Is It Women’s Job To Welcome Guests With Bouquets At Events?

Asking women of the office to welcome guests with bouquets at business and social events is blatant tokenism and sexism at the same time!

Asking women to welcome guests with bouquets at business and social events is blatant tokenism and sexism at the same time!

Why is the task of handing over bouquets to dignitaries at social and business events primarily a feminine task?

This question nags me endlessly. I cringe at the sight of women waiting in a loosely formed queue at the steps leading up to the stage at these events.

Usually draped in glorious sarees and wearing striking jewellery, the women wait eagerly to be called up on the stage to hand over the bouquets that they are holding in attendance.

Is welcoming a guest with a bouquet a gender-specific role? Then why the fuss about lining up women specifically to hand over flowers to guests at social events?

Is it equality or tokenism?

Before we slay the men with our cynicism, let us address the women, who are delighted beyond reason to be chosen for this task. Though I salute your confidence and courage to step forward in front of an audience, I beg you to not get carried away with this duty and bask in the glory of the blatant tokenism.

Look around, and you will find women being appointed as eye-candy for social events and gatherings. At most awards ceremonies, including the Oscars of the world, the tokenism is sickeningly reinforced as a woman daintily steps onto the stage holding a tray with the envelope that holds the awardee’s name, or holds the trophy.

Are we women really ‘social hostess’?

The phenomenon is not restricted to social events. It is not uncommon to find women in HR and Administration being tasked with organizing tea and snacks at company meetings.

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In fact, the list of occasions when women are called on to play stereotyped roles outside the home is a long one. However, today I wish to direct my angst on the ‘social hostess’ image that we have allowed upon ourselves.

I am not saying that women should not be gracious hostesses and should not perform guest-welcoming duties. I am only saying that these duties are not gender-specific, and we need to wake up to this fact.

Welcoming guests with bouquets at social and business events is as much a gender-neutral task as the life-skill task of cooking and household management.

It is time to rise above tokenism. It is time to shrug off the ‘feminine service’ image that the world has crowned us with. Furthermore, it is time to get uneasy with the crown.

How do we do this?

Firstly, identify and recognize the tokenism. Is it being done to only check the right boxes for inclusion? Next, watch out for a pattern that amplifies the tokenism. Often, these duties are doled out to appease the woman who aspires for more presence at such events.

“Ask her to hand over a bouquet to Mr XYZ. She will be happy (and will not nag us for more),” is as demeaning as the last-minute unplanned proposal, “She’s in a saree, let’s ask her to give the bouquet”.

Secondly, raise a red flag if you find yourself in an all-women line-up tasked with handing over the bouquets. Ensure that a couple of men also join in.

Additionally, negotiate for a meatier role at the event – insist on saying a few words about the dignitary or the occasion after you have handed over the bouquet. Add agency to the role you are asked to perform. Make your presence felt.

If none of the above is possible, politely decline. Power and stature come from the choices we make.

Choose well.

Image source: GODS_AND_KINGS via Getty Images, and sparklestroke, free and edited on CanvaPro

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About the Author

Lata Gwalani

I am a writer and I love to play the narrator of human experiences, transporting readers to a place where the lives of strong people with endearing flaws entwine in equally intriguing plots and landscapes. read more...

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