Friday, December 03, 2010

Holiday Sexism

The holiday seasons are soon upon us, and even though we are not quite there yet, the Christmas spirit has been showing everywhere for a while now. Halloween merchandise was quickly replaced with Christmas merchandise, all to maximise the profits. In Sweden, the Christmas smorgasbords are being set up and people have planned their holidays and what presents to give to their beloved ones for some time.

With Christmas comes the unavoidable Christmas music that some so love to hate. Personally I am a big fan of anything making this dark time of the year a bit brighter. Also, it is best to savour the Christmas spirit while one can, because after boxing day a lot of people are going to be quite glad they do not have to see the holiday for another 12 months.

Last night I went to a lovely party, one of a few, that mark the end of the university semester and is a 'good bye and happy holidays' gathering of a sorts. There was mulled wine, great food and brilliant company. At one point it was decided that we were going to sing, and our lovely hostess, organised as she is, had printed out the lyrics of a few songs on paper so that we could all join in.

One of these songs was 'Santa Baby', Kylie Minogue style. I have had trouble with that song for a very long time because I simply cannot stand the way Kylie dumbs herself down and moans like a sexually frustrated teenager at various points, but because of this allergy to this song I had never bothered to look at the lyrics properly. Until last night. In retrospect I am a bit surprised by my surprise that it was possible that this song was even more stupid than I had previously thought. Any song where a grown woman makes sexual innuendoes about Santa Claus should already be on the top 10 list of the stupidest songs of all time. I will now post the lyrics in their full stupidity for you to see.

Santa Baby,
Just slip a sable under the tree
For me
Been an awful good girl
Santa Baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa baby, a '54 convertible too
Light blue
I'll wait up for you, dear
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

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

Santa Baby, I want a yacht and really thats not
Been an angel all year
Santa Baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa honey, one little thing I really need
The deed
To a platinum mine
Santa Baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with a duplex
And cheques
Sign your 'x' on the line
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Come and trim my Christmas tree
With some decorations bought at Tiffany's
I really do believe in you
Lets see if you believe in me

Santa Baby, forgot to mention one little thing
A ring
I don't mean on the phone
Santa Baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight
Hurry down the chimney tonight

The song was originally sung by Eartha Kitt, and many covers have been recorded. A quick you tube search reveals that Britney Spears, the Pussycat Dolls and Taylor Swift have all made an attempt at it; none of them as silly as Minogue's version of it. At least in some versions, the sexual has been downplayed and it is performed more to be a cheeky letter to Santa than an invitation for him to seek warmth in the woman's bed while he's flying around the world saving Christmas. Minogue plainly makes it sound like this is some kind of trade off - sex for expensive gifts. She even makes "come and trim my Christmas tree" sound dirty.

The lyrics in themselves are not unproblematic. The singer clearly paints herself out to be a helpless woman who needs to be economically and emotionally saved by the big, manly Santa. The gifts she is asking for are silly things without much value. Luxury items, jewellery and other pretty things are what the list is made up of; superficial things used to add to her seductive charm so that, perhaps, it will be easier to get Santa into bed next year. It is all shallow and horribly sexist, a reproduction of the most unflattering gender assumptions.

This song is just simply horrible. I am not in the habit of playing it because, as I said, I have never liked it, but this year I will be making a conscious effort not to listen to it voluntarily.

Here is a video of Kylie Minogue performing this song at the Top of the Pops. Notice how Santa's helpers are half-naked and how all three of them point to their chests at various points of the song. Also note how Minogue even makes herself look dumber than normal when singing it, adding to the perception that she is a helpless, silly goose.

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  1. I don't think it's so much the sexism in this song but the materialism that strikes me...

  2. provision of jewelry and luxury items = high social status.

    sexual innuendo = provision of sexuality

    high social status + provision of sexuality= theory of sexual exchange

    it is harder to be a millionaire than be 'pretty'= female sexual power

    *happens all the time, whether or not love is involved. The real problem lies in the fact that most men (apart from Santa) rarely can afford provide such items. Maybe women will be "socialized" into demanding way too much from men, though intuitively people will figure out their 'market value'.

  3. KJ, I agree with you apart from the fact that the real problem is that men can't afford it. I believe the real problem lies in the assumption that this is a valid transaction, and I also believe transactions like these are damaging for both men and women. Materialism and sexualisation of cultures is not a positive thing long-term for humankind, as it serves to reproduce the very worst gender roles for both genders. Also, any kind of practice that encourages the 'dumbing down' of oneself can be highly damaging for social capital.

  4. It doesn't really get better when you get to the part of what she's done to be a "good girl":
    "Think of all the fun I've missed
    Think of all the fellas that I haven't kissed "

    So, to be a good girl you have to be bored and not kiss guys.

  5. Good point. Also, flipping your argument a bit - if one doesn't kiss a lot of guy one will be bored (boring?).

  6. Wasn't a link between those. In the song it's all the fun she missed and the fellas she didn't kiss, so according to that logic not having fun and not kissing boys make you a good girl. I didn't make any value judgements on the inherent fun in kissing boys or not doing it. You can have fun without kissing boys and you can be bored while doing it, doesn't take away the good girl/bad girl dichotomy in where girls are judged on how many boys they kiss (or don't kiss).

  7. Yes, I think yours was an excellent point. I just wanted to point out that you can interpret it, at the same time, as them singing "If you wanna have fun, go kiss some boys! This is a quick way out of boredom! Go on then, be a fun girl now!"
    The link between "having/being fun" and engaging in kissing with guys is definitely there, imo.

    I think both are really interesting points and they highlight even more about views on female sexuality.

  8. I didn't think about that, but it's an interesting point.

    I wish people weren't judged on how many people they chose to kiss (or chose not to kiss).