Every February 13, my ladyfriends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas. – Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
Galentine’s Day began as a fictional celebration in the popular sitcom, Parks and Recreation. In it, Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) celebrates the women in her life on February 13th with waffles and fizzy, alcoholic drinks. This “holiday,” however, quickly found feet in the real world. Female friends began sending one another messages on the 13th and sharing party ideas on Pinterest. February 13th, once commonly referred to as “Mistress Day” (the day married men celebrate with their mistresses), was reclaimed and rebranded.
So why does Galentine’s Day matter? Because what we choose to celebrate tells us a lot about American society and how it’s changing. Here’s what Galentine’s Day tells us:
- The importance of friendship in our society continues to grow. This makes a lot of sense. As the structure of families have continued to change (including an increase in the geographic distance among children, grandchildren and siblings), Americans have become more reliant on their friendship networks for emotional and physical support. This shift is evident not just in Galentine’s Day, but also the now popular Friendsgiving.
- Women are rewriting gender scripts that cast females as constant competitors for, among other things, male attention. Girls are taught to be nice and to be good friends. They also learn that friendship has limits, and that they ultimately might be competitors for men, power, or occupational success. While Galentine’s Day doesn’t mean that competition – or its nasty side effects – are completely gone. It does offer girls an alternative narrative; one that focuses on women’s empowerment and community.
- Women are drawing on these communities to change popular understandings of appropriate male-female relationships. It is not a coincidence that the #MeToo hashtag found its feet during a political moment where women (globally) have been pushing back against a culture that trivializes sexual assault and abuse. Likewise, it is not a fluke that a record number of women are running for political office – everything from school board to Senate – in 2018. Women like Kelly Smith, who is running for county commission in Florida, see Galentine’s Day as a celebration of women’s solidarity, as an opportunity to “protest with love,” and a chance to turn the tide in women’s political favor.
Whether or not Galentine’s Day has staying power remains to be seen. In the end, it doesn’t matter much. Social change is already happening.
The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet. – Adrienne Rich
Deana A. Rohlinger is a professor of Sociology. She studies social movements, mass media, and American politics.
The featured image is from DoTheBay.com.