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It’s 2018. My family and I prepare to head to the house of a family friend for our annual Thanksgiving dinner. Years later, it seemed as if my brother and I’s childhood complaints about not celebrating Thanksgiving, like so many of our friends did, had been long forgotten. As our family arrives, late as usual, we each take our turns greeting those already there, planting three quick kisses on alternating cheeks. Once done greeting each adult, I finally meet my childhood, and current, best friend on the couch, quickly joined by our brothers. As we finally begin to relax, settling into a riveting conversation, the host of the night finds her way to us. “Abby, Liyu, come help us in the kitchen.” 

To be honest, the last thing I wanted to do was help in the kitchen. I had very little clue on how to cook most meals, much less traditional Thanksgiving food, and would likely end up taking up unnecessary space. Though a bit better than me, my friend would likely have been unable to help in any meaningful way. We wouldn’t have been anymore helpful than our brothers, or the other fully grown adult men comfortably sitting on the couch. There was a reason we were chosen. It was the same reason why we seemed to be built-in-babysitters at community events. The same reason we had strict curfews while our siblings spent countless nights out that turned into mornings. It was the same reason why women couldn’t vote, the same reason why women are paid less. The issue of gender inequality had found its stronghold in nearly every aspect of our lives.

In nearly every race, ideology, and culture, gender inequality persists. The current standard is perpetuated on a day-to-day basis, ensuring that achieving real change feels almost impossible. Even the smallest comments and actions create the perfect conditions for the cycle to continue. While my friends and I made our own meals and did our own laundry, our brothers were being catered to, never having to lift a finger. While we were told to watch what we ate to stop us from gaining too much weight, they were encouraged to eat, as our parents hoped to raise big, strong, boys. While we were forced to become independent, they were encouraged to remain dependent on the women in their lives. 

At an institutional level, women in America have made significant strides in the battle for gender equality. Yet, it is undeniable that there is much work to do within our society. While men are applauded for showing vulnerability, women are labeled as emotional. While men are encouraged to be passionate, women who do the same are viewed as irrational. The list goes on and will continue to go on as long as people, at the individual level, are not held accountable. 

As my friend and I made our way to the kitchen, I asked why we, and not anyone else,  were specifically chosen to help. I was quickly brushed off with phrases like “it’s just part of our culture” or “you know more than they do”. I was unwilling to accept these responses as valid. In near perfect unison, my friend and I made a decision. If we had to help, we would most certainly not be doing it alone, so we called our brothers to the kitchen to help us serve the other guests. Though a small, seemingly meaningless action, that had been our way of slowly and silently working against what had been the norm for so long. Ultimately, my friend and I are compassionate people who truly enjoy helping others. But it has absolutely nothing to do with our gender.

Abigail Dejene is an undergraduate student at MSU studying Social Relations and Policy and Comparative Cultures and Politics, with a minor in educational studies. In the future, Abigail hopes to go into nonprofit and educational policy work, as well as become an educator. In addition to writing for Her Campus, Abigail serves as a founding director for MSU’s Prison Reform Advocacy Group, a Rise fellow, and a Resident Assistant. This is her second year writing for HER Campus and her first year as an assistant editor.
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