Should All Baby Showers Be Co-Ed?
Baby showers are a coming together of women who are making the statement: “Being a mom is rough. We stand with you. Now have some stale cake.”
My baby showers were painful exercises in small talk, awkward baby games and feigning excitement over another onesie with a duck on it. But they were also wonderful. They were gatherings of women who loved me and were excited for me and my baby, women who had been where I was going and knew I’d need all the onesies because babies poop on them constantly. They were a community of friends who were doing their best to prepare me for this new stage in life the best way they knew how with pie, punch and rectal thermometers. And it was glorious in that awkward way that all transition celebrations are.
On Jezebel, Tracy Moore decries the tradition of the female-only shower and well, just baby showers in general. She raises an excellent point by stating that if we equally value the contributions of both mother and father, why do we only shower the woman? She writes:
“How could any aspect of celebrating new life be the domain of the woman alone? Isn’t the guy happy about the baby? Doesn’t he want the stuff too? Won’t he be changing clothes and diapers? Doesn’t he have a free hour on a Saturday to guess gross baby food flavors blindfolded while being stuck with diaper pins or whatever?”
I agree. I think that celebrating the role of both parents is important. And Moore also points out that the artifice of separating genders only works to reinforce gender stereotyping. As if the girls need time to be girls. Something they supposedly can’t be without men. And she’s right to call shenanigans on that supposition. It is shenanigans, women can be themselves in the presence of all genders. But I think she’s missing the point.
While showers are increasingly becoming co-ed, they will remain staunchly in the realm of the female because birth is a strictly female thing. Showers are part of the ceremony of motherhood, a ceremony that at its best affirms and passes on wisdom, love and tradition from a community of women and at its worst is full of those nasty, pasty mints and boredom. Showers are gendered because birth is gendered. Should men be included? Sure. Why not? But don’t fault women for not jumping to include men. Showers developed as a way for women to celebrate and pass on years of tradition, parenting advice and wisdom. It’s a rite of passage, a coming together of women who are making the statement: “Being a mom is rough. We stand with you. Now have some stale cake.”
Additionally, Moore’s suggestions for changing showers to make them more man-friendly are as gendered as the traditions she’s lashing out against. More poker and booze? That’s fighting a gendered fire with a gendered fire. Perhaps what showers need isn’t more men but less of a focus on getting things for the baby and more emotional support and advice for the parents on the eve of this big physical and psychological step.
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