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    Miss Conduct

    Are baby showers sexist?

    Debating the politics of women-only celebrations. Plus, the classy way to quit a job.

    Lucy Truman

    > I sent a baby shower gift from our whole family, but the thank you note was addressed only to me. Women-only baby showers strike me as sexist, but I respect other women’s choices to celebrate as they wish. However, I was disappointed that my friend thanked only me when our card clearly indicated that the gift was from our whole family. What’s your take?

    N.S. / Cambridge

    It can be hard at times to distinguish between sexism and responses to sexism. As I write, debate is still raging about Seth MacFarlane’s hosting of the Academy Awards. Was his crass misogyny a slap in the face to the women of the industry he had been hired to celebrate? Or a devastatingly clever critique of the sexism of that very industry? I’ve heard and read furious arguments filled with bewilderment and humiliation.

    So, cheers to at least talking about sexism in the context of a timely thank you note rather than a musical number entitled “We Saw Your Boobs.” The discourse feels elevated already, as if by some rhetorical Wonderbra.


    Give your friend a pass. For one thing, there’s nothing anti-feminist about single-sex baby showers. They’re a response to biological and social realities. Call them “Pre-Maternity-Leave Networking & Resource Allocation Power Circles” if that makes you feel better. Once you look past the mimosas and mini-cupcakes, that’s muchly what they are. And speaking of mimosas, think how easily your card could have been misplaced or your husband’s name not written down by whoever was taking notes. Your friend might not even know the gift was meant to be “from us.”

    > I have been working at a health center since I was in high school (I’m now in college). It started off as a class project and has been a great experience, but also causes me a lot of dread. It’s not very formal — extremely casual dress and I never had an actual interview. I want to resign, but I’m not sure how formal I should be.

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    A.C. / Albuquerque

    Sounds like you could just write “LATERZ YOLO” on the whiteboard and stop showing up. After a while they’ll catch on and quit paying you. (They have been paying you, right?) And it wouldn’t even matter, because you can bet a semester’s tuition that they’re far too disorganized to ever risk giving a bad reference.

    Quit according to your own standards of professionalism, since your employer doesn’t seem to have much going in that department. If you have a particular supervisor, tell him or her in person, first. Then send a general e-mail announcing that you will be resigning to focus on your studies, with a few lines about how much you’ve learned from the work and your colleagues and any relevant logistical details.

    Finally, figure out the link between the dread (what a vivid word!) you have felt at work and the lack of structure and clear expectations in your job. Learn to recognize chaotic workplaces. Avoid them if you can. If you can’t, or if the experience is worth the chaos, learn how to manage yourself and your stress. And congratulations! You’ve survived a major passage to adulthood: The Badly Managed Do-Gooder Job. Wear your merit badge with pride.

     Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.

    NEED MISS CONDUCT’S HELP?Write to her at And get advice live during a chat with Robin Abrahams on March 20 from noon to 1 p.m.