Let’s celebrate all of women’s achievements the way we do the romantic ones

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We only celebrate women when there is someone else standing beside her, or growing inside her (Picture: Edi Whitehead)

When I told my friends that I was treating my upcoming book launch like a wedding, complete with a gift registry at somewhere like John Lewis or The White Company, they looked at me like I’d lost the plot. 

Like lockdown had finally taken its toll and I’d snapped.

However, despite their worried glances and questions about whether it was ‘a bit over the top,’ I remained adamant. 

Because my question back to them was why not? I’ve poured more work, love, sweat and tears into my book than I’ve ever put into a relationship – so surely I should get to celebrate it in the same way?

The truth is, for the most part, we only celebrate women when they come in twos; an engagement announcement, a wedding, a baby shower.

These are the socially acceptable times when a woman can plan a party, ask people to give up their time and money, because all these events come with gifts, and bask in the glow of her achievements.

You might argue that birthdays count, but they don’t because no one takes a birthday as seriously as they take a wedding. You don’t organise your family holiday around your friend’s birthday, but you will for her wedding.

All of this to say; we only celebrate women when there is someone else standing beside her, or growing inside her. That’s when we really show up, buying new dresses and gifts and scheduling precious time in our diaries. 

Meanwhile, single, child-free women are left to celebrate their achievements with an occasional social media post, or dinner with her three best friends in a noisy restaurant surrounded by strangers – normally after work one night and usually everyone pays for their own meal.

You only have to look at social media to see it in action. If someone posts the classic engagement picture, ring in the foreground while the happy couple kiss or grin at each other in the background, it will rack up hundreds of likes and comments, even on the most inactive accounts.

Sonogram pictures are endlessly cooed over and the wedding day post, or status update from ‘in a relationship’ to ‘married,’ has so many heart emojis and comments below it that the algorithm constantly pushes it to the top of your newsfeed every time you log on.

Meanwhile, posts about job promotions, career breaks or travel announcements are relegated to the dusty corners of social media, the occasional comment of congratulations from the die-hard supporters, i.e. your mum and grandma. 

As far as I’m concerned, writing my book is a far greater accomplishment than falling in love, and a lot harder by the way

Now, I’m not against love and romance and babies with their adorable squishy faces, but there has to be more. We’ve got to be able to celebrate women outside the confines of traditional measures of success.

We have to be able to celebrate women as individuals, not pairs. We have to show that should you choose to walk a different path, you won’t be forgotten or dismissed.

What, and how, we celebrate contributes to the choices people make. People find themselves married with kids on their hips because it’s the done thing. Or because everyone else was doing it. Or maybe because they didn’t see any other options.

Not everyone wants to go against the tide and when we don’t celebrate any other paths in life, they become the unconventional ones that people are hesitant to tread. 

I want to go all out with the crazy celebrations for promotions and new jobs. I want to throw a party for the woman about to travel the world. I want to buy gifts for the woman who decides she doesn’t want children. I want to show up for the woman who just created her masterpiece.

As far as I’m concerned, writing my book is a far greater accomplishment than falling in love, and a lot harder by the way.

I’ve wanted this since I was a little girl and have dreamt about it more than anything else in my life. To treat this as less worthy of pomp and ceremony is to do a great disservice to the hopes and ambitions I’ve worked so hard for.

So I’m planning the book launch and I will be registering. There will be balloons and party favours. I’m already planning what dress I’ll wear. I’m considering sending out formal invitations. There will be a cake, with more than one tier.

Let’s show up and celebrate women for all their great accomplishments and realised dreams.

Let’s show little girls that people will clap for you if you become a brain surgeon or a mother. That people will dance at your party if you sell your first piece of art or birth a human. That you will be showered in presents for getting a new job or getting married.

After all, the things we celebrate tell the world what’s important and if we only celebrate women when they’re part of a couple, how do we show girls that they matter as an individual?

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected] 

Share your views in the comments below.


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