Is Christmas The Final Frontier For Feminism?

Elf on the shelf, homemade advent calendars, Christmas Eve boxes - it seems like Christmas is getting worse for women, not better, writes Rebecca Reid.

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by Rebecca Reid |

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 for as long as you’re a child (glitter! Santa!) or a teenager (no school! New trainers!) or in your early twenties (parties! Booze!).

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.

I’m also afraid to say that this is only strictly true if you are a woman. Far from being the most wonderful time of the year, the festive period is also the sexist period.

There’s no specific age that this happens – no magical moment where you become a grown-up and Christmas curdles, but the chances are that if you’re around the age of 30 and you’re not the kind of chic single woman who spends Christmas drinking champagne in a penthouse with your French lover, then you’ve noticed how bloody stressful the entire thing is.

Despite a pretty comprehensive liberation, 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?

A 2016 study found that women are responsible for 17 Christmas-related jobs, {:rel=nofollow}while men are responsible for just nine. In case you don’t have a degree in advanced mathematics: that’s almost double. Women’s jobs tend to include buying all of the presents for everyone, delivering presents, putting together nativity costumes, buying and decorating the tree, decorating the house, doing the food shop, prepping all the food, cooking all the food, arranging all the family visits, looking after visitors and cleaning the house after Christmas has finished and writing thank-you letters.

Whereas the study found that men’s jobs are typically tidying up before every arrives, helping to set up new toys, carving the turkey and the washing up after Christmas lunch. Basically, the quickest and most fun parts of the whole rigmarole.

It’s worse if you have children. Not only do you have to traipse the length and breadth of the country to spend time with family members with whom you have nothing in common, you’ve also got to ‘make magical memories’ for your precious babies. There’s a laundry list of traditions that didn’t exist when we were children, designed to make Christmas even more magical, which actually just make the 11 lines between your eyes half an inch deeper. No longer can you wrap up some plastic tat from Argos in sparkly plastic paper, take the lid off a tin of Quality Street and relinquish control of the Disney Channel for the day. No, no.

Life was supposed to get easier for women as we were liberated from the kitchen. Technology was supposed to mean that running a household was a snip. But of course it’s not. Because for every invention that made life easier – washing machine, dishwasher, iron-on name tapes – came a juggernaut of pressure to be even more perfect. Where once parents were merely expected to keep their children alive into adulthood, now we have to ‘make memories’.

Good mothers who love their children start with home-made advent calendars, which contain thoughtful and eco-friendly gifts for each of the 24 days. They also do witty and amusing things with their Elf on the Shelf every single sodding night, and round the whole of advent off with a ‘Christmas Eve Box’ – a new invention designed to look like an old one, where kids get new pyjamas and a DVD on Christmas Eve, because apparently you need to foreshadow the orgy of consumption that happens on Christmas Day with yet more presents.

Then, when the big day arrives, you’ve got to put together a festive feast (which 51% of women shop for, prep and cook entirely alone – compared to 17% of men). The gifts for your kids should be thoughtful, abundant without spoiling them and wrapped in recyclable paper, otherwise you’re destroying the planet for your future grandchildren.

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. 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. And you never know, you might just find that you rediscover the magic of Christmas if you do.

READ MORE: The Grazia Christmas gift guide is here