Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Holidays: A Time for Antiquated Gender Roles


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The holidays are always a good time to take pause and think about family. I have been thinking a lot about my family because I understand that in order to enact radical change one often has to start with one's self. My family is no feminist haven, in fact, I take the most flak about my beliefs from members of my own family.

A typical Thanksgiving in my family involves my aunt(s), mother, grandmother and myself in the kitchen preparing our feast while my father, brother and uncle sit in the living room watching football. I am told that this is not at all uncommon in other families. As the women served up the dinner that they had spent the entire morning, nay WEEK, preparing for, my uncle and father could not even pry themselves away from the television for long enough to eat with the family. No, instead we all had to watch the game while we ate and tried to converse with on another over the clamor of glorified male violence.

After dinner, the men retired back to the living room to continue the game-watching. At this point I abandoned my post in the kitchen and went out to talk to my uncle. My uncle fancies himself a liberal minded yuppy, but still has a very difficult time understanding my disdain for marriage (he says this to me as he is reclining with a beer watching football being served desert by his wife). He tells me that he has an egalitarian marriage (his wife is the primary caretaker of their twin three year olds despite the fact that she too works full time) and cannot understand why I don't think I could have the same.

Well for starters even women who are determined to step out of their prescribed gender roles seem to fall right back into them after marriage. (At least that appears to be the case of my aunt). The words 'egalitarian' and 'marriage' seem mutually exclusive to me. How can women ever be equal or even safe in an institution that was designed to enslave them? Anyway, my point is that his own enormous level of privilege is completely invisible to my uncle and I find that devastating.

I am saddened by the knowledge that I cannot change even my own family. How on earth do I expect to change the world? If I suggested that the men and women switch roles for a holiday, I am sure I'd be cast right out of my family.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. My family is the exact same way. It's hard to have respect for the family members I love when I disagree with the way they choose to live. Awesome blog.

Ton said...

Why must you arrogantly decide how they live? Your rejection of marriage in your own life is admirable, but the idea that your family must buy into your ideology and live as you do is less so.

Raine said...

People should read this.

Anonymous said...

Have a look at Amitai Etzioni's, "We are what we celebrate". Gender and ethnic roles during the holidays are discussed. I'm an older women and long time feminist and have come to believe that the only behavior that I can control is my own. We have had a variety of Thanksgiving, some where we go out and eat, others where we have it catered and others where everyone chips in (men included) and cooks. I basically only takes one women to put her foot down and say no and get on the old telephone and call the local grocery for their turkey dinner. You will find that after a year of two of the eat out and order in sequence you will cooperation for the following year. The other thing that women need to do to free themselves from the kitchen is to give up some control. You cannot be the pick and criticize kitchen diva and expect cooperation. The holiday is a lot more fun when we give up perfection and let everyone participate. Unfortunately, you are not the controlling female, for this to work the top dog female has to buy in.

Hiram said...

Good reason not to have a TV. =)