You know that article that’s been going around, about how we should stop throwing bridal showers and baby showers, and throw more parties to celebrate women when they get promotions, travel somewhere cool, or pass an educational milestone?
If you’re asking “which one?” it’s because that seems to be all the internet can talk about lately: the Non-Traditional Female Achievement Shower, or how women should be celebrated more often for all the stuff they do before getting married and starting a family.
The argument is, roughly, that women have been feted for centuries for getting married and having babies, but if we want to encourage female achievement, we should throw women Promotion Showers and New Job Parties instead. One blogger even argues she should get a party for backpacking across Asia.
This is in the name of equality (because, as you know, men have been getting special parties all along). Oh, you haven’t recently attended a party to celebrate the fact that one of your male friends completed a backpacking trip? Maybe because that’s not a thing. Okay, it is a thing, and that thing is called a “welcome home party,” and I’m only going to throw you one if I haven’t seen you in, like, five years. I’ve successfully returned from vacation many times without mourning the lack of a party to greet me.
Yeah, the Backpacking Across Asia Party is a throwaway. But what about those other parties? Aren’t they important, to encourage and reward women’s accomplishments outside home and family? Totally! But I feel sorry for the writers of the articles who seem to think those parties never happen, because clearly their friends suck.
I’ve attended many happy hours to celebrate colleagues, male and female, who have moved on to new and better jobs. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Oh, we shouldn’t throw a happy hour to celebrate Liz’s new job. She’s a woman — the only parties she deserves are bridal showers and baby showers.”
When fellow PJM contributor Becky Graebner heard I got a promotion at my day job, she bubbled over with eagerness as she asked if she could throw me a promotion party. I don’t think she did it to make a political statement about women’s autonomy. I think she offered because she’s a decent human being.
I’ve even been invited to parties to celebrate female friends heading into international scholarship programs.
I’m blessed to be surrounded by such kind and encouraging people, who also appear immune to the alleged sexist brainwashing of our culture. But, these articles argue, even when someone has friends like mine, women’s career achievements still don’t get the over-the-top, ritualized, expensive treatment that the bridal shower and the baby shower receive. Therefore, our society is still placing milestones of family and home above career milestones for women.
Maybe the problem isn’t which achievements we’re celebrating, but how we’re celebrating in the first place. The examples I gave above — the modest happy hours for personal accomplishments– don’t mean that my friends place a lower value on those accomplishments than they do on weddings.
Instead, they reflect the fact that my friends have a pretty balanced view of how important one individual’s personal milestone is to everyone else. They showed respect for the fact that while this may be an important moment for them, for their friends it’s just another night they have to DVR Modern Family.
So my question is: why are we talking about parties as if they’re the single most important way to validate one’s life decisions? Why are we talking about bridal showers as if they’re dangerous to our culture because they celebrate marriage, when maybe the more potentially harmful part is that they’re parties? A party is a great way to share the warmth and joy of an important occasion with special people. But more and more, all we hear about is Bridezillas who turn such occasions into a nonstop orgy of attention-seeking. How would throwing a similarly narcissistic party for a career achievement make it all better?
Will creating a new generation of Careerzillas to replace Bridezillas really help women?
What if the thing that really is imperiling the confidence, wisdom, and achievements of a generation of women is the idea that everyone you know should drop everything to throw you an extravagant party? And that if you didn’t get a party for it, your accomplishment didn’t really “count”? The articles I linked to fear the pervasiveness of sexism in our culture’s celebrations — but I fear the pervasiveness of narcissism in our celebrations even more.
I traveled through Asia and no one threw a party for me. It’s not because I’m a woman. It’s because (rightfully) absolutely no one gives a hoot about my Very Special Moment unless I used it to do something special for them, too. And I like it that way.