Thanksgiving and Assumed Gender Roles

Posted in   Dr. Lanae   on  November 26, 2015 by  Lanae minutes remaining

Today is Thanksgiving in the USA – a day many Americans think about what and who they have in their lives for which they are thankful. Even though I don’t do a full extended family event on this day, I do stop and take stock as well. This morning, a blog post scrolled past on my news feed. It was called, “The Surprising Reasons I am Thankful for my Divorce.” Some of what the author wrote seemed to fit me, but there are a couple more things I would add to that post for myself. Oh yeah, I have the usual topics of thanks – my children, my friends and family, and my career. I’m also thankful for my divorce, but I’m also grateful for the ability to examine gender roles, and the opportunity to live overseas. How do those relate to today? Let me explain.

In learning about gender, I have realized a few important things:

Female. Wife. Mother.
  1. Some templates exist to try to put people neatly into boxes: mine were Female. Wife. Mother. What are the characteristics that come to your mind when you see those words? I used to see a Martha Stewart/Donna Reed type. (Yeah, that picture is funny when you consider I’m half Native American. Is this a strange form of Stockholm syndrome?)
  2. You don’t have to sit in those boxes if you don’t want to; and
  3. You can define a box or boxes for yourself – if you even need a box. I’m still Female & Mother, but the images I hold look different now.

Thanksgiving day used to be very different for me in my early days of adulthood. I married young and for a few of those early years of marriage my husband and I hosted Thanksgiving. As Female and Wife, this meant I took on the task of making the Thanksgiving feast by myself (mostly). And I used to go full Martha Stewart – making The Perfect Roast Turkey where you tuck the bird into its final bed with a wine and butter drenched cheesecloth blanket.

After six years of marriage and six Perfect Turkeys, we moved to Germany. The first couple of years I pared the Thanksgiving recipes down because I didn’t have as many mouths to feed, but I still made the whole big Thanksgiving feast … DESPITE the fact that Germans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. That’s right, Germans don’t get the day off. They don’t spend a day mid week to sit and watch sports all day on tv, don’t raid the shopping areas the next day looking for deals. All of that stuff is uniquely American. It took a couple years, but I realized all this work I used to do to serve 14 people didn’t have to happen anymore. Thank goodness! In a way, it was the beginning of my liberation. What do I mean liberation?

When we moved stateside five years later my little family just never got back into celebrating a big Thanksgiving. My liberation from preparing a Thanksgiving meal also coincided with my separation and divorce. My now ex-husband could take our kids to celebrate Thanksgiving with his new family. And when my daughters are with me, it allows us time to reflect and select the traditions we want to celebrate. We go on hikes. We do NOT go shopping. We spend time going on adventures like Geocaching. Redefining this and other holidays for ourselves has been a bonding experience.

Nowadays, to think about making a whole big Thanksgiving meal myself makes me weary. I would rather watch paint dry.

I am thankful for the discovery that I am more genderqueer than I thought. More and more, I don’t identify with some things that are supposedly feminine or girly. For example, I have developed a real distaste for the kitchen. Like an actual aversion to anything related to kitchens. It may be exacerbated by children who were unappreciative and finicky eaters, and I refused to be a short order cook. I admire those who can and want to be in the kitchen; I have many friends (men and women) who are artists in the kitchen. They can throw a whole delicious meal together for a houseful of guests with the contents of their fridge and pantry and no need to make an emergency run to Whole Foods. I’m not that person. No more. Nope. Kitchen = bad. To me, it feels like a prison sentence. A ball and chain. I don’t want to choose to “serve” another day. I am thankful for my divorce and how my kids can still get that “tradition” with their dad’s new family. My version of Female and Mother doesn’t include the kitchen. My apologies to Ms. Reed and Stewart. Make you a sandwich? I’d rather make you a Sub.

My more ideal depiction of kitchen

So as I leave to go to a Thanksgiving potluck and hike, I leave you with the permission to examine closely what your roles are and if they fit for you. If the roles you play don’t fit you, what role would you like instead? What stops you from creating that for yourself?

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About the Author Lanae

Dr. Lanae St.John is a Diplomate of the American Board of Sexology and certified sex coach with a background in sexology and a passion for helping people improve their sexual health and relationships. She is the author of "Read Me: A Parental Primer for "The Talk"" and the upcoming "You Are the One: How stopping the search and looking inside will lead you to your romantic destiny," and is committed to staying up-to-date on the latest research and trends in the field. Dr. St.John aims to share her knowledge and expertise in a relatable and approachable way through her blog on themamasutra.com.

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