Family holidays are ripe with opportunities to insert feminist commentary and social critique. With each holiday tradition, there’s ample material to pick apart, analyze and either support or condemn. But ultimately, Thanksgiving is about celebrating community and togetherness—two staples I’ll neither condemn nor disrupt. In the meantime, here are a few ways to rock the boat without overturning the ship in mutiny.
- 1. Celebrate the Hello Kitty balloon in the Macy’s parade, and then imagine a parade full of girl balloons, speculating what that would mean for gender representation. Make a list of whom you would include, chock-full of politicians, activists and the occasional princess. Chuckle at the idea of an Elsa balloon, since you’re fairly certain Disney would object to a princess with an expanded waistline. Silly dreamer, princesses can’t take up that much space. When you’re the parade’s president, you can fix that. Until then, you’ll just have to … (wait for it) … let it go.
- 2. Restrain your feelings of dismay when your cousins show up Thanksgiving morning in feathered headdresses. Praise their DIY handiwork, and then embark on a drawn-out tale of the “real” first thanksgiving. After all, our understanding of the past depends upon us analyzing it and attempting to negotiate it into our lives. It’s heavy material, but you’ve got lots of courses to get through.
- 3. Gather around the television screen as Santa brings the 2014 Macy’s parade to a close, kickstarting the beginning of holiday festivities and non-stop Christmas music. Wonder what a truly secular Thanksgiving would look like, one where celebration didn’t require a religious framework. Rewrite the words to Mariah Carey’s classic tune to acknowledge the millions of Americans that don’t celebrate Christmas. Blasphemy? Creative liberty? Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, people.
- 4. Hoot and holler over football plays with Uncle Stu, making a halftime beeline for some cranberry sauce in the kitchen with Mom and Cousin Sue. Ask Cousin Sue—who’s a gender studies professor—about the division of household labor on Thanksgiving, a holiday hiccup on the road to equality. Joke that a day of “rest” sure seems laborious for women. Appreciate her work in the domestic sphere, and then return to the supposed “zone of masculinity” for the third quarter.
- 5. Praise the pumpkin pie and its graham-cracker crust, noticing how your Thanksgiving table looks like an “A for effort” replica of Martha Stewart’s. Imagine if Frida Kahlo were the epitome of cultural capitol and social status instead of Martha Stewart and that your Mexican-inspired Thanksgiving meal included turkey in mole poblano and roasted chile cornbread. Salivate while thinking about other alternative menus from around the country.
Raising awareness about feminist issues can start subtly—by noticing behavior, suggesting alternative perspectives and questioning long-held traditions. Call me naïve, but I think these conversations can convert even ultra-conservative Grandpaps into a feminist and social critic—if only for a night. Happy Thanksgiving!
Brianna Kovan graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English. She is currently an editorial intern at Ms.