First let me say, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks. I took final exams (finishing my first semester of college!!), helped host a fancy party, traveled home, and promptly began a strict and thorough house cleaning regime! But I do apologize for my abrupt and lengthy absence. I will make up for it with lots of thought-provoking and interesting reads. …I hope.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of Christmas music, and I’ve been listening to my favorite playlists pretty non-stop for about a week now. But as with everything, I try to be aware of the lyrics I am singing along to, what they mean, and how I am affected by them. Feminist Frequency, a sassy and articulate YouTube activist, did a video a few years back on the top five creepy and/or sexist Christmas songs. Her top five?
1. Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Well, right off the bat I can agree strongly with this one. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is downright creepy, sexist, and stereotypical. Triple threat! The lyrics shove men and women into a stereotypical cat and mouse role-play, where men are sex-hungry, self-centered, and insistent and women are hesitant, second-guessing, and, well, lamely protesting. It’s the whole “no doesn’t really mean no” scenario men like to toss around. It might be romantic if it wasn’t so blatantly disrespectful! There was clearly no consent in this situation.
2. Santa Baby. We’ll get to this one later.
3. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. Agreed. The line about the toys is irritating and is a theme found in several other Christmas songs:
A pair of hop-along boots and a pistol that shoots is the wish of Barney and Ben. Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk is the hope of Janice and Jen.
These songs prescribe certain toys for girls and boys—weapons, sports equipment, and building tools for boys and talking dolls for girls. “Santa Clause’s Party” includes lyrics like ‘there’s a baseball bat for Johnny, a talking doll for Jill,‘ and “Up On The House Top” has whole verses devoted to gender-stereotyped toys. Again, believe it or not, there’s a talking doll for the girl. Blehh.
4. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause—eh. Whatever. While some people may be uncomfortable with the idea, it doesn’t offend me. Whether or not Mommy is kissing Daddy dressed like Santa or Santa himself, it doesn’t really further any stereotype, nor is it sexist. There aren’t really enough lyrics in the song to support any theory of sexism. Hell, the kid could have been dreaming!
5. All I Want For Christmas Is You. This is a complete stretch. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is not inherently sexist, creepy, or gender stereotyped in any way. Her reason is that it advances the “all women need is a man” myth, except there is no suggestion of sex or gender anywhere in the song. Just because it is most typically sung by a woman does not mean all she wants is a man—it means all she wants is love.
She adds that when male singers like Michael Buble or Justin Bieber sing this song, it can sound creepy or stalkerish, but unlike “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” where the interaction between the two singers proves the situation is sketchy, reading the lyrics differently when a man sings the song is a sexist interpretation. To assume that a man singing “all I want for Christmas is you” is a stalker is to support a stereotype unsupported by the lyrics, just like assuming women only want a man is supporting a stereotype unsupported by the lyrics. If you listen to it the way it is written, this song actually transcends stereotypes and sexism in support of love. Yay!
And that brings us back to “Santa Baby.” Who doesn’t love it? It is jazzy, catchy, cute, and deadly. There is a great shoo-bop beat, but the lyrics are sexist and stereotypical, with the woman not only using her sexuality to get what she wants, but acting superficial and materialistic to an exaggerated extreme. Gold diggers. Yuck. What makes it sexist is that only women sing it. What, men can’t be materialistic and conniving too?
Surprisingly, yesterday I heard a version of “Santa Baby” sung by Michael Buble. My initial instinct was one of satisfaction and joy. Yes! A man is singing this song stereo-typically sung by only women, thereby making it less sexist. That was short-lived though. He made some key changes to the lyrics to avoid sounding gay, like calling Santa “buddy,’ ‘pally,’ ‘dude,’ and ‘poppy’ instead of ‘baby’ or ‘dear.’ He also changed several things on the Christmas wish list, stereo-typing the song even further.
- “Sable” became “Rolex.” (Sable is a fancy fur coat, Rolex is a fancy watch.)
- “Light” blue became “Steel” blue. Whatever that does. It’s a man’s blue now. A strong blue. (Oh, and also, an upgrade from 64 convertible to 65. Only the latest technology for Michael.)
- “A ring” became “Cha-ching.” (What, men don’t wear rings? It doesn’t haaaave to be a marriage proposal.)
- “A duplex and checks” became “Cannucks tix, for kicks.” (Oh no, nothing domestic for the strong man, just sports tickets.)
- “Some decorations bought at Tiffany” are now bought at “Mercedes.” NO JEWELRY FOR THE MAN, COME ON.
Listen to the songs yourself and tell me what you think! Does Michael improve the song in terms of sexism or make it worse?
- [link] Sweden makes my gender-free toy Christmas wish come true (slendermeans.wordpress.com)
- LxL’s Top Ten Christmas Songs (littlebylisten.com)
- Move Over, Barbie—You’re Obsolete (Upworthy.com)