Thursday, February 14, 2019
Kimberly Hamlin, Wash. Post, Galentine's Day and the Political Power of Women's Friendships
Oprah and Gayle, Mary and Rhoda, Tina and Amy. To update a popular aphorism, behind every successful woman are other successful women. But female friendships are not just good for one’s health and career, they are also good for politics. And now we have a holiday that, among other things, highlights the political power of female friendship: Galentine’s Day.
In February 2010, NBC inaugurated the holiday on its sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” starring Amy Poehler’s iconic character Leslie Knope, civic crusader and friend extraordinaire. As Knope described, each year on Feb. 13, she gathers together her best female friends, including her mom, to celebrate what she loves about them over waffles.
Nine years later, Galentine’s Day has become a nationaltradition, a day for, as Knope put it, “ladies celebrating ladies.”
Galentine’s Day is not just a pop-culture celebration, however. It is a political statement. Sure, Leslie and her pals swapped stories over waffles and crafts, but Galentine’s Day is about something more. From her office tributes to Madeleine Albright to her group activism disguised as social outings, Knope promoted civic engagement grounded in female friendship. Knope convinced new generations that, like gathering for dinner or splurging at the spa, engaging in politics is something worthwhile that women should do together. And savvy viewers could not help but link Knope’s political engagement to that of Poehler and her real-life friend Tina Fey, such as their 2008 endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president during “Saturday Night Live.”
In doing this, Knope built on an important tradition: women engaging with local, state and federal government and supporting one another while doing it. For the past two centuries, female activists have sought out friendships with other women to fortify themselves and their causes against a world that was hostile to women and women’s leadership.