When I first received my Paperless Post invitation to attend an event categorized as a “Gathering Of Pies,” my armpit hair immediately grew 1/4 of an inch and I rushed to dig my picket sign out of retirement. According to the invite, I’d been chosen, along with a handful of other “great” women, to congregate for a “cozy afternoon of teas, coffees, and pies.” To kick off my long list of grievances, let’s start with the saccharine pluralization of a normally utilitarian caffeinated beverage meant to be enjoyed by all income levels and demographics. It felt as if my morning coffee had been hijacked by ladies who lunch, sweetened by four cubes of brown sugar (Note: Where’s my fucking Splenda), and stripped of all its scalding hot, unapologetic urgency. I prefer my coffee like a dominatrix, not a coddling den mother.

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YES

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NO

After the initial “What do I look like to you, a fucking housewife?” knee-jerk reaction, I inspected the email addresses in cc field to be certain I didn’t have personal grudges against any of the guests. The only thing worse than setting feminism back decades is setting feminism back decades in the company of women you don’t even like. But as it turns out, most of the names on the list belonged to my friends. At the very least, they were casual acquaintances I’d been meaning to my make plans with for months, mixed in with one or two virtual strangers. As I lamented how far I’d spun into suburban hetero-normativity since my undergrad days of majoring in Gender Studies, I poured a glass of red and Google-imaged the suffragettes. I pined for the days of my own militant feminism and the sense of purpose and community it provided. I’d been craving a new set of girlfriends, but not at the risk of compromising my feminist values. This felt like a step backward; and not just for myself, but for all women. PS can we talk about how the suffragettes not only pretty much pioneered women’s rights, but were also early adopters of the disheveled topknot? #trendsetters.

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I know many of you are probably thinking, “Pie is a delicious holiday treat, don’t ruin it with your liberal politics.” And I do concur that pies are tasty and that I have a tendency to over-think things. But when I’m corralled into the kitchen as part of some sort of female trust-building ritual, like a sexist version of a human knot or an egg drop, I’m compelled to defend my hard earned freedoms – the freedoms fought for by my heroic female predecessors. Do you remember the gymnasium trust fall scene in Mean Girls when Janis (played by Lizzy Caplan) sticks her tongue out and confesses (though I think sarcastically) “I’m a lesbian!” and everyone backs away like she’s got the booby-bonic plague (that’s the lesbian version of the bubonic plague). Well, that’s basically me in this situation.

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Perhaps my visceral distaste for the entire premise of this event was an irrational defense mechanism triggered by years of being made to feel ashamed of my body and voice, and like women should physically and mentally be relegated to the kitchen. I’m not ruling it out. But even if I am overreacting, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit irked: Why does a group of smart, educated, employed, creative women have to center around homemaking instead of cars or computers. Why do we always default to the traditionally and stereotypically feminine? It’s a form of non-violent girl-on-girl crime that doesn’t rely on shit talking or cattiness as a weapon, but that is equally as damaging to our validity as multi-faceted forces to be reckoned with.

Just as my rage was reaching its peak, I received a follow-up email clarifying that there would be no on-site baking. Guests were simply required to bring something delicious, pre-made and ready-to-eat. This caveat alleviated a bit of my annoyance, as it seemed to account for our busy schedules and/or disinterest in baking. It green-lit the “buy” not “stand barefoot and apron clad in a kitchen” option. And I felt good about defending my right to support consumerism. After all, I work hard for these mid-to-low level bucks and seem to have a lot of trouble finding things to spend it on. (Can you sense my sarcasm?).

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Though still reluctant to partake in such an adorable little girl pow wow, I picked up a bottle of wine with a fancy French label (because I have manners), hopped into the Prius (because I respect the Earth), and blasted Katy Perry’s “Roar” (because I couldn’t find my Kathleen Hanna CD. Okay I don’t have a Kathleen Hanna CD. PS What’s a CD?). I pulled up at the bake sale, hostess gift in hand, ready to be completely bored and irritated. Boy, did I eat my words, and way too many slices of sweet AND savory pie. I’m talking meat pies and ricotta pies and pumpkin pies and all the pies you could ever whip up in Martha Stewart’s dream kitchen. It was a veritable PIE-RIDISE. While sampling said pies, I also carried on several stimulating and enlightening conversations with women who were not at all the robotic Stepford Wives I’d pre-judged them to be. In fact, many of them were, dare I say, professionally accomplished AND talented bakers AND working mothers AND ambitious AND really well dressed AND really fit and disciplined about morning spin class. It got me thinking about why I was so set in the fact that traditionalist and feminist ideals couldn’t co-exist. Why did I have to be so judgmental, and as a result, so defensive about my own anti-domestic status? I am in a relationship and sometimes I like to cook for myself and my partner. There is nothing wrong that (repeats to self).

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At the end of the day, even though the event was labeled “A Gathering Of Pies,” it was mostly a gathering of ambitious, artistic, diverse, interesting, intelligent, hilarious and creative females who also happened to enjoy eating sweets. While some of the women in attendance did do their own baking, most of the partygoers brought items they’d purchased. We didn’t sit around comparing purse labels and swapping secrets for keeping our husbands and boyfriends happy. We told jokes and shared stories about our frustrations, accomplishments, goals and hopes at home and in the workplace. We talked about the never-ending balancing act that is being a woman. We talked about Instagram, travel, work, babies, Brazilian blowouts and waxes, boyfriends, bosses, husbands, vaginas, shaving, living out of a van, food trucks. You name it, we said something mildly inappropriate about it.

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What I learned from my first pie party is that there is nothing wrong with a gender-specific event (although I still haven’t wrapped my head around those S Factor pole dance classes), nor with spending a little quiet time in the kitchen. In this consumer driven culture where I catch myself using my debit card at least twenty times a day purely out of convenience, even as a driven, career-oriented woman, it’s okay and maybe even healthy to stop and savor the moments of the DIY, handmade and creative. In the words of Tavi Gavinson, “Feminism is not a rulebook, it’s a discussion.” It’s there to protect our choices, not to be restrictive or polarizing.

It’s sad that we live in a society that has made women, myself included, feel ashamed of our domestic urges and like they detract from our professional legitimacy. The truth is, we should be — we need to be — allowed to explore all aspects of our complex and complicated beings without worrying whether one conflicts with the other. It probably does. So don’t tell me I can’t bake my pie and eat it too and then get a promotion. The pies the limit! Plus, I have the same hours in a day as Beyoncé. (Ed note: #surfboart). Okay, now you can return to obsessively checking your work email.

Jane Helpern

About Jane Helpern

Writer & Over-sharer. @janeohelp jane@cultistzine.com