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Hey Santa: That's Sexist.

November 16, 2018 6 Comments

Hey Santa: That's Sexist.

Santa, baby, we’ve gotta talk about some things.

Basically, a lot of your mall avatars (and we’re not getting into logistics here, Santa, so we’re just assuming this works somehow on a magical level) and their elf helpers and photographers are still masters of gender stereotyping.

Every Christmas we pack the kids into the minivan in their matching holiday t-shirts to come see you. They want to whisper Christmas wishes in your ear -- or shout them out for most of the mall, just to be sure you'll hear them. They wait in a long, long line, then turn the corner and, suddenly, it’s Christmas in all its bows and buntings and fake snow, with you literally enthroned at the head of it all. They squeal. They run and give you hugs. They love you. They clamber into your lap.

Last year you asked my son, who was yearning to find a dollhouse under the tree, “What do you want for Christmas? A truck?” He did not want a truck. In fact, it was his little sister who loved all things vehicular and pined for a racetrack for her beloved Blaze and the Monster Machines trucks. She didn’t get a chance to tell you.

This year, Santa, you and your elves were a real mess of gender stereotyping. Your photographer elf handed Big Brother a car to hold, which Little Sister stared at longingly. Missing her cues, the photographer elf waved an Elsa doll at her, shook it and yelled, “WHO’S THIS? WHO’S THIS?” She was totally confused, like, Dude, I have no clue who the heck you’ve waving at me, but I really want that car. Why does my brother get the car?

“She doesn’t know who that is,” my husband and I muttered uncomfortably, practically in unison.

“Oh wow, the only little girl in the country who doesn’t know who Elsa is!” the photographer replied, which is pretty sweeping generalization, right? 

Your photographer elf then held up Mickey Mouse to get Big Brother’s attention, presumably because said Frozen doll would hold no interest for him. Again, he yelled, “WHO’S THIS?” and then brandished Minnie Mouse at Little Sister and shouted his now-familiar “WHO’S THIS?” Because, you know, she can only be expected to identify and show interest in Minnie Mouse, and her brother in Mickey.

It was awkward, Santa. Kids these days, they're allowed to like whatever they want. So they like all kinds of different things. Assigning "girl toys" and "boy toys" isn't cool.

And while we're on the subject, can you maybe ask your elves to ease up on the “Little Boy” and “Little Girl” identifiers? A friend of mine has a four-year-old with hair down past his shoulders and the kind of elfish (ha!) face that gets him mistaken for female a lot. He finds it deeply offensive when people call him a girl. If people like you keep doing it, he’ll absorb the message -- like his older brother did -- that it’s not okay for a boy to have long hair, and he’ll cut it all off to conform to your outdated gender norms. 

This doesn’t even touch the number of kids who want to visit you but identify as a gender other than the one they’re born with, or somewhere outside of the boy/girl gender binary. Being misgendered can be totally devastating, Santa, especially coming from a magical authority figure who’s supposed to be an avatar of acceptance and love.

So we'd like to make a humble proposal, Santa: call kids “my friend,” or ask their parents for their names. Ask them what they want for Christmas -- don’t put words in their mouths or make gendered suggestions (for reticent kids, maybe offer ideas without gendered baggage, like books or blocks. Science stuff. Art supplies. You’re the master of gift giving; surely you can come up with some solutions here).

And please, please ask your elves to rethink their gender stereotypes and ask kids which prop they want, rather than just pushing the gendered option on them. Give them some agency -- and some choice about their own identity. Because you can't know just by a kid's gender what they're interested in. Lots of boys like cats and unicorns. Tons of girls love dinosaurs and dump trucks.

We love you Santa. We really do. We love your magic, we love your stories, we love your sleigh and your eight tiny reindeer (especially Rudolph). You just need an update. Get with the times. And maybe get Mrs. Claus out of the kitchen. It is 2018. When does she get to drive the sleigh?

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NEW TO FREE TO BE KIDS

We design and create baby and kids clothes with positive messages and nary a gender cliche in sight. We believe clothes send a message, and our mission is to spread positive messages one fashion statement at a time.

 



6 Responses

Molly McAllister
Molly McAllister

December 05, 2017

Well written, Courtney!! The holidays are fraught with systematized gender stereotypes and we really need to call attention to them and change the status quo. Thank you for being part of the positive change!

Alexa Stone
Alexa Stone

December 05, 2017

Love love LOVE!!
Do a piece on crazy stuff parents say! Like…“I see your son trying on that Belle dress….So brave! I mean… it’s so ok if he’s gay” or “Her daddy has a shot gun above the door for when she starts dating” Sadly the list goes on and on…

Lexi Phelps
Lexi Phelps

December 05, 2017

We rode with Santa on a trolley. Santa said nothing wrong to my two sons. However, when he talked to a little boy between my two sons, he asked the kid what he wanted. The kid said “lots of things.” Santa tried to get the kid to be more specific, he said “well, I’ll get you anything, then. How about a doll?” Assuming the boy didn’t want a doll and still trying to get him to be more specific. I tried to say something but he moved on to my other son at that point, and it wasn’t my kid, and I don’t think he heard me.

Jenni
Jenni

December 05, 2017

Yes, thank you! We haven’t had any issues specifically with Santa, but my long haired boy Jamie often is referred to as a girl. Also he has a strong love for Shopkins and Hatchimals, which some think are not appropriate for a 4 year old boy.

Katie
Katie

December 05, 2017

We had almost the same experience visiting Santa this year! We actually weren’t expecting to visit Santa that day, but there was no line (it was Veterans Day) so there was also no pressure to rush my daughter, who is often uncomfortable with strangers and with cameras. Since we thought we were just going rain boot shopping, she was wearing a pj top with a giant train on it and leggings with dinosaurs all over; even though he had already commented on the train, when she didn’t tell him what she wanted right away he suggested a doll. A doll. Instead of the things that were on her clothing. sigh Thankfully, I guess, the prop the photographer used to get kids’ attention was Nemo (one of the few Disney characters she knows- we are the family of the other 3 year old girl in America who doesn’t know anyone from Frozen) so we were able to get a decent photo. But my first experience visiting Santa as a parent was quite underwhelming.

Tracy King
Tracy King

December 05, 2017

Thank you! I love this blog post! My 11 year old, gender non-conforming son, once asked Santa for a Barbie House. Santa totally humiliated him. Insisted he was joking and said it was for “girls”. I love your company and my kids own several of your shirts. Please keep up the great work! You have a loyal customer in me!

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