From when’s the right time to put up the tree to whether that Christmas advert was conveniently ‘too political’, Christmas can cause as many divisions as it can warm festive feelings - especially when it comes to gifts.
In fact, the search for the picture-perfect Christmas often seems to have us trying to recreate the magic of the past and that comes with a whole load of gender stereotypes. Here’s my top five that are driving me crazy this festive season.
Only women get asked about Christmas shopping
First things first: shopping is not a hobby. It’s not a sport. For the majority of people, fighting against a tide of time-pushed, expectation-pressured shoppers to find the elusive perfect gift is not their idea of fun. The rest of the year, no one would think to ask me whether I went shopping at the weekend, let alone ‘how it was going’. Meanwhile, the most guys usually get is ‘ohh, I bet you’re leaving it til the last minute?’, those silly disorganised men *eyeroll*. Actually — breaking news — men can be organised and having a vagina doesn’t automatically mean you love shopping!
Mums’ kitchen martyrdom
I actually overheard someone the other day saying: “yes, Christmas will be lovely... if I manage to get out of the kitchen!”. Even if you usually divide up the cooking pretty evenly, there’s a weird expectation that Christmas dinner is ‘her responsibility’ and some women really embrace the ‘slaving away at a hot stove’ stereotype instead of delegating and asking for help. Everyone’s eating it, everyone can help in some way or - even better - let’s back away from the stereotype that it’s down to mum to rally the troops and make Christmas dinner a genuine team effort instead.
Men don’t drink fizz
Oh it’s got bubbles? That must be for women. Better rule out baths too while you’re at it. Describing a recent Christmas event, my usually pretty egalitarian friend talked about the welcome drinks and how there was plenty of fizz but also ‘beer for the guys’. There’s this weird stereotype that having a penis means you’re way too macho for more than one glass of fizz - better get out the beer or whiskey. Gender has nothing to do with what you like to drink - leave the stereotypes out of it and just get me a cold beer to recover from this damn Christmas shopping!
The Christmas outfit
Not only is it the time of year I’m supposed to have found the perfect gifts, put up the perfect decorations, and cooked the perfect meal, I should be doing it all while looking… perfect! I doubt many men feel the pressure to plan their ‘Christmas Day Outfit’, let alone to buff, polish, and beautify in preparation for the ‘big day’. Christmas shouldn’t be another occasion to focus on women’s looks - it should be about nurturing a food baby so big you don’t ever want that picture on Facebook. And don’t worry ladies - there’ll be plenty of New Year ads encouraging you to lose those extra pounds right around the corner in January (someone show me a diet ad featuring a guy)!
Gifts for ‘her’ and gifts for ‘him’
So, socks get a lot of criticism for being a bad Christmas present, but hey, at least they’re functional. For me, there’s no worse present than a generic “woman’s gift set” from Boots. But it’s not just them - it seems like all shops default to the ‘women like perfume, bath salts and candles’ while ‘men like beer, sports and DIY’ stereotypes. Even if you’re shopping online, most websites will ask you to click ‘For her’ or ‘For him’ before you can even see potential gifts. Why is genitalia the best parameter to narrow presents down by?! Rather than another ‘sparkle set’ or ‘sports shower gel kit’, I’m sure everyone would prefer something that’s actually been chosen specifically for them rather than something they ‘should’ like because they’re a man/woman.
“What did he get you?”
The dinner’s been eaten, the presents have been opened, you’ve forced a smile at your generic sparkle gift set, but it’s ok, the stereotypes are over now, right? Guaranteed when women get back to work or catch up with some friends in January, they’ll be asked ‘What did *insertpartnernamehere* get you?’ followed by a smile and silent judgement on how ‘well trained’ your other half is.
We’ll be celebrating Christmas as a family - but it’s a brilliantly jumbled, modern family made up of half-sisters, step-nieces, in-laws and whoever else turns up at the table this year, not some neat Christmas ad perfect family of four next to the fire. Every family - whoever that is for you - is unique, with their own Christmas quirks and traditions. Let’s embrace that uniqueness and ditch the Christmas stereotypes!