Feminist Killjoy

The Feministing Guide to Surviving the Holidays

Suffrage Postpones Thanksgiving FeastThe holidays are a glorious time of shiny baubles and delicious food and sepia memories — unless, of course, your life is even a tiny bit complicated, in which case there’s a 97% chance that the mere idea of the next month of celebrations makes you want never, ever to get out of bed.

Some of us have messy families or Republican uncles. Others, particularly survivors of violence and members of marginalized groups, face depression and unsafe gatherings. Luckily, there’s a lot of really good advice on the internet. Here’s some of the best advice we’ve found online for surviving the holidays. Add your own suggestions in the comments to support feminist in need of some help this season.

(Note: Internet advice is great, but sometimes it isn’t enough. If you need immediate help, I urge you to call into a hotline rather than turn to my WordPress-constructed guide.)

If you don’t have a place to go for the holidays…

but are up for throwing yourself a party, here are some fun, cheap(er) recipes and a list of immediately available holiday movies.

If you’ve got plans and are worried about dinner table political debates…

and you couldn’t be paid to utter the words “health care” around your family, Jill Filipovic has some suggestions for dodging heated conversations.

and you want to finally convince your bigoted cousin that he’s wrong, then may the force be with you! Sometimes you’ve got to stand up for your beliefs and embrace the awkwardness. If the conflict falls along traditional party lines, check out the Dem’s guide to arguing with your Republican uncle. RH Reality Check published a great Planned Parenthood break-down of how to talk about repro justice over turkey (or tofurkey), including some sample answers to common questions. You can also use your family’s own traditions against them by pointing out the feminist messages within their cherished holiday stories.

For a family insensitive — or downright hostile — to indigenous rights and history, bring along one of these children’s books. Pass it off to a relative to read to a little niece or nephew and educate two generations at once. You can also use a video to start a conversation, on your own terms, about the bloody history of colonialism and genocide erased by the cheery Thanksgiving story.

Feminist Killjoy

If your family’s gendered expectations of kitchen duties make your blood boil…

stand up for yourself. Help out preparing the meal or cleaning up because it’s the nice thing for anyone of any gender to do, but, as this feminist Thanksgiving guide insists, tell your uncle to get off his butt and help, too.

meet people where they are. When I turned to Feministing writers for advice, Juliana reminded me to keep in mind the context from which each person comes, and Suzanna stressed the importance of recognizing what gets lost in (literal) translation when not everyone at the table speaks the same language. Plus, as a reflection at the Feminist Legal Theory blog from UC Davis Law School points out, you have to consider whether your family is so stuck in its old ways that your efforts will do more harm than good to your own health and happiness.

If you’re anxious about travel…

you have options. Check out this guide if you’re traveling while trans. If you need special accommodations, check out these tips on air travel and other forms of transportation. xoJane has a good list of coping mechanisms for travel anxiety, and you can of course always call into a hotline to talk you through your anxiety. Me? I like to make lists of what I’m worried about, think over each item, and then cross them out.

If you don’t feel safe at the celebration…

you don’t have to go. As this guide for adult survivors of child abuse explains, this is a time when it’s really, really ok to lie. Pretend you’re sick, don’t answer your phone, and take care of yourself. Lori’s colleagues passed around a guide to the holidays that encouraged everyone to make the decision to spend holidays with their family of choice, rather than going home, if they know it won’t be good for them.

but you’ve decided to anyway, make sure to practice self-care. The holidays are hard, really, for more reasons than we could possibly address. Our library is far from comprehensive, but here are some of our favorite resources (and please suggest more in the comments):

  • The guide I mentioned above about getting through the holidays as an adult survivor of child abuse is powerful and insightful — and it’s insistence on self-care makes it a helpful read for anyone.
  • Turn to Spectra Speaks for their advice to queer people of color.
  • A few years back Radically Queer published a guide to surviving the holidays as a queer person.
  • Autostraddle has some advice for bringing home your same-sex partner for the holidays.
  • There isn’t a ton of advice out there about navigating the holidays as a person with a disability, but Disabilities Unlimited has a few tips.
  • If you’re trans, or love someone who is trans, sign up for the December Project and get ready for a friendly, supportive call!
  • Listen to this short segment from NPR on relatives missing from the table — some deployed abroad, some deceased, some at work.

If you’re struggling with or recovering from an eating disorder…

you’re far from alone. Melissa A. Fabello and other online activists will gather together under the #THX4SUPPORT hashtag on Thanksgiving, and six awesome feminists will be available to talk you through any feelings of negativity. Fabello also has a great vlog on how to support a friend or relative recovering from an eating disorder during the holiday season. The National Eating Disorders Association’s offers a holiday survival guide, and the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders’ phone and email help lines will be up on holidays.

If you’re looking for food or shelter this season…

services are available. Options vary by location, but religious centers are always a good place to check and the National Coalition for the Homeless can point you toward local resources.

What resources do you find helpful during the holidays? Share below!


Alexandra Brodsky is sure he’s lovely, Grandma, but doesn’t need to meet that nice boy from shule.

Washington, DC

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at Feministing.com. During her four years at the site, she wrote about gender violence, reproductive justice, and education equity and ran the site's book review column. She is now a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center and also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and NPR.

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at Feministing.com.

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