Last Thursday night, while at work in the State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana Senator Karen Carter Peterson noticed a birthday cake in the shape of a bikini clad torso. It had been baked, she learned, in honor of Representative Mark Abraham’s 63rd birthday. Nonetheless, Peterson was disgusted at the misogyny evident in the gesture, and smashed it.
“The Louisiana State Capitol is not a locker room,” she declared in an interview, referencing Donald Trump’s so-called “locker room talk.” “If they choose to celebrate a birthday that way, then they should have done that off-site in another setting.”
Peterson also tweeted out a similar sentiment, and included a second post referencing an additional, vaginal-shaped cake that had initially accompanied the bikini confection.
The sign on the cake reads, “He likes his cake and eats it too!!!!” It’s funny, you see, because each of the cakes is shaped like women’s body parts. We’re all laughing, right?
Representative Jack McFarland, a Republican from Jonesboro, brought the cakes—baked by his wife—for his colleagues to enjoy. Unsurprisingly, he regarded them as an innocent “joke” in the spirit of Rep. Abraham’s birthday.
“I didn’t feel it was offensive,” he explained to The Advocate.
Abraham also did not see an issue with his edible tributes, and left them in a side room while the Joint Legislative Committee on Budget was meeting.
“I would never want to do anything that is offensive to this body or anyone else for that matter,” Abraham told The Advocate.
But Peterson interprets these cakes as yet another sexist aggression committed by men in the Louisiana legislature. Not long ago. Representative Kenny Havard, a Republican from St. Francisville, sought—jokingly—to adjust a law that sets the minimum age for stripping to include weight and age limits.
Peterson and her female colleagues did not laugh at this bit of cleverness either. Soon after, Democratic representative Helena Moreno initiated “It’s No Joke,” a social media campaign that highlights the misogyny present in various professional fields: health care, “economic opportunity,” and representation.
Abraham, however, seems less concerned with the well-being of his female colleagues and more agitated by Peterson’s response. He tells The Advocate that he would have preferred being “politely” informed that the cakes were “disrespectful” rather than being cursed at by Peterson.
McFarland and Abraham have also denied the existence of a vagina-shaped cake, claimed that such a thing would be “offensive,” and asked Peterson to modify her tweets accordingly. Peterson, for her part, has said that while she did not see that cake herself, a staff member told her about it. And she’s certainly not keeping mum.
“This is something my mother always told me as I was growing up: people will only do to you what you permit them to. My character doesn’t permit me to remain silent in the face of offensive behavior,” she said.