TIME feminism

The Complicated History Behind the Fight for Pregnant Women’s Equality

Lillian Garland [& Family]
Lillian Garland (front), who won a Supreme Court case which supports pregnancy leave, with her daughter in 1986 Alan Levenson—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Two Supreme Court cases have helped define the struggle

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Peggy Young, a former UPS driver who had to go on unpaid leave — rather than paid leave or adjusted duty — when she got pregnant and a doctor told her to stop lifting heavy packages. Though UPS has since adjusted its leave policy for pregnant workers, the company maintains and a lower court agreed that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act doesn’t make it illegal to give pregnant employees different leave policies than non-pregnant ones. If the act did make such treatment illegal, they say, it would constitute special treatment. Young’s side, on the other hand, argues that making accommodations for pregnant workers is to treat them the same as other workers, not specially.

Unsurprisingly, several women’s rights organizations, like the Women’s Law Project and Legal Momentum, which is associated with the National Organization for Women (NOW), have filed an amicus brief in support of Young.

But, despite all the women’s-rights oomph behind Young’s case, the history of feminism and pregnancy discrimination isn’t so clear cut.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has pointed out, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 to specify that discriminating against pregnant people is a kind of sex discrimination (after the Supreme Court case had earlier decided the opposite). It was less than three decades ago — in 1986 — that NOW, as well as the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, came out on the side of the employer in a case that sounds very similar to Young v. United Parcel Service. They aren’t exactly parallel, but many of the deep questions raised by the earlier case remain pertinent today. How much should childbearing be connected to a woman’s identity? Does respecting women require making allowances for that undeniable difference? Or would doing so hold women back by linking their legal identities to their function as mothers? How much inequality can be tolerated in the service of big-picture equality?

At issue was a challenge to a 1978 California law that required businesses to offer unpaid maternity leave. Lillian Garland had been a receptionist at a California bank when she took advantage of the state law and went on unpaid leave to have a baby in 1982; when she was ready to return to work, the position had been filled. Without her income, she was soon evicted and lost custody of her daughter, leading her to bring a suit against her former employer.

As TIME reported during the dispute, NOW and the ACLU ended up taking the bank’s side, preferring that employee benefits not be sex or gender-specific. “The question is, Should a woman with a pregnancy disability get her job back when other employees with disabilities get fired? You undermine your argument unless you say everyone is equally entitled to this benefit,” explained the ACLU’s Joan Bertin. In other words, anything that keeps an employee from working should be treated the same, whether or not it’s pregnancy, and no law should apply only to women. Meanwhile, feminist icon Betty Friedan and her allies saw things differently: in her view, the law treated everyone equally because it made clear that anyone, male or female, should be able to make decisions about having a family without the risk of losing his or her job.

“The time has come to acknowledge that women are different from men,’’ Friedan said. ‘’There has to be a concept of equality that takes into account that women are the ones who have the babies.’’

The next year, in 1987, the Supreme Court sided with Friedan, finding that the California law neither discriminated against men nor forced employers to treat women specially, as it did not bar companies from extending unpaid leave benefits to men as well.

TIME Crime

The Problem With Prosecuting Women for False Rape Allegations

The UK is aggressively prosecuting women who make false rape allegations, but victim advocates argue it's unjust

Between headlines about the UVA frats, the Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby, it seems like sexual assault allegations dominate the news. But in Britain there has been a recent spate of headline-grabbing cases where the people ultimately charged aren’t the alleged rapists, but the women who filed the claims in the first place.

Take the case of Eleanor de Freitas, a 23-year-old Londoner with bipolar disorder. De Freitas reported an alleged assault to the police, who were unable to build a sufficient case against her alleged rapist. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) then pursued de Freitas for perverting the course of justice — a crime which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Shortly before her trial was to begin in April, de Freitas killed herself. The UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions is currently investigating the case.

But de Freitas is not alone. Over the past five years, the CPS has prosecuted 109 women for making false rape allegations to authorities, according to the group Women Against Rape (WAR). The majority of those who were prosecuted — a full 98 — were charged with perverting the course of justice like de Freitas. But WAR, a London non-profit, held a public meeting at the House of Commons on Tuesday night, protesting what they believe is the unfair and aggressive prosecution of women.

For their part, the CPS noted in an email to TIME that such prosecutions are “serious but rare” and are “any decision to charge is extremely carefully considered and not taken lightly.”

Yet WAR disagrees. “I have not found any country that aggressively pursues women for falsely reporting a rape the way the UK does,” Lisa Avalos, an assistant professor of law at the University of Arkansas who has been working with WAR, tells TIME. Meanwhile, Lisa Longstaff, a spokeswoman for WAR, says, police are not putting in the necessary work into catching and convicting rapists. “They’re not dealing with rapists properly.”

Avalos agrees: “We do a bad job prosecuting rape across the Western world. A big part of what fuels that bad job is that police do not believe victims. Time after time after time we have victims saying they went to the police and the police didn’t believe them.”

A lot of what WAR says resonates with the statistics. Earlier this month an official inquiry into police practices in England and Wales found that police had failed to record more than 25 percent of the rapes and sexual offenses reported to them by the public as actual crimes. In some regions the figures were even worse, with police not recording one out of every three reports of rape or sexual assault.

Similarly, an explosive report released earlier this year found that police in Rotherham, England, disregarded numerous reports, over a course of years, of rape, sexual assault and forced prostitution made by young girls who were being abused by a group of men. Longstaff also points out that many of the girls in the Rotherham case who came forward to the police wound up being charged with offenses such as underage drinking, while their rapists went free.

According to a report published by the Home Office in January, looking at a three-year average, as many as 517,000 sexual assaults take place in the UK per year and 95,000 rapes are committed. Yet there are only 5,620 sexual assault convictions a year and only 1,070 rape convictions. And while it’s long been a problem that the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported to the police — which does factor in to the dismal percentage of convictions — Avalos says that “those [false claim] prosecutions have a chilling effect on other women coming forward.”

No one is arguing that women who make malicious false allegations of rape should be free from consequences. But Avalos says these instances should be looked at on a “case-by-case” basis and that pursuing harsh criminal cases isn’t the answer. (She notes that anyone who finds themselves falsely charged with rape can always pursue civil action against their accusers.) Part of the larger problem with prosecuting women for making false allegations is, according to Longstaff, that past examples prove “we can’t trust the authorities to make a rational decision about which is a false and which is not a false allegation. We’ve gone down the road so many times of seeing women who report rape or domestic violence or even child abuse and then [unjustly] end up on the wrong end of the prosecution.”

She points to the stateside case of Sara Reedy, who received a $1.5 million settlement from a Pennsylvania police department after she was raped at gunpoint at the age of 19 and then charged with inventing the story. Authorities were so convinced she was lying, she was even briefly jailed. It wasn’t until her attacker was arrested for another assault and then confessed to raping Reedy, that charges were fully dropped.

When asked about their decision to prosecute women over suspected false rape allegations, the CPS’s statement also noted that:

Such cases can only be brought where the prosecution can prove that the original rape allegation was false – if there is any question as to whether the original allegation might in fact have been true then a case of perverting the course of justice should not be brought. The relatively few cases that are brought are based on strong evidence and should not dissuade any potential victim from coming forward to report an assault.

But according to Longstaff, that’s exactly what the prosecutions — which might be rare, but can be highly publicized — do. She says many of the women WAR works with feel that “once you report, the police can easily turn on you and pin some other, often minor, crime on you [rather] than deal with the serious rape that you’ve reported.”

Correction: The original version of the story incorrectly described the response to de Freitas’s allegations. The Crown Prosecution Service began a case against de Freitas for perverting the course of justice prior to her death in April.

TIME celebrities

Terry Crews Is ‘Not Going to Be Silent’ About Feminism

2014 NCLR ALMA Awards - Arrivals
Actor Terry Crews attends the 2014 NCLR ALMA Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif., on Oct. 10, 2014 Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic

The actor and author says the way men treat women like trophies is as bad as the Taliban

Terry Crews currently stars on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but earlier this year the former NFL player also published a book, Manhood, about what it means to be a man in 2014. If you haven’t picked up a copy, Crews handily outlines a few bullet points in a new interview: support feminism, don’t treat women like they’re trophies and stop subscribing to “man code.”

“The big thing about feminism is that it scares men,” says Crews, who compares supporting feminism to supporting the civil rights movement. “I want to be clear: feminism is not saying women are better than men. That’s not what’s going. Some people totally see it as that.”

At another point during the interview, he compares the way men sometimes treat women as objects to religious extremists.

“What happens is [athletes] win and they go, ‘You know that girl? She’s my trophy. I deserve that girl. In fact, she don’t even want to be with me, but I don’t care. I’m going to take it,'” Crews says. “What kind of mindset is that? Never, never, never, never, never should that ever be accepted. That’s not ‘code.’ That’s Taliban. That’s ISIS.”

[Jezebel]

TIME India

Watch 2 Women Beat Their Alleged Harassers on a Bus in India

The men have been arrested and charged with assault

Two students in the northern state of Haryana wailed on three men on a bus who they say sexually harassed them.

The women, two sisters named Aarti and Pooja, were on their way home in the Rohtak district when 19-year old Pooja says the men “threatened and abused” them, according to the BBC. When the men wouldn’t stop touching them, and after no other passengers came to their aid, Pooja and her sister started beating them with their belts.

The men have since been arrested and charged with assault.

[BBC]

TIME politics

The Woman Who Broke the U.K.’s Parliamentary Gender Barrier Wasn’t Even Trying

Lady Astor
Lady Nancy Astor in Plymouth, England, in November of 1923 Gill / Getty Images

Dec. 1, 1919: American-born socialite Lady Astor is sworn in as the first female member of the British House of Commons

Lady Astor was an unlikely candidate to break the gender barrier in the U.K. Parliament. For one thing, she wasn’t British; for another, she wasn’t a suffragist. She took her seat in the House of Commons on this day, Dec. 1, in 1919, after running for her husband’s vacant spot when he was given the title of Viscount and elevated to the House of Lords. (She was the second woman to have been elected to the House of Commons, but the first to accept the position.)

She barely wanted the job, according to her election pamphlet. At times she seemed to go out of her way to alienate voters, as when she ended a campaign speech in front of a working-class crowd by saying, according to the New York Times, “And now, my dears, I’m going back to one of my beautiful palaces to sit down in my tiara and do nothing, and when I roll out in my car I will splash you all with mud and look the other way.”

But Nancy Astor had a flair for upending expectations. The Virginia native, whose father was a tobacco auctioneer, ascended to the upper crust of the British aristocracy but never lost her frank, outspoken manner or her earthy sense of humor. The latter was even more jarring when combined with her conservative politics: she was a strict teetotaler and a staunch anti-socialist.

History does not cast her as a particularly influential MP. Although she was re-elected seven times before retiring in 1945, the Times notes, “she accomplished nothing more noteworthy than the forcing through of a bill barring teenagers from entering pubs.”

Still, her witticisms made waves. Her sharp tongue could get her in trouble, but its overall effect was, if not endearing, then at least entertaining. Per the Times, “…she was capable in the House of Commons of doing anything from whistling to calling a fellow member a donkey.”

If she hadn’t pursued politics, Astor could have had a promising career as an insult comic. Her best lines became known as Astorisms, and they tended to take harsh aim at her rivals as well as her friends. According to her 1964 obituary in TIME, her favorite targets included “fellow politicians, her fellow rich (“The only thing I like about them is their money”), Communists, Socialists, Nazis, Yankees, liquor manufacturers, newspapers (her husband’s family owned two), antifeminists, the cult of the Common Man.”

Sometimes her attacks were personal — and borderline cruel. After voting to oust Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, an old friend and former political ally, she famously said, “Duds must be got rid of, even if they are one’s dearest friends.”

Her vote against Chamberlain helped pave the way for Winston Churchill to take office, but she had few kind words for him either. Churchill was, at least, her equal in trading barbs. In one exchange, she is said to have told him, “If I were married to you, I’d put poison in your coffee.” He replied, “If I were married to you, I’d drink it.”

Read the full obituary for Lady Astor, here in the TIME Vault: The Ginger Woman

TIME Pakistan

Bollywood Actress Veena Malik Sentenced to 26 Years in Jail For Blasphemy

Veena Malik during promotional event
Veena Malik promotes her movie Zindagi 50 50 at the India Today multiplex in Noida, India. Ramesh Sharma—India Today Group/Getty Images

The actress appeared in a scene that referenced Muhammad's daughter

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has sentenced film and television star Veena Malik to 26 years in jail after she appeared in a scene that the Guardian describes as “loosely based on the marriage of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter.”

The sentence stemmed from a blasphemy charge, which was also levied at Malik’s husband, businessman Asad Bashir Khan and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, owner of the Jang-Geo media group which aired the TV show, for their parts in the scene which aired in May. Khan and Shakil-ur-Rahman were also sentenced to 26 years. None of the accused were present in court.

The offending scene was a reenactment of Malik and Khan’s own wedding, acted as musicians played a devotional song about the wedding of a daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. After the episode aired, the senior vice president of a chapter of the Muslim religious organisation Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat made an official complaint, saying the show had defiled the family of the Prophet Muhammad, by using the religious music.

The sentence was handed down by judge Raja Shahbaz, who said, “The malicious acts of the proclaimed offenders ignited the sentiments of all the Muslims of the country and hurt the feelings, which cannot be taken lightly and there is need to strictly curb such tendency.”

[Guardian]

TIME India

Indian Girls Who Were Believed Murdered Took Their Own Lives

An official investigation into the gang-rape and murder of two girls in India in May rules that the victims actually committed suicide

Following worldwide outrage over the alleged gang-rape and murder of two girls, aged 14 and 15, in India earlier this year, the country’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has now ruled that the girls took their own lives and were not gang-raped and murdered.

When the two girls were found hanging from a tree in a field near their home in the Badaun district in the state of Uttar Pradesh last May, it was widely reported that they had been gang-raped and killed. According to the BBC, an exam initially confirmed several sexual assaults and death due to hanging and three men were arrested in connection with the girls’ deaths.

The men were released on bail in September and, according to the CBI’s investigation, subsequent forensic tests have since concluded the girls were not sexually assaulted. “Based on around 40 scientific reports the CBI has concluded that the two minor girls in the Badaun case had not been raped and murdered as had been alleged,” CBI spokeswoman Kanchan Prasad told the BBC on Thursday. “Investigation has concluded that it is a case of suicide.”

Women’s activists and the families of the girls have voiced their suspicions over the CBI’s findings.

“CBI has tried to fudge the case and save the accused from the very beginning,” Sohan Lal, father of one of the girls, told the BBC. “I am very angry with their decision. The team did not show any promptness while investigating the case.”

MORE: Photos of The Indian Village Shocked By Brutal Rape and Murder Case

[BBC]

TIME society

The Most Destructive Gender Binary

gender equality
Getty Images

Gary Barker, Ph.D., is founder and International Director of Promundo, an international organization with offices in the United States, Brazil and Portugal and representatives in Rwanda and Burundi, that works to engage men and boys in gender equality and ending violence against women.

We need to show the world just how much each gender depends on the other, and how men, too, benefit from full equality

It was the latest setback for women’s empowerment. But you probably haven’t heard about it.

Part of the gender equality goal set to replace one of the U.N.’s soon-to-expire Millennium Development Goals didn’t make it through. The target left on the cutting room floor? Engaging men and boys around gender equality issues.

Why, exactly, is this is a setback for women’s equality? Because the fates of the two genders are intertwined; for women to thrive, men and boys must be part of the gender equality agenda. Why, then, in 2014, are we still addressing gender issues as a binary, girls vs. boys, women vs. men? And how can we get beyond it?

We asked that big question at a conference last week in Delhi — organized by the global MenEngage alliance ( full disclosure: I’m co-chair and co-founder of the alliance). Our answer – to get beyond the binary, and to achieve the promise of empowering women — we need to show the world just how much each gender depends on the other, and how men, too, benefit from full equality.

Let’s start with violence. If you want to combat violence against women, you’ve got to understand, and address, violence against boys. Let me explain. Global data confirms that about one-third of the world’s women have experienced violence from a male partner. We have little evidence — with the possible exception of the U.S. and Norway — that any country has been able to reduce its overall rates of men’s violence against women. There are challenges with measuring violence, to be sure, but it’s far too early to claim that we have made real progress in reducing the daily threat to women and girls.

Why haven’t we moved the needle? Partly because we’ve been coming up with solutions for only half of the affected population. We know that men who witness violence growing up are nearly three times more likely to go on to use violence against female partners. Data also show that men who witness violence growing up are more likely to be depressed, contemplate suicide, and more likely to binge drink. In other words, men’s lives, too, are harmed by the violence of men. Ending violence against women must also mean ending violence against boys and men.

Unpaid care work is another area where we can see the same intertwined narrative playing out. Women do the majority of the unpaid care work in the world. And yet, studies show that when men take on those responsibilities, they’re happier, less likely to be depressed (and have better sex lives). According to one study in the U.S., we even live longer as men when we’re involved fathers. A study in Sweden finds that involved fathers are less likely to miss work, and are healthier. Not to mention all the data showing that children benefit when fathers are involved in caring for them.

Or consider this: a recent World Health Organization report confirmed that there are 800,000 deaths from suicides each year, about two-thirds of those are men. We know something about which men commit suicide: men who are socially isolated, who feel they can’t reach out for help, whose sense of identity was lost when they lost their livelihoods. Men who, in part at least, are stuck in outdated notions of manhood.

What’s more, entire economies benefit when women can devote more time to the paid workforce. If women’s participation in the workforce were equal to men’s, the U.S. GDP would be nine percent larger and India’s GDP would be 1.2 trillion U.S. dollars bigger. Yet right now, that disparity is arguably the single largest driver of women’s lower wages compared to men. Globally, 77 percent of men participate in the paid workforce, compared to just 50 percent of women—a proportion that has remained virtually unchanged for 25 years.

Even when women are in the workplace, they earn on average 18 percent less than men for the same work. Few countries outside of Scandinavia have created policy incentives to encourage men to do a near-equal share of unpaid care work. We know what it has taken in Scandinavia to push us closer toward equality in terms of care work: paid paternity leave. In other words, encouraging men to do a greater share of the care work.

Guess what? A little encouragement goes a long way. Today, with paid leave and “use-it-or-lose-it” leave for fathers only, the majority of men in Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Quebec (which has policies similar to the Nordic countries) are taking leave of six weeks or more. Iceland is the global leader: fathers there take an average of 103 days of paid paternity leave.

We’re stuck in a similar gender box when it comes to empowering women to control how many children they have. In 2005, women represented 75 percent of global contraceptive users and men 25 percent. In 2014, women represent 73 percent. Hardly numbers to celebrate and proclaim equality; indeed, that change does not even pass the confidence interval. Why does it matter? Well, last time I checked, reproduction involves both women and men. Anything less than 50-50 in terms of contraceptive use cannot be called equality. By not engaging men as equal partners in contraceptive use, we hold women back. This doesn’t mean giving men control over women’s bodies; it means engaging men to assume their share of reproduction as respectful, aware and supportive partners.

In terms of HIV/AIDS, the story is similar. We have made amazing strides in rolling out HIV testing and treatment. Treatment as prevention is working in many countries. One of the key remaining obstacles in reducing HIV rates and AIDS-related mortality rates even more is the fact that in much of the world, men are far less likely than women to seek HIV testing and treatment. The result is increased risk for women and higher AIDS-related mortality among men.

The arguments could go on. From economic empowerment for women to violence prevention, the evidence consistently affirms that engaging men as partners in gender equality is more effective than only tapping women. And the data is clear that men who support gender equality, are more supportive, democratic partners and get involved in their share of the care work are happier men.

Twenty years after one of the largest events to promote women’s equality in Beijing — where Hillary Clinton made her famous proclamation that “women’s rights are human rights” — the conclusion is this: we won’t achieve full equality for women until we move beyond binary us-versus-them, women-versus-men thinking. We must commit to ending patriarchy in the lives of women and in the lives of men. As men, we must acknowledge that we have an equal stake in gender equality. In fact, let’s acknowledge this: our lives get better when we embrace it.

Gary Barker, Ph.D., is founder and International Director of Promundo, an international organization with offices in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Washington, DC, and Kigali, Rwanda, that works to engage men and boys in gender equality and ending violence against women. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME feminism

Pick-Up Artist Julien Blanc Has Been Banned From Singapore

The seduction guru has been barred from entering Singapore to teach seminars which have been branded as misogynistic

Singapore has joined the growing list of countries that aren’t willing to allow pick-up artist (PUA) Julien Blanc cross its borders.

Blanc is an “international leader in dating advice” for Los Angeles based company Real Social Dynamics, who travels around the world teaching seminars, or “boot camps” as RSD calls them, to swathes of men eager to learn how to seduce women. PUAs like Blanc have long courted controversy for their seduction tactics, which many women have criticized for being manipulative and sexist. Yet the furor toward Blanc exploded across the internet and around the world after videos and photos surfaced of him describing and demonstrating grabbing women and forcing their heads into his crotch. Blanc later told CNN that the images were taken out of context and a “horrible attempt at humor.”

Yet the backlash against Blanc was strong enough that petitions in Australia, the UK and now Singapore have resulted in the countries’ governments blocking or rescinding the PUA’s visa. In Singapore, a change.org petition against allowing Blanc into the country received more than 8,000 signatures. Authorities released a statement about the decision to deny Blanc’s visa on Wednesday, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “Blanc has been involved in seminars in various countries that advised men to use highly abusive techniques when dating women,” the statement read. “Violence against women or any persons is against Singapore law.”

MORE: Is Julien Blanc The Most Hated Man In The World?

[ABC]

TIME Culture

Meet the Woman Who Invented Your Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving plate
Getty Images

This vision of the overflowing feast represented mid-19th century ideals of the woman’s role in creating a perfect home

Thanksgiving betrays a need — which we see throughout American history — to create a shared national identity. And, in this case, we have addressed that hunger by creating shared food traditions. Because very little is known about what actually happened at the “first Thanksgiving,” we’ve been free to commemorate it based on what we’ve needed it to look like over time.

Most of what is known about the foods of the “first Thanksgiving” is based on what foods were common at that time in the region, and a letter written by Edward Winslow to a friend in England describing the feast in 1621. Winslow wrote that Governor Bradford of the Plymouth Colony sent men out to hunt wildfowl (most likely goose or duck) while Wampanoag Indians brought deer to the feast. While turkeys were plentiful in New England in the 1620s, historians agree that it is unlikely that they were the centerpiece of the “first Thanksgiving.” Turkeys were hard to catch and the meat was tough. Fish, however, would have been plentiful and almost certainly part of any harvest celebration.

Cranberries were native to New England and would have been in the native diet in the 1620s, so they could have been part of the Thanksgiving meal, too. We also know that pumpkins, a type of squash, were eaten in 1620s New England, though there was no flour and hence no pies.

With very little historical basis on which to create a shared national holiday, America needed someone to tell them how the holiday should be celebrated. And Sarah Josepha Buell Hale was just the woman for the job. Hale was the editor of Godey’s Ladies Book, a very popular women’s magazine of the mid-19th century.

She first wrote about the Thanksgiving meal in her novel Northwood: A Tale of New England, published in 1827. She described a “lordly” roast turkey at the head of the table, “sending forth the rich odor of its savory stuffing.” Her meal included “a sirloin of beef, flanked on either side by a leg of pork and a joint of mutton,” and “pies of every description known in Yankee land.”

This vision of the overflowing feast represented mid-19th century ideals of the woman’s role in creating a perfect home and her writings created the “classic” American Thanksgiving ideal. As the United States was divided by the Civil War, Hale wrote a letter to President Lincoln urging him to make the day a national event, one that would bring Americans together. On October 3, 1863, Lincoln did just that.

As America entered the 20th century, Americans tweaked their Thanksgiving food traditions to reflect the modern vision of America. Progress, innovation, and technology all became part of the Thanksgiving table. Cranberries too delicate to transport long distances from New England started getting packaged and canned in 1912, under the name Ocean Spray Preserving Company. Now cranberries could enjoy a longer shelf life and become fixtures on the Thanksgiving table far away from cranberry bogs. The vast majority of pumpkins grown in America today are turned into canned pumpkin puree, which takes away the need to bake and mash a real pumpkin for pie. So nowadays our Thanksgiving feast is as much a tribute to the mid-20th-century modernist ideal as it is to a 19th-century idealized view of our 17th-century origin story.

My Thanksgiving meal this year is going to be a mash-up. I can’t give up the canned cranberry sauce, even though locavores might shudder at the idea. But I’ve also ordered a “heritage” turkey — a bird that has more in common with a wild turkey than a Butterball — and added fish to the menu as a way to give those around my dinner table a taste of what the Pilgrims might have tasted back then. And I’m also going to add some mutton, as a nod to Hale’s Northwood feast. Thanksgiving not only reflects who Americans are, but also how creative we can be in putting new twists on old experiences.

Susan Evans is program director of the American Food History Project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. She originally wrote this piece for What It Means to Be American, a national conversation hosted by the Smithsonian and Zócalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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