Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gender in New Orleans: "FestiGals"

Gender in New Orleans: “FestiGals”
I was browsing a New Orleans tourism website when I found a link to “FestiGals 2012,” with an accompanying image of ecstatic women clinking champagne glasses. Given our discussions of gender, commercialism, and festivals in New Orleans, I was quite interested in what on earth “FestiGals” would be.
The opening paragraph of the event says, “…this is more than just a fashion show and a shopping spree and all of the other stereotypes many people normally associate with women. It's also an education and a bonding experience. A call-out to women to take pride in who they are and what they do.” At first, I was pleasantly surprised to read this description. We had previously discussed the male homosocial traditions of the Mardi Gras Indians and the imagery of women flashing their breasts for Mardi Gras beads, so I hoped to read about an event where women could enjoy New Orleans in an “educational and bonding experience.”
Reading on, it appeared that FestiGals would be a “party with a purpose,” because it contained inspirational seminars and empowerment workshops. But after examining the events at the festival, I was underwhelmed: New Orleans FestiGals participants are invited to privately visit an antique retailer, tour a French quarter home and garden, watch a culinary demo with a New Orleans chef, partake in a “Bodacious Bra Auction,” go on a “Stiletto Stroll,” shop, visit spas, or “chill” at the pool. It remained unclear to me how any of these activities went against the aforementioned stereotypes about women, or what purpose they were lending to what appeared to be a commercialized weekend-long party.
While this isolated event is by no means a commentary on gender relations in New Orleans as a whole, I did think it was a telling intersection of consumerism, party culture, and homosocial female experience. Why are the events limited to shopping, cooking, home décor, and stereotypically female interests? In a city known for its extravagant parties, why is this female-centric event falsely touted as a “party with a purpose” and “more than just a fashion show and a shopping spree”? 
To read more about the event and work through these questions, click here.

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