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Nonfiction Opinion

‘Tis the Season: Gender Roles & the Holidays

With December finally here and the first layer of snow on the ground, I would normally be preparing myself emotionally and physically (extra jumping jacks) for the series of family filled, food-guzzling holidays which round out every year. Due to mounting COVID cases across the country, however, this year is looking a little different and while I will certainly miss parts of the holidays, I can’t say I’m not the teeniest bit grateful to have a perfectly good excuse for ordering dumplings on Christmas. 

The holidays are wonderful. But they are also stressful and for the women in my family, who are more often than not the ones buried in the kitchen while the stories and songs and single edible my uncle gets annually as a Secret Santa present from his work buddy Kenneth get passed around, not particularly worth it anymore. This year it seemed as though many were more than happy to take a year off from the traditional hoopla and boozy desserts, and not just on turkey day but for Christmas, Hanukkah, and every holiday in between. 

While cooking, cleaning, and preparing for the holidays seem to be tasks that are reserved for women, men often take the lead when cooking meat, because, of course, meat is very manly.

Women primarily take on the brunt of work during the holidays, not just in my family but according to my research, in households across the country. While cooking, cleaning, and preparing for the holidays seem to be tasks that are reserved for women, men often take the lead when cooking meat, because, of course, meat is very manly.  Despite the increased levels of equality experienced by women in the United States today, when it comes to the holidays, people across the country fall into old, familiar (gender appropriate) patterns. According to JSTOR Daily, a study from 1990 studied the differences between men and women with regards to shopping during the holiday season. According to the study, women felt “compelled to do the ‘work,’ which often involved ‘kin-keeping,’ or maintaining social ties…” This uneven distribution primarily occurs in heterosexual couples.

While for many people the holidays are a time to relax and spend time with family (two mutually exclusive things), the fact that women continue to bear the brunt of the work around the holidays demonstrates the persistence of gender stereotypes. As my mom told me, “The only job women don’t have around the holidays is Santa’s.” 

As this highly unusual year comes to a close, perhaps we can all take some time to contemplate the roles we play during the holidays and whether or not it’s time for us all to bring a little bit more equality to the dinner table. After all, don’t we all deserve to enjoy the single edible courtesy of Kenneth?