The Feminist Bake Sale That Led To Death And Rape Threats

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UQ_bake_sale_madeline_price
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By Madeline Price – If someone had told me, one week ago today, that a simple bake sale aiming to educate students about wage disparity in Australia would rile up a university campus to the point of death threats to the organisers, would reach media sources across Australia, the UK and US, and would result in the single most successful bake sale ever to be held on campus, I would have told them not to be silly; no one cares about a bake sale.

I also would have been wrong.

The now infamous Gender Pay Gap Bake Sale was an afterthought, a supplementary event to the panel discussions, workshops and stalls to be held throughout feminist week on the University of Queensland campus. We have hosted bake sales before, we just wanted this one to have an educational catch: why not educate students about wage disparity while feeding them sugar?

The idea was that each baked good would only cost you the proportion of $1 that you earn comparative to men (or, if you identify as a man, all baked goods would cost you $1). For example, for a woman of colour in the legal profession, a baked good at the stall would only cost you 55 cents.

Other university campuses and women’s collectives around the world have done it before – from campuses in the US charging more for white students than black students, to campuses in the UK only giving students the proportion of a cupcake they would earn in real life. This was not a new idea.

This particular bake sale, however, started something we could never in a million years have foreseen: a spiral into the darkest depths of gender inequality, the online world of cyberbullying and firsthand experiences of what women face every time they raise their voices.

Far from simply starting a discussion about wage disparity in Australia, the online backlash over the Gender Pay Gap Bake Sale brought to light hundreds of other issues of gender inequality, from sexual violence and threats against women, to why we still need feminism in the 21st century. This bake sale did its job and more.

We had students who had previously dismissed the idea of feminism approach us at the bake sale, purchase an item and explain that they “didn’t believe feminism was still needed until reading the comments posted online.”

Madeline_bake_sale

These comments, posted by anonymous keyboard warriors (those who love to sit behind their computer screens and attack people changing the world) threatened violence against attendees and organisers of the bake sale, with posts including:

“I’m so glad I know this event is on, now I won’t have to sort through all the ugly chicks when I’m out clubbing cos they’ll all be at feminist week instead”

“Kill all women”

“I’d punch a chick if she winked at me at the bake sale”

“Females are fucking scum, they should be put down as babies”

“I want to rape these feminist cunts with their fucking baked goods”

These comments were posted on the public event page, on subsequent posts about feminist week and sent directly to the email accounts, personal Facebook accounts and, in one case, via voicemail, of the organisers of feminist week, general members of the UQ Union Women’s Collective and to staff members who spoke out in support of the event.

This innocuous bake sale drew a vitriol of negative, derogatory and threatening online comments from people threatened by a discussion about equality and feminism; a discussion that we now, so obviously, need to be having in a public space.

As with all keyboard warriors, however, they never materialise in real life. The actual bake sale event was filled with positivity, support and enthusiasm for starting the conversation about wage disparity, the online behaviours of others, and, most importantly, global gender equality.

But while the keyboard warriors remained behind their screens, the threat to the safety and lives of women, the silencing of women in public spaces, and the wage disparity around the world are still very real issues that impact upon women and other marginalised groups in everyday life. These are the issues that the vitriol of online comments regarding the bake sale brought to light.

The bake sale may be over, but this discussion is just beginning.

And it all started because a couple of male students were upset that they would have to pay $1 for a cupcake.


About the contributor

Madeline_Price_headshotMadeline Price is the current Vice President of Gender and Sexuality (Women’s Officer) at the University of Queensland Union. A proud feminist and student at the University of Queensland, Madeline is also the founder and director of the One Woman Project, a gender education organisation focused on education about and advocacy promoting gender equality. Follow Madeline on Twitter.

This story first appeared on The Guardian, and is republished on Women You Should Know with the author’s express permission. Lead image via UQ Union

  • noname

    I do not agree with cyberbullying, but tbh this is satire. Why do I say that? Because they’re literally saying what feminists say about men, but reversed.(for example, kill all men was around way before this dude on the internet wrote kill all women). I’m surprised the media didn’t notice this… OK, we got that it’s satire, but why now, right after the cupcake sale? Well I’ll tell you, it’s probably an opposition to this blatant act of sexism, to promote awareness of the wage gap, which most economics don’t think even exists. Think about it this way, if women were really paid this low, than wouldn’t employers only higher THEM instead of men??? Cheaper labor.

    • Sus

      Because women are seen as less skilled and therefore less valuable. Plus, there are many other reasons, one for example that women’s emotions interfere with being a sufficient business woman, so they are less frequent.

  • Sus

    I agree with the idea of standing up for the rights of people, not just one gender, not just one race or religion or anything else. The fight for equality should be about equal rights for all and while I don’t know all the details about the bake sale, it seems like the wrong injustices were being brought up. At least women in that country are being paid and can have jobs and have the freedom to to do things like this while women in other countries have almost no rights at all.

    • Laura Vanderwoude

      There are no wrong injustices. All injustices are unjust.

      • Sus

        Well no shit. Your ability to observe the obvious has clearly served you well. While calling the injustices wrong was poor word choice, that is clearly not what I meant. They didn’t do any kind of job and hardly anything had changed in their country alone, much less the rest of the world.

        • Laura Vanderwoude

          You seemed to say in your comment that the things they were trying to address were wrong because they aren’t suffering from the worst form of the injustices.

          To make a difference, you don’t have to change the world. You just have to change someones mind.

          This bake sale brought up real issues. I’m sorry you don’t feel they are significant enough to address, since they can “get paid and have jobs”.

          • Sus

            Seemed to say and actually say are completely separate things. I already said I used the wrong phrase and worded it wrong, bringing it up again is pointless and stupid. The bake sale may have brought up real issues, but as I clearly said it did not do anything else besides changing some people’s minds. I never said the issues were insignificant, so you can stop putting words in my mouth. What I did “imply” was that they are holding these issues to as much of a high severity as things they possibly aren’t even aware of: that killing machines have more rights than women in some US states, like the fact men in some countries are allowed to rape their wives, that women are forced to undergo FGM operations just so they feel no pleasure while having sex, and many other terrible things. Are these issues bad? Yes. Are these issues as bad as at least the ones stated above? Absolutely not.

    • noname

      I agree about standing up for everyone. Now we’ve become stuck in a mindset where only women have problems. When I mentioned some of the problems that men have to my mother and sister(who claim to not be feminists), and that sometimes it’s worse for men, they laughed at me!

      • Sus

        Yeah, unfortunately it is like that for separation of race, religion, and other things as well. A lot of the internet assumes every single white person in America has white privilege and aren’t allowed to have problems while all minorities are victims, etc, etc.

  • destiny

    the comments were disgusting. any man that thinks that way is a vile brute. and there is a big wage gap, that men seen to excuse. all the while some well paid man runs around there are underpaid women caring for the children they create and leave to that single mother to care for. I was done the same way. I had two girls I had to raise the father was a dead beat and gave me not one penny. I had to get a job and when I did I made half of what the men made. and was told in gross male terms I had breast so what did I think I was worth. and just so you MALES know I am transgender. I have seen both pay scales. And the men are paid much better than women are for the same job.

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