Each Christmas we are confronted with endless gift guides designed to help us choose the right gift to buy for that one tricky family member or friend. These are, helpfully, divided into ‘gifts for her’, ‘gifts for him’, and ‘gifts for kids’. What’s Christmas without a little misogyny?
You need only look at some of the gifts for her/him guides to see that stereotypes are very much alive this Christmas. The assumption is that ladies like make-up, scented candles, romantic books, and maybe wine glasses. Men on the other hand like whisky, technology, tools, and sports. On some websites, the gifts for her even include cleaning products. These divisions are so stereotypical there isn’t really anything to say. The implication isn’t so much that the woman in your life wouldn’t like a bath bomb or a bottle of rosé, or that the man wouldn’t like headphones or whisky stones, they probably would. It is instead that a woman would not want a drill, and a man would not like a scented candle.
Even if you want to escape these gender norms, it is almost impossible. First, because it is, unfortunately, a huge step to buy your niece a spaceship instead of a Barbie doll, and second because she might want a Barbie doll and not a spaceship. She isn’t letting the patriarchy win by making that choice, and we shouldn’t get her something she doesn’t want. Another reason why tackling these norms is challenging especially around Christmas time is marketing campaigns. We are constantly told that certain things should be bought for certain people. This not only applies to gender, but also age, sexual orientation, and even race. If we have even a tiny amount of doubt about what to get for some cousin who’s visiting or the child of a friend, marketing campaigns are there to guide us in the direction of a generic-gendered gift.
Buying gifts isn’t always easy, and sometimes it feels like an obligation as opposed to a joy. But, gender stereotypes shouldn’t be our fallback when we are faced with a challenge. There are plenty of gender-neutral gifts you can get for those you don’t know so well. It’s a small step, but it can make a big difference.