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Who’s your Galentine? Saint Mary’s students celebrate holiday inspired by television show

| Thursday, February 13, 2020

Fictional character Leslie Knope marked Feb. 13 as a day for “ladies celebrating ladies” in the now-infamous “Galentine’s Day” episode of television show “Parks and Recreation.” 

Since then, the Knope-ism has exploded into a real holiday, which has become a nationwide celebration of female friendship.

“Here at Saint Mary’s, Galentine’s Day allows us to focus on our female friendships and sisterhood,” sophomore Abigail Pinnow said at her sophomore class council Galentine’s Day event. “It’s a great way to celebrate the platonic love we share.” 

Each class council planned a Galentine’s Day-themed event for the week of Feb. 10. Pinnow’s event, organized along with fellow sophomore class council representative Sydney Hutchinson, featured cookie decorating, give-aways and a playlist titled “Girl Power Anthems.” 

The College has participated in its own celebration of Galentine’s Day for many years. It has become somewhat of a tradition for Saint Mary’s students to receive a carnation in the dining hall on Valentine’s Day from Sodexo.

This year, Megan Briegel, Sodexo’s field marketing coordinator, said Sodexo will be treating Belles to Astor Chocolates on Valentine’s Day, and that there will be a “mystery pop-up event” Thursday, Feb. 13. 

But besides surprises, treats and proclamations of love and female empowerment, what does the advent of Galentine’s Day say about American society? Mary Celeste Kearney, an associate professor of Film, Television and Theatre at Notre Dame, said the media is “the great normalizer.” 

“Media has a lot to do with normalization,” she said. “Since the early ’70s, there have been representations of young, single women not going directly into marriage, like Mary Tyler Moore, or Marlo Thomas. And if you can see it, you can be it.”

Kearney has studied women in music videos, the girls of punk rock, riot grrrl, feminism and finally, the teenage girl as an icon. A big part of Galentine’s Day is its fixation upon the promotion and celebration of female friendships outside that of a traditional, heteronormative romantic relationship. Kearney said she feels that the figure of the teenage girl has helped to normalize the continuation of girlhood as it prevents acceleration into womanhood.

“I’m really fascinated by the figure of the teenage girl as a kind of cultural icon,” she said. “A lot of people don’t because they think she’s silly and superficial, but part of my argument is that the teenage girl helped Americans become more comfortable with this notion that girls and women, especially women, could be doing things besides being wives and mothers.”

Although “Parks and Recreation” might have been the first to name and commercialize a phenomenon like Galentine’s Day, Kearney said the concept of a “Galentine’s Day” has been performed long before the television sitcom got its start.

“It’s been happening for longer than that — as long as there’s been single women who’ve been alone,” she said. 

Galentine’s Day encourages relationship independence while also focusing on the interdependence between women and girls. Yet, Kearney said she feels not enough of the conversation is focused on what kind of girls have the agency to pursue an unencumbered independent selfhood.

“Teenage girlhood is not an experience that most working girls get to enjoy,” she said. “Many poor girls end up dropping out of high school on behalf of their families, either to have a job outside the family home or to stay at home because both parents are working and they need to take care of the siblings, do laundry, etc. So who has the opportunity to spend time as an independent? That tends to be upper-middle-class and wealthier girls who have a chance to delay that trajectory towards motherhood or marriage.”

Kearney said she feels the celebration of platonic female friendships should happen more often than just one day a year. 

“I would just hope that girls and women get to celebrate each other and their friendships all year and not just the day before Valentine’s Day,” she said. “It’s a little crazy that we have to take one day out of the year to do that.”

Sophomore Andie Srdoc said she feels Galentine’s Day is every day at Saint Mary’s.  

“It’s for all women, whether or not they’re in relationships doesn’t matter,” she said. “We go to a women’s college — we have to support each other and love each other. Galentine’s Day is a good excuse to do that.”

For senior Anastasia Hite, Galentine’s Day is more than just a commercialized holiday — she said that Galentine’s Day can be a way to extend love “to the human race.” 

“It’s a day to appreciate your fellow sisters throughout the world,” she said.

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About Gina Twardosz

Gina Twardosz is a senior English Writing and Communication Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. She's the co-editor of the Investigative Unit, a Saint Mary's social media liaison, and she occasionally writes for SMC News and Scene. Gina is a tried and true Midwesterner and yes, she does say "ope" often.

Contact Gina