It’s the most patriarchal time of year
There’ll be children all screaming and mums will be weeping while cooking the foooood, it’s the most patriarchal time of the year! 🎵
You could be forgiven for thinking that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. But I’m afraid to say that if you’re a woman, that’s only true as long as you’re under 25.
At some point – usually around the time you get into a long-term relationship – adulthood smacks you around the head, and Christmas becomes a very long series of making lists, wrapping presents, travelling around the country dropping said presents off and crossing one thing off your list while adding four more to the bottom of it.
Except said list usually falls under the responsibility of women. According to YouGov, 69% of women say they send out the Christmas cards, while only 12% of men say the same. Buying the presents is split female to male by 61%-8%; doing the food shopping by 54%-13%; and cooking the Christmas dinner by 81%-19%.
Add to that the latest Christmas traditions such as Elf on the shelf, homemade advent calendars, Christmas Eve boxes and it seems like Christmas is getting worse for women, not better.
As a new feminist, this is something that I didn’t really pay attention to until recently. I have a relatively small family, there are usually about six or seven of us. Three of those people are grown men and they don’t lift a finger all day.
Let me set the scene. As a child, Christmas was the most exciting day of the year. It was magical, and that’s because my mum and my auntie made it magical. I’d wake up to presents under the tree and my auntie making me pancakes and bacon for breakfast. I’d then get ready and sit in the living room with my older brother, male cousin and uncle watching Christmas films and playing games. Meanwhile, my mum and auntie would be in the kitchen from morning till evening cooking. We’d always laugh at my auntie for falling asleep on the sofa at about 6pm. I now understand why she would.
And it’s not just Christmas day. It’s also the lead up to it. My mum would buy the presents, write the cards, do the food shop, clean and decorate the house and remember all the details like buying the advent calendars. She even used to pretend that there were invisible elves that would visit me every December – which, let me tell you, was a full-time job – as well as all the other little details that go into making Christmas…Christmas.
When I got old enough to write cards myself, I would start writing them on behalf of my brother. And now I’m twenty-three and I find myself thinking about all of these details right along with my mum. Yet my brother doesn’t think about them, my uncle doesn’t, my cousin doesn’t…you get the picture. I’m not really sure how it happens. It just kind of does. Fast forward to this year and with no luck I tried to rally all the women in my family to NOT do it. “Just don’t do it this year” I said to my mum. But now my brother has kids and she knows that if she stops making the day special, the men won’t pick up where she left off, and the kids will be left with a dull Christmas. And so, the cycle continues.
It seems to be the one tradition that just hasn’t evolved. This bitch of a day has been holding feminism back for too long. Despite a pretty comprehensive liberation over the years, it’s still the women who end up doing the shopping, the wrapping, the cooking, the cleaning, writing the Christmas cards, organising a UN summit about whose parents you’re seeing at what point.
Something about Christmas seems to transform intelligent, worldly men who take the bins out and load the dishwasher into panicked shells of their former selves. ‘What are we buying for my mum?’ they whimper on 23 December. We? WE?
For centuries women have been conditioned into domestic roles. Generation after generation mothers have been passing the torch down to their daughters, while their sons got to go off and pursue their own careers and dreams, with no domestic skills under their belt. And I think as a modern society it’s time to break this cycle.
Another study found that women are responsible for 17 Christmas-related jobs, while men are responsible for just nine. In case you don’t have a degree in advanced mathematics: that’s almost double.
No surprises, then, that 61% of women say that Christmas is the most stressful time of the year. But here’s the thing: it really doesn’t have to be. You’re not obliged to put up with any of it. I’ll tell you what I’ve told my mum, Christmas doesn’t have to be a landslide of emotional and domestic labour. You’re fully entitled to tell your partner to do their own shopping, to buy your kids a 99p chocolate advent calendar, to welcome guests into a messy home or to say ‘fuck this’ and serve a festive lasagna rather than a turkey that you can make together with your partner. And you never know, you might just find that you rediscover the magic of Christmas if you do.