It’s a Girl! How One Candidate Is Turning Baby Showers Political

There are many societal scripts for how to celebrate a milestone in a woman’s life, and every one of those has to do with a woman’s relation to another person. Is your accomplishment finding a spouse? Great! Someone will step up to throw you a raunchy bachelorette party and maybe also a tasteful bridal shower with crudités and balloons. Is the accomplishment giving birth or adopting? Congratulations! You will get not enough burping and spit cloths, but you will get too much unsolicited parenting advice at your pastel-decorated baby shower.

But what about those professional milestones that have nothing to do with expanding a family through a state-issued certificate? There really isn’t any social script to celebrate a major accomplishment like a Ph.D., making partner years before your retirement, or starting your own company.

This just wasn’t good enough for Kathleen Feldman, who is running for a city council seat in Beverly, Mass., a city about 26 miles outside of Boston. After the 2016 election Feldman decided she wanted to be the candidate, not just the campaign volunteer. Now, she is challenging the longtime Ward 5 Councilor Don Martin, who has been in office for 12 terms and hasn’t had a challenger since 2007. So how do you mark such an ambitious professional undertaking?

Using the optimism that she would win in one of her city’s only three contested November elections, Feldman had a campaign shower. “One of the friends was like, ‘What about if we say ‘Due in November’ and ‘It’s a girl?’” Feldman said. “I could register for my yard signs and my bumper stickers.”

Whenever her husband teased an announcement for their friends on social media, it was assumed it was professional, Feldman said

“It’s so unfair that [my husband] can foreshadow big news and not have anyone think that it’s because he’s pregnant. We really celebrate the accomplishment of a woman based on really other humans at these parties because it’s always in terms of you’re marrying somebody, or you’re making somebody,” she said. But when you’re running a campaign “you’re really just making yourself, and that was exciting.”

To execute this new type of campaign event, Feldman enlisted the help of friends, like Beverly resident Melissa More. She has a house suitable for entertaining and estimated she’s thrown “a 100 showers” in her life.

The mid-September shower had all the markings of a non-political event despite the political angle. There were paper invitations with a link to the registry. The balloons were in the campaign colors — bright blue and white with a teal star. Feldman unwrapped her “registered gifts” a.k.a. campaign yard signs, pins, stickers, and t-shirts. Sugar cookies and a cake decorated for the person of honor, in this case the campaign logo. More — ever the proactive host — served an antipasto plate, lady finger sandwiches, and wine.

“We sat around like hens. It was a school night, and I had people at my house until 9:30,” More said.

And the event was topped off with pink additions, too. As Feldman’s Facebook post announcing the event’s success said: “It was everything this candidate who is ‘due in November’ could hope for! And… It’s a girl!”

The event hosted more than a dozen of More’s neighbors and Feldman’s friends to talk about issues in Beverly, like education and traffic safety. One of the galvanizing issues for Feldman was traffic safety; specifically that when she biked with her children in a bike trailer one of her children was fully in traffic because of the bike lane’s narrow width.

“I went to a Traffic and Safety Commission meeting, and I brought my measurements and my pictures. And it was a room full of all men,” she said. Feldman walked out of the meeting feeling like city officials thought she was just another “concerned mom.” Even though she was advocating for an issue important to parents and non-parents alike, Feldman felt a perspective like hers was missing.

“Until somebody had a seat at the table that had that voice, a lot of these things would not be advocated for,” she said. “I didn’t feel like anything was really going to change until they had somebody that was actually going to go to the mat and ask why and why not for us.”

Female candidates are required to think out of the box when it comes to meeting potential constituents and raising money. On a national level, Democratic women in the House primary races in 2018 raised an average of $1.4 million, which is almost $200,000 less than the average male candidate, according to The New York Times.

“Women are great at adapting,” Feldman said. “This was a really positive way of using that stereotype, for my benefit. We are all in the fight, you know, and we should really celebrate this, because moms get this done, you know?”

A part of being in the community is meeting people where they are — like at a campaign shower.

“The things we do every day, those are things that elected officials do,” Gholar said. “Women are absolutely changing the way campaigning is done.”