Let’s start a new tradition this Thanksgiving: Losing those gender roles
End antiquated holiday gender roles and start new traditions by manifesting norms that suit your values and lifestyle
I didn’t grow up in a 1950s household full of Leave It to Beaver energy — but my mother did. If you’re a Gen Xer, most if not all of our mothers did. Gender roles were laid out as exacting and precise as the good china and the silver on holidays, and Thanksgiving was no different. Mom was up late cleaning and prepping, and up again early to start the bird and all the sides. When I started hosting my own holiday meals, I did the same thing.
But what in the holy hell is that bullshit about?
Are we really still so locked into the rules that relegate women in the kitchen and men on the couch in 2023? Turns out, not really. As Taylor Swift says, “No deal, the 1950s shit they want from me.”
When I started to poll my friends, I didn’t find a single one that responded, “Oh, we just play nice to appease grandma and grandpa.” Instead, when I queried, “Do you spend Thanksgiving with ladies cooking and menfolk watching sports?” most of the answers I got were, “No way! Fuck that!”
And it’s not just my friends in their 30s and 40s who are waking up to this new reality. A woman in a recent Washington Post advice column letter asked what the etiquette rules were around asking non-family members to help out after a big meal or gathering. Would she be able to request assistance from anyone other than her husband? The columnist basically broke it down to, “You just ask them!”
It’s kind of a lightbulb moment for most of us. All those years of unspoken rules and protocols, and all you have to do is open the door to a new set of norms in order to manifest them into existence.
Ready to make Thanksgiving changes? Start with the type of event itself
The most egalitarian of meals is the potluck, so start there. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, ask your invitees to pick a side or dessert or their favorite dish to bring. Everyone has a hand in the meal, so that automatically creates a feeling of shared stakes.
No traction on changing your family? Celebrate with your chosen fam
Many of us spent past Thanksgivings away from home, whether as a result of geography and too long (or too expensive) a trip back to our nuclear families for the long weekend. But now, as hecc’n adults, we can choose to avoid that slightly racist uncle or aunt who won’t respect our preferred pronouns. Friends, coworkers, stranded acquaintances, and new neighbors are all perfectly respectable guests at your holiday table. Bonus if they bring some amazing new type of pie.
Bringing up the next generation? Start them young
Moms with kiddos in these modern times shouldn’t have to think twice about getting their boys away from the TV and into the kitchen, attached to the vacuum, or simply as a sous chef at the stove when you need another set of hands to stir a pot. If they can enjoy the meal, then they can help make it happen.
In fact, I used to cringe at this joke from The Simpsons’ classic Thanksgiving episode where Bart “helps” by getting his mom’s assistance in every aspect of cranberry sauce preparation. I hate the “I’m helpless in the kitchen” act. But in reality, Bart is the Simpson who does the most, aside from Marge, to put the meal on the table in that episode.
At the very least, make yourself happy with new traditions
When it comes down to it, Thanksgiving is an arbitrary holiday, really. Turkey or not, nuclear family or one you’ve recruited to meet your own needs — it’s really just a Thursday in November when you get to have fun and probably eat too much. Maybe you order takeout or just sample five different kinds of pie. You do you. That’s the important thing.