There’s a metaphor we use a lot around here, the idea that members of marginalised groups are constantly fighting over the crumbs tossed to them by the elite; here we all are, skulking under the table like a bunch of raggedy starlings, viciously tossing each other aside for each and every single hard-earned bit. We’re so caught up in fighting for the scraps that we don’t even pay attention to what the elite are doing up there at the table, and that’s the way the elite like it, sitting secure in their knowledge that they control the cake supply.
I said three years ago that we needed to send someone into the kitchen to swipe some cakes for us, in the interest of distributing them more fairly; fighting the cuts to social services, addressing social disparities, upending class barriers. I said that we needed to look up from the crumbs to the table, or the counter, to see that larger picture all around us, that a world of plenty lies just out of view, and we need to rethink the way we see so we can stop fighting each other, which just allows the elite to benefit from their brilliant scheming that sets us against each other in a performance that does nothing other than amuse them and destroy us.
I have come, in recent months, to rethink my attitudes to this issue, though. I realised that I was viewing the issue in a very hidebound way, and came to the understanding that I was still falling into the trap set by the elite: I was still convinced that, as it were, their cakes were the right cakes, the cakes I needed, the cakes I wanted to have. It hadn’t occurred to me to question whether there was something beyond lemon-raspberry, chocolate, pumpkin spice. I just assumed that since they had something I wanted, they had the only thing I wanted, that their cakes were what I should be aiming for.
I believed, like so many people did and do, in fundamentally elite approaches to society and equality. I’m not ashamed of that fact or of how long it came to shift my thinking because this is what we are raised with, indoctrinated with from a very early age; as children, we absorb these lessons, and we repeat them as we grow older. These are the cake flavours that exist, you can’t have any because you’re not a member of the elite, you’re going to have to settle for crumbs in a cagematch with all the other starlings.
The question isn’t when you come to realisations in life, but what you do with them.
You know what? Fuck their cake. Fuck it right in the ear.
I can bake my own cake, thank you very much, and so can you. Did you know that you can make orange rum cake? Lemon poppyseed? Mocha? Black forest? There are so many cake flavours in the world and you don’t need to scour the floor beneath the tables of the elite, or rummage through their kitchens, to find them. Maybe someone you know has a recipe she could share with you, or she could even help you bake one if you’re not confident about baking your own cake for the first time—and I know the feeling, because it is scary. What if you use too much baking powder, and it gets all weird and metallic and collapses in a funny shape? Too little, and it’s a hard brick?
It’s okay! People have made cake before! We know how to make cake; the knowledge is in our genes, and it’s in our culture, too, if we’re willing to reach out to those other starlings and be all ‘dude, let’s blow this popsicle stand, hit a grocery store to pick up some ingredients, and have a cake party at my house.’ And we can have this great cake party, and make our cakes, and illustrate that it is in fact possible to have cake for everyone, that there is a place in society for all of us, parrots and starlings and finches and red-tailed hawks, and we all can fit together.
We can leave the elite sitting, mystified, at their fancypants cafe tables with their lattés unrefreshed because we stole the underpaid waitstaff to come make cakes with us. And maybe then they’ll figure out that the great scam they’ve been pulling over on us, of trying to convince us that they’re the only ones with the cake, isn’t going to work anymore, that we’ve cracked the code, we know how to read The Joy of Cooking too, and we can whip up a mean sour apple cake just like we hear grandma used to make, once upon a time.
And if we can all make our own cakes, we can share them, without having to reduce people to scrabbling in the dust for the unwanted bits of our sweets. Someone doesn’t have a cake? I’m happy to share a slice of mine, because, seriously, I can’t eat a whole cake on my own before it gets stale. Someone needs some help getting on her feet, doesn’t have a kitchen for baking? She can use mine. Someone’s gluten-intolerant? That’s okay, we can make a gluten-free cake that will be awesome and delicious, and that person can have cake too instead of being shunted to the edge of the party to skulk in shame against the edges of the wall.
We can bake, and live, in solidarity here, instead of a state of artificial tension created by people who benefit by setting us against each other. This isn’t about buying into the system that exists and trying to reform it, but acknowledging that the best way to fix a broken system is sometimes to bake a revolution.
Because, seriously, fuck their cake.