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About this Piece

Founded in 1956, Dear Abby is a newspaper column in which readers ask for advice on a variety of topics, including etiquette, relationships, sex, health, and career guidance. A historical survey of Dear Abby and other advice columns paints a distinct portrait of the evolution of societal views on identity. Most expressed misogynistic and heteronormative opinions about gender and sexuality. Columns frequently advised women to obey their husbands, give up their careers, tolerate domestic violence, and always smile. Reading these old columns is telling of society’s limited perception of gender roles and how the definition of gender has evolved. This piece, Dear Abby, explores how society often attempts to pigeonhole others into fitting into narrow gender roles that may or may not contradict with their own identity and the internal reactions that one might face as a result. —Nina Shekhar