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Who’s Cooking? American Gender Roles During Thanksgiving

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Washington chapter.

We’ve all seen it before, whether on TV or in your own home. It’s Thanksgiving, and everyone and their mother is gathering together. The table is set, the television is tuned to football, the kids are outside in the frosty air (doing who knows what), and the whole house smells amazing. You look over to your mother, sister, or aunt, in the kitchen, cooking up a storm. She’s mixing, measuring, slicing, pouring, kneading, and cleaning as she goes along. 

But the men? Nowhere near the food- either lounging, watching the game, or playing alongside the children. 

This scenario isn’t unique; it isn’t just your family or community that leaves all the cooking and cleaning up to the women. According to a YouGovAmerica poll done in 2021, half of American women say they do all or most of the cooking, while only 24% of men report so. 21% of women said they help clean up, as opposed to 13% of men. And that data is self-reporting.

Gender roles- or the appropriate behaviors society has deemed acceptable for each sex- are certainly not new in America. All the way back in 1776, Abigail Adams wrote to the Continental Congress, America’s then government, pleading with them to: “…remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.” It was only in 1920 that Adams would see her dreams be realized, when white women finally got the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act, which prohibited voting discrimination based on race, was only passed in 1965- less than 60 years ago. In the grand scheme of things, women haven’t had legal protection for all that long. 

Seeing Thanksgiving Day kitchen discrimination is like seeing a symptom of American sexism. No matter how small, it’s still indicative of a more considerable sickness. 

So, what can you do? It can be challenging to break old fathers and uncles out of their habits, so aim for the younger generation. Encourage your brothers and cousins to lend a hand- don’t let them disappear off to their rooms or the backyard. If they claim to be terrible at the job, or actively sabotage the work, don’t buy their act of ineptitude. That’s all it is- an act. And especially if you’re the one doing the majority of the cooking and/or cleaning, it is not at all rude or mean to put your foot down and make them shoulder the labor. 

Helping out in the kitchen should be expected for all genders, and everyone should pitch in. That way, when we all sit at the table, we can relish in the knowledge that everyone played a part. And there’s nothing more delicious than that. 

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Beyza Cardakli

Washington '24

Student at the University of Washington in Seattle.