What's the big deal about a cake made to look like a turkey, dressed in a pink g-string and surrounded by crumpled dollar bills, including some stuffed into the thong?
A lot, actually.
Imagery doesn't exist in a vacuum. Imagery creates ideas, and ideas create beliefs. According to the owner of the bakery that made the cake in question—which went viral after selling out late last month—this was just some harmless, cheeky humor, inspired by a viral video of a twerking turkey.
The problem with that argument is this: In that video, the turkey animation is not clothed, it’s "naked" and dancing. Once you add a g-string and dollar bills, make it lifeless, put it on a platter and call it a "twerkey" cake, you are explicitly referencing a stripper. You've now reduced strippers to: a) a carcass, and b) literal pieces of meat.
The Merriam-Webster definition of "dehumanize" is "to deprive of human qualities, personality, or spirit." And honestly, when I first saw this cake, an image came to mind. A 1978 Hustler cover, to be exact. Years ago, in undergrad, I researched the feminist divide on sex work. I utilized the image on the right above when talking about dehumanization.
Look at it next to the cake in question. Both images are headless. Both invoke food. Both are just parts of a body, meant to look feminine.
“You’re being overly sensitive,” naysayers will decry. Not so, I say. Not so at all.
Two laws, FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) and SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act), passed earlier this year, purportedly cracking down on sex trafficking, but actually making workers and victims alike less safe.
Craigslist pulled its “personals” section. Backpage (where most law enforcement found victims) has been shut down. The law goes into effect January 1, 2019, and has already had devastating consequences, including deaths. Strip clubs are being shuttered left and right.
With the uprising of the “alt-right,” so too comes sexual censorship. When you make a cake mocking an already vulnerable population, that is the epitome of “punching down.”
Sex workers need your support right now, more than ever, not your mockery. (Speaking of mockery? The person behind this debacle had several posts on her social media calling herself a “frostitute.”)
Look, we’re not fodder for your jokes. We’re not dead meat on a plate, with money stuffed in our underwear. You are not a sex worker, you are not a “frostitute.” The time we're living in is what I would call an “awakening”—hence the proliferation of the word “woke”.
People are waking up to injustice. Those of us from marginalized communities are speaking up and fighting back. Age-old power imbalances are being righted. And what is just a “funny” cake to some is something much more nefarious to me and my community.