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A Feminist’s Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Though I’m definitely not a fan of its shady origins, present-day Thanksgiving combines a number of my favorite things: gratitude, framily, and food. (I will always be #TeamBrine no matter what; it’s “dressing,” not “stuffing;” and whole berry cranberry sauce is just. plain. better.)

Unfortunately, since the present day is also marred by political conflict over even the most basic things (who would have thought, 73 years after D-Day, that we’d actually spend time debating whether neo-Nazis and other hate groups inciting deadly violence are “very fine people?”), a lot of folks spend the day with their ideologically opposed extended family feeling saltier than their distant cousin’s over-seasoned collard greens.

On the one hand, nobody wants to be in That Family where people debate so hard they have to replace the silverware with plastic forks and spoons. On the other hand, people passively “agreeing to disagree” while their relatives were radicalized by conspiracy theorists and hate-mongers is pretty much how we got to this headache-inducing point in the first place.

The key is figuring out how to make your point without getting dragged into a long, eyeroll-inducing argument, which can be easier said than done. So if you’re feeling like you could use a cheat sheet for navigating frustrating T-day conversations, read on. And a quick note before we continue: if there’s anyone at your gathering who insists on making kids (or anyone else!) be physically affectionate with them, the best response to that is pretty simple: respect people’s boundaries, or…

You can't sit with us!

When your Devil’s Advocate relative complains that everyone’s so ‘politically correct’ now that you can’t even flirt without getting in trouble, then praises Betsy DeVos for trying to change how schools deal with campus rape:

“When it comes to sexual assault and schools, the real problem is how frequently schools push out survivors of sexual violence. That’s why the previous Title IX guidance had to be drafted in the first place. That guidance — which DeVos just scrapped — outlined a fairer process that put both sides on equal footing. All of the due process horror stories she keeps trotting out are examples of schools ignoring or misinterpreting the guidance. By replacing it, she’s confusing educators and students about their rights, and giving accused harassers and rapists yet another unfair advantage over their victims.”

When they say, “Maybe, but all these people coming out and accusing others of sexual harassment is hard to believe. If it was all so bad, why’d they wait so long to do anything about it?”

“People often wait because they think they’re the only one, until they find out that their attacker hurt someone else, too. They wait because sexual harassment and violence are already traumatic, and it may not seem worth it to go through the additional trauma that often comes with reporting it if their school leaders, or human resources department, or local police, or courts either won’t do much about it or punish them instead of the perpetrator.”

When Devil’s Advocate suggests that we could avoid all these problems if women just got married, stayed home, and raised kids instead of being in the workplace at all:

“Whether people get married and have kids is their business. But even for people who do pair off and start families, the cost of living is too high and wages are too low for most families to survive on one income. That’s why we need to close the wage gap and invest in child care and other policies that ensure parents can make a living.”

When they respond saying that the wage gap is a myth and balk at the idea of public funds supporting child care:

“I’m texting you a link because I’m too hungry to indulge ‘splaining about the wage gap. And we need public investment for child care if we’re ever going to make high-quality care available and affordable to all families while also paying child care providers decent wages.”

When they complain their taxes are too high already and they prefer this new tax plan:

“If you currently deduct medical expenses, business expenses, student loan interest, mortgage interest, or use child care savings accounts, there’s a good chance your taxes would actually increase. Meanwhile, the plan’s giant tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations would cost trillions of dollars, and Republicans have shown us how they intend to make up for those lost revenues: by eviscerating programs that are essential to millions of us — from Medicaid to food stamps to funding for child care and early education. Oh, and it would cause millions of people to lose their health insurance and raise costs for everyone who doesn’t. This plan is a raw deal for women and families.”

When they mutter something about “Obummercare” and say people shouldn’t have kids they can’t afford instead of expecting the government to pay for them:

“People often get sick or fall on hard times through no fault of their own, and thanks to Obamacare, the uninsurance rate for women is at a historic low.  This means that many women and families don’t have to choose between staying healthy and putting food on the table.

Plus, we all have a basic right to control our own bodies. That’s why it is so great that Obamacare requires health insurance to meet women’s health needs, including covering birth control. We’re all better off when people can decide if, when, and how to have kids.”

“Whatever, but they shouldn’t make their boss or anybody else pay for it if it’s against their religion or something.”

“Bosses shouldn’t get to decide if their employees have kids or how they make health decisions with their doctor. Someone else’s religious beliefs should never determine your ability to access the health care you need, and they are not a license to discriminate.”

When they give up on the conversation and walk away to check out the football game, then complain about players “disrespecting the flag and insulting veterans” by kneeling during the anthem:

“Kneeling isn’t about the flag or the military. It’s about protesting police violence and other injustices against Black and brown people. They have every right to exercise their free speech to call attention to important issues, and a lot of veterans agree with them.”

When they stop even trying to refute what you’re saying and just start calling you a snowflake or whatever:

I don't care what they say about me, I just want to eat.

It's time for change, and we must act now. Time's up.