In case you haven't seen it, Tina Fey returned to Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update last weekend with a sketch about how (white) women have spent the last several months since November 9 stuffing their faces with sheetcake in an "I told you so and now I am stuffing my feelings" kind of way. Though there is certainly room to interpret a poignant satire about the actual uselessness of "sheetcaking" in this sketch, it has been called out as perpetuating the privilege that many white women have to bury their heads and avoid discomfort rather than disrupt and dismantle the systems that keep their privilege intact and keep marginalized people oppressed (highlighted by the racist quip about black drag queens).
Whatever your take on the Fey sketch, it's an excellent metaphor for what so many of us do in the face of frustration and feeling helpless. It's a gendered stereotype that women will turn to food to stuff their feelings, but perhaps we can think a bit about the metaphor. Shoving cake in one's mouth when one's voice is not being heard is a way of silencing oneself. When one's work is not being recognized, and when one can work hard (campaigning for another political candidate, say) but still get steamrolled by someone who has more power to silence you– all of this re-enacts the violence of being silenced. Sometimes, people who feel powerless will do something punishing to themselves in order to feel like they have some control to take back their power. Unfortunately, it still leaves them punished, hurt, and sick.
Though most white women in the United States voted for the current president, those who did not vote for him and who did not expect him to win feel gaslighted, ignored, and stripped of their power. This, of course, is common for marginalized people, including people of color, trans, disabled, and poor folks, and is not a new experience for white women (particularly those traumatized by family violence), but the current political climate is one that reminds white women of that which they don't want to be reminded: they, too, can lose their status and become "other", even when they may simultaneously have access to a multitude of privileges.
There is more to say here about the insidiousness of the incessant violence toward marginalized people in the US, but I will leave that for another article. I want to talk about what is being called out in this sheetcaking phenomenon. All of us who hide from what is happening in our lives out of fear are getting called out. We know we need to take action, but we get tripped up by fear, anxiety, and nagging inner voices that tell us we're not good enough. So we turn to something else to stuff that feeling down, which makes us sluggish, spacey, and exhausted. It leaves us unable to fight for what we believe in. Sheetcaking perpetuates the problem, and lets fear win.
Waiting for bad things to go away or hoping that somehow something will change without your commitment and focus does not work. Neither does punishing yourself in order to feel like you have control. It's up to you to make changes in your life and to show up in whatever way you can for the values you believe in. Unfortunately, so many of us don't know what our values are, are overloaded by internal negative voices, have gotten the message that our voices and visions are not valuable or worthy, or we are caught up in the throes of a system that is not set up for us. Getting to the root of all of this is one of the biggest actions you can take to stop sheetcaking your life and really make conscious choices about how to use your power and make an impact.
I'm not saying don't choose to eat cake. Cake is fucking delicious. Especially cupcakes and ice cream cake. But do it by choice, not out of resignation and fear.
Cake always tastes better that way.