• Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Unwrapping the gender stereotypes around Christmas

ByMia Taylor

Dec 7, 2023
several wrapped presents under a christmas tree

I have to admit that Christmas is one of my favourite times of year, when it’s getting dark at 3:30pm- yes, I would greatly appreciate some fairy lights. A piece of chocolate behind a door, every day, for 25 days? Yes, please. Despite my love for the festive season, it strongly contradicts many of my core values. Christmas is currently being fuelled by capitalist systems, is exclusionary in nature and enforces gender stereotypes. Don’t get me wrong- I still love Christmas, as it’s a time I can be with loved ones- yet it does no harm to be mindful of societal forces at play this holiday season.

Firstly, the family that is the backbone of the Christmas tradition profoundly enforces gender stereotypes. Santa Claus is pictured as a white, old man who works one day a year- yet reaps all the benefits of the exploitative labour of Mrs Claus and the elves. He reaps the benefits of being a loving and generous man- someone who can do it all- where actually his talents greatly depend on those he overshadows. The elves could be seen as a caricature of unethical and exploitative labour year-round. Many argue they are not allowed to leave the North Pole, which implies slave labour. This image of a happy family is told to children year round and increases the risk of children accepting such exploitative labour: it may be necessary to educate them on the power imbalance within this structure.

During the festive period sexism is greatly apparent within households, with schools shut, works closed it enforces these gender stereotypes for both men and women. Typically, female figures are expected to perform all domestic labour included in the preparation for the celebration, such as: food preparation, looking after children, organising gifts and costumes for nativities, to name a few. Never-mind the physical labour, one must also consider the emotional labour involved during this financially stressful period. This is expected of female figures in the household as an act of love for ones loved ones. In our society, if a female figure refused to take part in the preparations for the festive season, their non-conformity would possibly not be seen as rejecting the patriarchal system but rather as an act of unloving, selfish character. Or perhaps, even the “grinch”.

This is greatly problematic and hypocritical due to the hyper-consumerist nature of Christmas that advocates gift-buying for showing love for one another. Typically, how much you spend on a gift equates to the affection you hold for this person. With mass-marketing stretching as far back as August, individuals are met with this constant pressure to show their love by feeding the economy. This to me seems absurd on many levels. Firstly, the amount I spend on the relationships in my life doesn’t correlate to my affection towards them. The more thoughtful a gift, the more I value it. Secondly, the capitalist system is paradoxical. They expect domestic and emotional labour to be unpaid, an act of selfless love. However, for one to show their love during Christmas one is expected to spend money. Something isn’t adding up.

Despite this, the essence of Christmas remains wholesome. I believe with mindfulness and education about its complications, we can better celebrate it.

Christmas presents under the tree” by James E. Petts is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.