Way back when I was but a young feminist in a WGS 101 class, my professor asked the class to describe our Thanksgiving traditions as a way of further explaining the notion of gender norms. As more and more students told tales of men sitting on the couch watching television while women basted turkeys and mashed potatoes, light bulbs turned on around the room. Aha! Gender norms! Men and women are both expected to play certain roles, even during such great American holidays as Thanksgiving!
Holidays can bring out the best and worst in all of us (especially when you’ve got an uncle that likes to play “bartender” by pouring shots for everyone the way I do). So what are your Thanksgiving traditions? How do you negotiate gender norms when you get together with your friends and families in the kitchen? And what are you going to cook/eat this year? Oh, and do you remember THIS?
Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Thanksgiving. I look forward to it for about six months out of every year. But there are a few problems that even I can see in the holiday, and what better place to commiserate/share coping strategies than right here on this blog?
Problem One: Annoying Gender Norms
It’s one thing to tell your friends/classmates/coworkers that you are a progressive feminist, and it’s quite another to have to tell your dear old grandpa that he needs to get his ass of the couch and help grandma with the dishes. Gender norms can be mighty tricky to negotiate when generations of family are involved. So what do you do? Do you just bite your tongue and let the women work in the kitchen while the men watch football? Do you protest by rejecting the gendered expectations put upon you? Does your family have a different, more equitable way of doing things? Discuss!
Problem Two: Thanksgiving is Pretty Racist
Oh hey, do you remember when white people came to North America and made everything better? Good thing some friendly Native Americans were there to help the Europeans get corn so that they’d have the energy to “civilize” (read: eradicate) them! It can be tough to celebrate a holiday that you are aware is basically founded on racism. Is this something you choose to address on Thanksgiving? Do you choose to make your Thanksgiving celebration about something else? Do you genuinely like celebrating colonialism? Oh, and have you ever been in a Thanksgiving pageant? (Tangent: Has anyone seen the Thanksgiving pageant episode of Strangers With Candy? It illustrates the racism pretty well.)
Problem Three: To Some People, Meat is Murder
So your mom (or dad, or friend, or whomever) has spent a ton of time and money cooking a giant turkey. But guess what? You don’t eat turkey because you are a vegetarian/vegan/non-turkey eater. Do you lecture your family and friends on the politics of meat? Do you choke down the turkey anyway to be polite and avoid an argument? Do you bring your own tofurkey? Also, what do you think of this new PETA ad?
Problem Four: Despite The Aforementioned Problems, Some People Love Thanksgiving (Like Me)
I’ll admit it (I already did, in fact): I think Thanksgiving is awesome. I love the food, the family togetherness, and my uncle the “bartender” (I’ll be spending the night at my mom’s house tomorrow to avoid a DUI offense). I love leftover Thanksgiving food the next morning, I love the stupid parade and watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles after everyone is too full to socialize. So feel free to share your good thoughts about Thanksgiving in the comments section as well. Do you have a great recipe? A favorite Thanksgiving movie? A new and improved way to make a hand turkey? Let’s hear it!
Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!