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Sugar and Spice Isn’t Always Nice

It doesn’t take a sociologist to point out that we live in a gendered society. From deodorant to pens, it sometimes seems impossible to escape the pink and purple marketing. Not even the sweetest form of escapism-baked goods and pastries- can combat the gender binary. If anything, it actually endorses the social construct that dictates people and goods are feminine or masculine. While food is considered a unifying factor (after all, Thanksgiving family dinners, a concept that should strike terror, are a regular cultural occurrence), the decorative license that occurs with baked goods draws a clear distinction between male and female. Cupcakes, for example, are often presented with flourish: swirls and pastels and sprinkles are not something that society has endorsed as masculine and it’s far from gender neutral. Even the vendors themselves often present their logo and venue as bright and feminine, with flowing script and flowers galore. There’s always a token smattering of pink somewhere in the building, and if not pink then a soft turquoise. Even DC staple cupcake places such as Sprinkles and Georgetown Cupcake are guilty of this marketing technique.



Since girls are sugar and spice and everything nice, what does that leave boys in terms of gender restrictive sweets? The closest masculine normative sweet would probably be chocolate. Chocolate shops, in contrast to cupcake shops, are often decorated with rich, deep browns and blacks. The fonts are blockier than that of cupcake stores and even the packaging offers less frills (unless of course there’s a holiday). Certainly it makes sense that chocolate stores might carry a more masculine vibe, brown is considered masculine and most chocolate is brown. So it could be very likely that this observation is a misplaced assumption, except for the obvious entanglements that exist in bakeries besides simply the store front. The fairly recent gender reveal phenomenon, in which expecting parents reveal their child’s sex at parties through a baked good that, when cut into, is either pink or blue, is a testament to how sweet treats support the gender binary.



From even before birth children are forced into a box that is either pink or blue, with little to no deviation. This only encourages gender dysphoria in transgender children who may not association with their assigned gender, or any gender at all for that matter. Even the use of the term “gender” in these parties ignores the important psychological distinction between sex and gender. To the cisgender majority these gender- and heteronormative observations may appear innocent and even fun, but they pose serious consequences for those who do not fall into the binary. Of course this is not to say that men can’t dig into a good cupcake and women can’t enjoy some solid chocolate, it’s simply food for thought the next time you bite into that flowered red velvet cupcake from Georgetown.  


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I'm an SPA major at American University who enjoys wearing black and ranting about the patriarchy. I write about gender, sexuality, race, and identity. 
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