John Legend and Kelly Clarkson re-writing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” for 2019 came as a welcomed recognition that Christmas and the cultural expectations surrounding it can be sexist. But it’s not just the tired tropes of holiday movies and songs that seem anti-feminist, but how our own households operate during Christmas.
The expectation of the woman to be the home-maker and manager never feels stronger than at Christmas. They’re the ones charged with serving the perfect dinner – no culinary effort spared – and responsible for considering, buying and beautifully wrapping a present for every niece, brother-in-law and distant cousin on both sides of the family. Even the most progressive of households can find themselves reverting to a fifties housewife mentality on the 25th.
If you’ve ever related to that meme about thanking your dad for a Christmas present that was “from him” knowing he has no idea what’s inside – that’s my point.
I honestly can’t think of a time that women are expected to perform their femininity more than in December. When we should be winding down, taking stock of the year in preparation for another one, there’s an unbelievable pressure to not just be social but be organising all festive engagements. Work meals! Secret Santa’s! Christmas drinks! Boxing Day walks!
And then we have to look nice whilst doing it, dressed as beautifully as our Christmas trees. In December, women are literally put on show. Clothes in the shops become more and more bedazzled. We labour over what to wear to the office Christmas party. Do ourselves up on Christmas morning even though we won’t actually be leaving the house. But we mustn’t show that emotional toll that understandably takes on us, lest we dampen the spirits. (Think Emma Thompson opening the Joni Mitchell CD in Love Actually. The brave face is, disappointingly, a woman’s festive necessity)
Christmas is a time where we’re expected to show a lot of thought and care for others, but not necessarily ourselves. In most households, while everyone gathers around the television, full after a Christmas meal, mums are inevitably the ones still washing up and clearing discarded wrappings.
From the build-up that seems to start earlier and earlier each year, to the tireless execution of the whole day, to the cleanup, when exactly are we supposed to take a moment to celebrate ourselves? To recoup?
Here at FGRLS, we shared some wit and wisdom back in 2017 with our guide You Versus December. But in 2019, the year where “self-care” was mentioned in almost any action we undertook, I have an important caveat.
Let yourself rest.
It may not feel like it, but this is a feminist act in itself. It’s somewhat radical to slow down during what we’re told should be out at every festive engagement going. Rest mentally as well as physically. Let the day go as it’s going to go. Don’t stress about details that don’t matter, or try to keep your guests happy at the expense of your own sanity. Spend time with people, don’t just serve them. Or, if it’s what you need, take some time to yourself.
I always grew up with a house full of people at Christmas – to me, it’s what makes it so special. So I’m not advocating for a cull of all your usual guests (unless that’s what you want, in which case do you!!) but my point is that you don’t have to be “on” all the time. God rest ye merry gentleWOmen, and all that.
More than anything: get comfortable with not sacrificing yourself (and sleep! And proper nutrition! And your hard-earned cash!) this December.
Go forth and have yourself a merry little feminist Christmas.
Read more from Amy HERE.