The festive season (or, as it is sometimes called in my house, the f***ing festive season) is upon us. No doubt you have been inundated with commercial reminders of this for weeks. Even for those who love this time of year, the constant insistence that we spend money can be wearing.
Also tiresome is the prevalence of symbols of sexism throughout this season. A friend recently wrote to me, infuriated because the one duet on the holiday season karaoke program she had bought for her adolescent-aged son, who loves all things festive, was “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” an ode to rape if there ever was one. On one website, it is ranked as the number one creepy sexist Christmas song.
Who needs consent in the holidays?
In fact, over the years, this song has become known as the Christmas date rape song, as the male singer persistently refuses to accept the female singer’s desire to leave. She says she can’t stay, that the evening has been nice but her mother will worry if she does not come home. He responds by telling her that it is cold outside and offering her another drink. She wonders what is in the drink while he takes her hat and tells her there are no cabs. And on and on it goes, with the male singer eventually getting his way.
The good news is that singer songwriters Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski have rewritten the lyrics, using words that promote consent.
Once I started thinking about this song, I began to wonder where else misogyny might be lurking amidst the tinsel. It did not take me long to find plenty of examples but, as with this carol, I also found some encouraging signs of change. Here are just a couple of examples.
Don’t forget the popcorn!
Holiday movies are often a source of despair for those of us who are seeking strong female images. Here is a list of 30 seasonal movies, analyzed by a feminist who brings a sense of humour to the task. She has used the Bechdel test. To pass, a movie must have at least two female characters who talk to each other about something other than men.
This holiday season, skip the commercial pap of movies like A Bad Mom’s Christmas in favour of The Florida Project and Lady Bird. While not Christmas movies, they are both in commercial movie theatres now and feature strong female characters, who talk to each other a lot about many things, few of which are men.
Will that be Coke or Diet Coke?
When I saw Coca Cola’s Christmas commercial at my local Cineplex last December, I was furious: every time a girl or woman was given a bottle of Coke, it was a diet Coke but all the men (including Santa, who unarguably carries a few extra pounds on him) got regular Coke. Sad to say, the same commercial is being run this year. If I did not already boycott Coca Cola products, this would be a good reason to start.
Toys for girls and boys
If I did my toy shopping online, I would be hard pressed to step outside gendered stereotypes about what manufacturers and retailers think boys like and what girls like. A quick perusal of one major toy retailer’s website required me to click on girl or boy just to see what was available.
But don’t despair: a British organization, Let Toys Be Toys . . . For Girls and Boys, is working to de-gender the sale of toys. Its website is full of interesting research and information.
There is hope along with sexism under the festive season tree.