, cupcakes offer a far more convenient and portable alternative. I don't have the time to faff around acquiring crockery, cutlery and, ideally, a table every time I want to enjoy some sugary, spongey goodness. The cupcake, with its little paper cup negating the need for a plate, can be consumed anywhere and at any time.

Another advantage to the humble cupcake is the opportunity for variety. Tom Whyman seems to think that there is something inherently limiting about the cupcake. He dscribes them as "restrictive", "uniform" and "neat and predictable." But cupcakes are the very opposite of limiting and restrictive. The variety of available cupcake flavours these days is frankly mind-boggling. And, due to their small size, one is able to partake of a myriad of flavours in one go. If I eat a full-sized cake, I'm stuck with the same flavour from start to finish. If I eat four cupcakes (which, as friends and family will testify, I regularly do), I get a plethora of creative and varied flavours in one sitting! 

Tom Whyman goes on to argue that the "austerity of the cupcake-form" supposedly prevents us from embracing "the joy of being open to genuinely alternative possibilities." It utterly baffles me how anyone could argue that cupcakes prevent us from embracing alternative possibilities. The small size of the cupcake actually encourages risk taking. You might not be entirely convinced by a bacon, walnut and maple syrup cupcake, but you might as well give it a go since it's only little! Nothing encourages gastronomical discovery quite like the humble cupcake.

So, my poor Tom Whyman, I almost feel sorry for you for having evidently endured an entire lifetime of underwhelming cupcakes. I say 'almost' because once you are done disparaging the tiny but mighty cupcake, you then go on to disparage those who enjoy cupcakes and then I loose all sympathy for your plight; I will defend my fellow cupcake lovers with all the linguistic fortitude I can muster. 

Whyman's most damning criticism of cupcakes is that they are infantillising. The cupcake is for "never-never-land" adults; if you enjoy cupcakes you are "a cognitive child... drily conforming to a prescribed set of rules." Apparently my love for cupcakes has revealed me to be cognitively impaired and unable to "engage with the world in a way characterised by the joy of possibility." People who enjoy cupcakes are seemingly both stupid and narrow-minded; how infuriatingly patronising.

Tom Whyman's article is not the first time I have come across the argument that cupcakes are infantillising. It seems to be a pretty common opinion that those who enjoy cupcakes are developmentally regressive and desperately trying to cling on to an idealised childhood devoid of intellectual challenges or cognitive burdens.

Cupcakes are apparently infantallising because they are enjoyed by children. But there is something somewhat insidious with this argument. Fish and chips are enjoyed by children. As is mac and cheese. And yet these foods are not labelled as infantallising and those that enjoy them are not accused of "neurotically trying to remain a child." Why do cupcakes inspire such a fervently negative reaction compared to other beloved childhood foods?  Cupcakes are distinguished from other childish foods in that they are intrinsically feminine; cupcakes are not overwhelmingly associated with children but with women. Cupcakes have therefore been deemed by some people as childish and silly because women are still seen as childish and silly. The backlash against cupcakes is just part of a bigger problem in which anything associated with women or 'girliness' (the colour pink, dresses, the nursing profession) is seen as inferior or frivolous. 

I am an ambitious, intelligent, career-driven woman. My love of cupcakes is not an anathema to this. In fact, the conveniently portable cupcake fits perfectly into my busy, hectic, mentally stimulating lifestyle. So can people please stop denigrating things which are overtly 'girly' or feminine. It's not girliness which is the problem; it's the perception of girliness as inferior which is problematic. And someone please get Tom Whyman a good cupcake, maybe four...