Once again it’s the time of year to brace for problematic family members and side-eye worthy opinions amidst apple pies and turkey, in observation of Thanksgiving and its messed up history. This year has given us #MeToo, women coming forth to share their abortion stories, and even a national march to remind society to stop dehumanizing us. Which means you-not-so-favorite aunt or uncle may have plenty of fodder for triggering you at the dinner table, but no matter what your mom tells you, you don’t have to stay silent about women’s issues this Thanksgiving. There are ways to engage in the difficult conversations while suppressing the urge to hurl your mom’s dinnerware at an ignorant guest.
The trick might be to choose your opponents wisely .
In the era of digital activism and social justice keyboard warriors, it is all too easy to broadcast our opinions, and lack of a virtual filter can easily spill over into real life. But in the same vein that you cannot bring the social justice hammer down on every internet troll that roams the web, you also cannot beat open-mindedness into your dad, who might be a little misogynistic, if he is dedicated to misunderstanding you.
It doesn’t mean that you should silently fume while the cranberry sauce is being passed around. If you find that your patriarchal male friends or family members in particular drop any comments that resemble victim-blaming or slut-shaming, in light of the gazillion politicians and big wigs who have been accused of sexual assault, if you find that you have the emotional strength, then share some of your experiences. Even if it is a not-so-gentle reminder to them that that most women can’t walk down the street without being harassed or fearing for their safety.
Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Be prepared to be disappointed.
Being a socially conscious Millennial in today’s social climate feels like finding out that Santa isn’t real, over and over again. You may need to prepare for this feeling again, as this year’s turkey and things might weed out your familial cohorts who are holding onto politically dubious viewpoints. There have been far too many political and social atrocities against women — from dwindling access to contraception and a return to women’s autonomy being up for public debate — it feels like our rights have been gradually eroding.
So if you decide to go head-to-head with some dinner guests, you may find that suspicious and downright alarming sentiments may fall from the mouths of individuals that had you convinced that they had a sense of ethics.
What separates trolls from the woke? Evidence. Before you load up your social justice soap box and try to emphasize the very real ways in which women’s issues matter, make sure you provide the facts. Despite that facts have gotten a bit “alternative,” there are countless organizations to check out for factual data, and maybe while you’re at maybe go ahead and encourage your cousin with the questionable stances to rethink the ways that Planned Parenthood continues to help countless women.
When in doubt, self-care it out.
You do not have to sit in silence, if you are an activist at your core or are dedicated to ending injustice and trash behavior. But at the end of the feast, ultimately what matters is that you keep your mental and emotional health in tact. Don’t engage in any conversations that will threaten your self-care. You don’t have to explain or apologize, or sit through dessert with anyone whose views threaten your humanity, even if you are related to them.