Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday we as children learned to celebrate as “the founding of America.” Our story books described a time when the Pilgrims became friends with the Natives and they all shared a feast together. Many of us, including sociologists, know that Thanksgiving could just as easily be considered a “white-washed” and Americanized re-telling of this moment in history. Like Columbus Day where celebration of the founding of the country is cast in patriotic terms, most people ignore, forget, or never knew about the oppressive history of this country’s founding.
So, today is Thanksgiving:
A day many of us eat turkey and pumpkin pie, and watch football.
A day of gendered roles and norms.
A day of rituals.
A day for family.
A day to be thankful.
A day ripe for feminist sociological analysis.
How do we hold a critical view of our nation’s history, acknowledge myths about family and gendered norms, and among other things, make sense of the partial truths that surround this holiday? How do we use a feminist sociological lens to see a more nuanced picture of a day many of us hold dear, understand the importance of rituals, and acknowledge our gratitude as human beings and feminist sociologists?
As contributing editors and guest bloggers of Feminist Reflections, we believe we do have much to be thankful for. So on this day — while acknowledging the cultural appropriation of the Thanksgiving holiday — we share why we are thankful for feminism, family rituals, gender transgressions, and stories that reveal resistance to cultural appropriation in its many forms.
Oh the reasons to be thankful…
1)I am thankful for feminist mentors I have who understand the need for both support and sometimes a gentle nudge (or not so gentle) to move you forward. We are dispersed across the country (and world), but you are a phone call or email away and usually giving me advice in my head! Times are never going to be “easy”, but without you, I do not think I would have made this far in my own conceptualization of success.
2) I especially thankful for this wonderful group of bloggers at Feminist Reflections who have taught me about writing, blogging, support, you all, and myself. Your support and mentoring is priceless.
3) I am thankful to our feminist fore-mothers,who fought for so many rights, from the right to vote, reproductive choice, to the ability to attend college and graduate school.
4) I am privileged and thankful to have found my “soul-mate” of a friend in my short time in my new place. A friend who supports feminism, who supports social justice, and supports those around her. A friend I can talk to about the “mommy myths” and the reality of parenthood along with all the other stress of adulthood. A friend who all her WGS professors still remember! You are one of a kind and I am so thankful for you!
5) And in speaking of feminism and thankfulness, I can’t leave out my family, from my “family of origin”, extended family, in-laws, and most importantly, to my spouse and children. My departed grandmothers were role models for their feminist granddaughter- working non-traditional jobs, marrying and having kids “late”, and being assertive, among other things. My parents, who never said I couldn’t be smart, a professor, or whatever I wanted to be because I was a girl. My spouse, who is my co-parent and made sacrifices so I could obtain my dream job. And who does the majority of the cooking, is not afraid to do our daughter’s hair, teaches our kids computer programming and how to cook, and who is a fantastic parent. And to my young children, in which I have watched you as a young “boy” and “girl” face gender socialization and questioning of our family’s social justice beliefs by some of your peers. Thank you for standing up for social justice for all those who are oppressed and for not being afraid to “bend” gender or use gender neutral language, even though the other kids may not get it. And for letting me teach you the truth of about some of the holidays often celebrated without attention to the hidden truths.
6) And I am thankful for my job, in which I get to work some of the most fantastic students and colleagues.
I wish all our Feminist Reflections readers an enjoyable holiday. I will not be cooking the turkey (which would be a disaster), but will be starting new rituals with my own family in a new place. And I hope on this day, we all can reflect and be thankful and supportive of those who have helped put food on our tables (farm workers), our family and friends, but also be cognizant of both the structural oppression many still face and hidden histories of this holiday, in order to join forces to advocate for social justice.
Last New Year’s Eve, I declared that 2014 would be my “Year of Gratitude.” I would express gratitude each day with a brief post on Facebook, reflecting on what I was grateful for that day.
It was a marvelous experiment for a while. At first, it came with all of the intended consequences. It felt good thinking about what makes life wonderful. It felt good to recognize just how many supportive, cool, fun, hilarious, smart, and amazing people I have in my life. It felt good to take the time – every day – to reflect on something positive. My Facebook friends told me how much they appreciated the posts; that the posts encouraged them reflect on feeling gratitude, too. It felt good knowing gratitude was contagious.
Then I started worrying I’d forget to post. Then I actually did forget to post – more than once. Then I started getting anxious every night before bed. If I hadn’t yet thought of something to be grateful for that day, I’d have to do it before I could get any sleep. I thought about the friends I’d be letting down if I couldn’t come up with something… Every.Single.Day.
This went on for months. One day I cried to a friend, “My gratitude is bringing me down!” I told her how I worried I’d be letting people down if I stopped posting. How the worry over my posts was exhausting me but I didn’t want to disappoint my friends. She laughed, noting the irony. My intention had been simply to express – and feel – gratitude. Somehow I’d wound up in the position of feeling responsible for helping others experience the joys of gratitude. By September, I decided to let myself off the hook. I continued to reflect on and feel gratitude but I stopped feeling responsible for posting about it every darn day.
What a wonderful thing a daily, public expression of gratitude can be. But the reality, for me at least, didn’t reflect the idealized vision I’d constructed when I’d made the commitment months earlier. Adding yet another “must do” to an already jam-packed list of must-do’s didn’t have the effect I’d hoped for.
Finding balance and letting myself off the hook when things don’t go according to plan have been themes (and challenges!) for me this year. Having Feminist Reflections, a community of smart and inspiring feminist colleagues, has helped. It’s been such a joy to be reminded of the importance of thoughtful, critical reflection and discussion. And to share the load.
Feminism has helped in other ways, too. Feminism has given me the courage to say no when that’s what’s needed. And to change the plan when changing the plan is what’s needed. Feminism has helped me see that I’m not alone in the struggle to find balance. It has helped me understand that I am worthy of balance; I am worthy of self-care when that’s what’s needed.
I’m reminded of the words of Audre Lorde, from her 1988 collection A Burst of Light. Lorde wrote about self-care in a much different context but her statement rings true, I think, for anyone struggling to be kind to themselves and banish guilt over not doing enough. I’ll leave you with those words. I certainly am grateful for them.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” -Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light (1988)
I am thankful for my aging. Yes, I said it!
As I age, I realize that “aging well” is not about botox, eye serums and face lifts, although our consumerist economy would like us to believe that. It’s about eating well, exercising, staying intellectually engaged, and open to new people and ideas.
We live in a youth-oriented culture where even young women are getting botox as a preventative measure! It’s time to reclaim our graying hair, our wrinkles and our sagging body parts. To love ourselves as we are…
Yes, I am thankful for my aging. Thankful indeed.
–Excerpted from “The Eye Serum Saga: A wrinkle in time is ultimately fine…” on Mindy’s Muses
When Trina first mentioned writing about feminism and gratitude, a specific set of words came rushing into my mind. They were lyrics written by one of my personal she-roes Ani Difranco in the song “Grand Canyon.”
i love my country by which i mean i am indebted joyfully to all the people throughout its history who have fought the government to make right where so many cunning sons and daughters our foremothers and forefathers came singing through slaughter came through hell and high water so that we could stand here and behold breathlessly the sight how a raging river of tears cut a grand canyon of lighti mean why can't all decent men and women call themselves feminists? out of respect for those who fought for this i mean, look around we have this
On this day of thanksgiving, I’m grateful to Ani D. for speaking so many of my truths. Every day, I am indebted joyfully to all the people who continue to fight the status quo in all of its peculiarities for the sheer purpose of making things right. And to all you decent men and women who call yourselves feminists… thank you for staking your claim to the greatest F-word ever!
I wanted to express gratitude today to this incredible community of feminist scholars of which I feel fortunate to be a part. It began as a round table conversation at a Sociologists for Women in Society meeting. And slowly, that idea turned into a new blog. It’s still taking shape, but the collection of scholars who write here have enriched my life and my work and it’s a great honor to be involved.
I wanted to share a quote that I think about a great deal in writing for this blog. It comes from Steven Whitehead’s Men and Masculinities: Key Themes and New Directions (2002).
The private lives of men and women are political. There is no aspect of our lives that is not caught up by the political. How we spend and negotiate our time in relationships is political. How we exercise our power at work and home is political. How we exercise our sexuality is political. How we educate is political. How we contribute to the myths of gender is political. The very language we use is political. To be gendered is to be political. It is not necessary to be a feminist or a member of the Christian promise-keepers to engage in this political condition. Such associations are simply a more direct expression of what goes on across all societies between all men and women in all cultures—daily. (Whitehead 2002: 148)
There is no aspect of our lives that is not caught up by the political.