I just devoured this fascinating essay by UK-based author Meryl Trussler, on the rise of “cupcake feminism.” Cupcake feminism (a term I use in my book as well), as Trussler defines it, is the cute-ified new face of feminism. The opposite of the angry, hairy feminist stereotype of the 1970s, the cupcake feminist wears an adorable vintage cardigan while reclaiming baking, knitting, apron-wearing and the like in the name of women’s empowerment. As Trussler writes:
Twee and retro have been seeping into feminism for a couple decades now, gaining potency. It’s all about cute dresses, felten rosettes from Etsy, knitting, kittens, vintage lamps shaped like owls, Lesley Gore. And yes – a lot of cupcakes.
It would be hypocritical to dismiss cupcake feminism outright. As outlined above, to tell women they are letting down the cause is vomitously snide and unproductive – and I like the associated aesthetic as much as anyone. (Except for knitting, which for me could only end in injury.) Admittedly, too, the cupcake feminist is a sophisticated invention. Rouged, lipsticked, cinched at the waist, she performs big-F Femininity as the drag–show that it is. Her 50s-housewife schtick sets off everything about her that is radicalised and new. And, importantly, she emphasises that typically ‘feminine’ pursuits are no less worthy or important than their ‘masculine’ counterparts.
Still, Trussler worries that this reclaiming of women’s work is “more nostalgic than ironic,” which is something I often think about as well. She also points out how the cupcake feminist aesthetic has become commodified by mainstream corporations. She uses British examples, but I think a good American example would be how the punk-rock Riot Grrrl crafting movement of the 1990s begat the hipster craft marketplace Etsy in the mid-2000s, which begat faux handmade product lines at places like Target and Wal-Mart.
Do you love retro looks? Into kitschy 1950s-style aprons? What do you think about the idea of "cupcake feminism"?