University of Queensland bake sale backlash

April 15, 2016
Members of the University of Queensland’s womens collective taking part in the gender pay gap bake sale on April 5 have faced

The gender pay gap is a serious issue in Australia, and there has been much talk about the 17.9% pay differential. One such effort to educate and open debate, however, was met with alarming backlash.

The University of Queensland's annual Feminist Week, hosted jointly by the UQ Union (UQU) and the UQU Women's Collective, held events from April 4 to 8, aiming to educate and broaden the student population's perspective on feminism.

One of these events, held on April 5, was the Gender Pay Gap Bake Sale. As with a standard bake sale, there were many great treats being sold, but with one key difference; you only had to pay the proportion of what you earned to the dollar. That is, if you identified as a man, everything would cost you exactly one dollar. If you identified as a woman you would pay less.

The exact amount women paid took into account other factors that would likely affect their earning capacity, such as other intersecting oppressions, for example racism and their intended profession. If you were a women of colour heading into the legal profession, for example, you only had to pay fifty-five cents.

It was a clever idea, meant to highlight how disastrous the pay gap can be for a woman's income. But that was not how it played out.

Shortly after the event was announced, its Facebook page was flooded with threats of death and rape, both at the event organisers specifically and at women in general. Comments such as “kill all women” were popular, as well as a meme that depicted a victim of domestic violence and her abuser with the words “women deserve equal rights, and lefts”. Other comments and threats received both on the page, and in the personal inboxes of the organisers, are too foul to reproduce here.

Once again the attempts by misogynists to devalue and disprove the relevance and use of feminism has proved exactly why it is so desperately needed. Lewis's Law — that the comments on any article about feminism justify feminism — seems to be right yet again. When something as inoffensive as a bake sale is enough to provoke such hatred, what does that say about how we view women?

The hatred received for this bake sale was not just limited to a few trolls, but many commenters, some still in high school. When such vile opinions are still so readily spewed by so many, and those so young, it becomes apparent that not only do we still desperately need a powerful feminist movement, but that we also have a massive way to go.

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