Why the holiday season is a gender trap

by | Dec 13, 2017

Time for a feminist makeover this Christmas?

The holiday season is a gender trap with women absorbing most of the work and much of the stress 

With the run up to the “holiday” season well under way we are now in full schmaltz overload. But there’s not much of a holiday about it. In fact for some it’s a lot of work.  Chores are unequally divided, with women bearing the lion's share of the work. This time of the year is a massive gender trap for women.  It’s exhausting just reading about it.

Someone pour me an egg nog and fetch me a gingerbread cookie while I put my feet up to recover.

It's in the numbers

Research by the American Psychological Association, tells us that only 25% of women admit to relaxing during the holidays with 44% reporting higher stress levels between Thanksgiving and Christmas  In Australia a poll  identified the gender difference in preparation hours between holidays: Women put in 83 hours, on average, shopping, cooking, planning parties, decorating, and more. Men put in roughly 58 hours. In the UK a Mori poll indicates that only 14% of men reported feeling stress at Christmas compared to 27% of women. Nearly 60% of men  admitted to  feel “not stressed at all” by festive preparations. Only 42% of women said the same. The same poll shows that 49% of those surveyed find Christmas shopping highly stressful. This is supposed to be a holiday.

Our need to create perfect Christmas rituals is dragging women into a never-ending cycle of deeply ingrained gender coded roles. Many of us grew up watching our mothers run in ever decreasing circles trying to recreate perfect moments from their own childhoods. In so doing we trapping ourselves into damaging patterns which heaven forbid we are passing on to our sons and daughters. It's benevolent sexism hard at work.

Worth a Read: Why women suffer from gender burnout


Targeted by relentless media campaigns depicting scenes of perfect domesticity, women come under increasing pressure to create a Hollywood type of day for their nearest and dearest. Media plays a large role in creating these mother-centric social norms with strong gender expectations around the holidays. Bloggers tell us how to handle all of this stress (make a list and check it twice, or take a scented bath) yet fail to mention bringing a partner into the equation or heading for the wine cooler, which seem infinitely more practical solutions.

Worth looking at: Download – Developing Resilience

Let's not forget those that will spend Christmas alone estimated to be 1 million people in the U.K. So this is why a BBC’s Christmas ad showed a single dad struggling to cope is maybe a step in the right direction.

 Flip it to test it

Perhaps next year there will be Christmas miracle and women will be released from the kitchen and will move out of this sticky gender trap. This is a fun video depicting the flipping of current stereotypes.



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