Loved ones gathered around a Christmas tree, by a lit menorah, or crammed together in front of the fireplace or space heater to escape dipping temperatures: These are our most cherished months of the year. Suddenly, the loved ones we normally avoid are welcome. Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the most sexist.
Before you call me out as the Feminist Who Stole Christmas, think about the Christmas tunes that bombard the airwaves just after we awake from turkey-induced naps. The customs associated with the season also shake up antiquated and harmful sexual roles.
Due to the infallible spirit of the festivities, we overlook its indiscretions, sometimes never even noticing them. Imperceptibly, these ’tis-the-season jingles champion feminine materialism, frivolity, and submissiveness, all written off as folk tradition.
Here’s a few Christmas classics that should, quite frankly, creep you out, but we’ve got suggestions on how they might be improved.
“Santa Baby,” Eartha Kitt
Written by Joan Javits and Philip Springer
Admittedly, the song’s a blatant, tongue-in-cheek examination of holiday extravagance, but the forward-thinking social commentary can’t override the most disturbing message. A sultry and cooing Eartha Kitt opines to Santa what a year’s good behavior should merit – yachts, checks, and furs (we won’t even touch the PETA aspect), all the while using her feminine wiles to seduce him to delivery.
“Think of all the fun I’ve missed/ Think of all the fellas that I haven’t kissed/ Next year I could be just as good/ If you’ll check off my Christmas list.”
Kitt’s an obviously desirable woman who abstains so that Santa will give her what she wants, which is, of course, a luxurious lifestyle. She places the control in his hands, resorting to begging and coquettish quips to sway him (“Santa cutie, hurry down the chimney tonight”).
That’s just what we need, another hot woman seducing an old fat man into giving her things. This perpetuates a very tired pampered housewife stereotype. Someone brings home all of her comforts, constantly putting her at a disadvantaged role.
Suggested improvements: Dropping terms of endearment for men who are probably twice Kitt’s age, proposing donations to charities of her choice instead of “a deed to a platinum mine,” and, if Santa must be the benefactor, perhaps approaching him with a loan proposal rather than being indebted – sexually or otherwise – to a man who enters people’s homes through their chimneys.
“All I Want for Christmas is You,” Mariah Carey
Written by Mariah Carey & Walter Afanasieff
This modern Christmas classic remains a sweet rejection of material possessions in favor of the greatest gift – love. Problems arise when you dig a little deeper into the lyrics and who’s singing them. “All I Want for Christmas is You” ranks as the 19th best-selling single of the last century, inducting it into the holiday canon and spawning cover after cover that are most often by women.
The song’s lyrics wouldn’t be so bothersome if they weren’t inherently assumed by the public as feminine:
“I won’t ask for much this Christmas/ I don't even wish for snow/ I’m just gonna keep on waiting/ Underneath the mistletoe.”
In other words, she needs his love to make her Christmas wishes come true. Mariah Carey, get your shit together. As a Grammy-winning artist and strong, capable woman, stop stalking men in the doorway. He can follow you out.
Suggested improvements: A 2011 remake with Carey alongside Justin Bieber already made headway into equalizing this song’s scope. Further suggestions would be to amend the chorus to say something to the effect of, “I’m fulfilled as a woman at Christmas, but my already whole life would be augmented by you.” Rewrites welcome.
“Baby It’s Cold Outside,” Willie Nelson & Norah Jones
Written by Frank Loesser
“I really can’t stay/ Baby it’s cold outside/ I must go away/ Baby it’s cold outside.”
This date-rape disaster is the mother of Yuletide sexism. The scene opens with a couple around the fireplace. It’s late, and the girl, who according to the song still lives with her parents, gets ready to leave. Simple enough, but that doesn’t make for a great snuggling song, so writer Frank Loesser throws in some rape-y elements.
Instead of offering to call a cab or walk her home, her partner warns her that, “Baby it’s cold outside.” As if she didn't know that! She gradually concedes to stay a bit longer while her host gives her what’s presumed a date-rape drug: “Say, what’s in this drink?”
The rest of the song continues in largely the same fashion.
He keeps her there with compliments, alcohol, and by mansplaining again and again that it’s cold outside. Her judgment or comfort gets thrown to the wind since her constant rationale for heading home continues getting thwarted by his persistence, peaking into a very uncomfortable resignation. It’s patriarchal dominance at its absolute worst.
Suggested improvements: For everyone to stop remaking it year and year (we’re looking at you, She & Him). If that’s too much to ask for, procure a restraining order.
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