When we think of Christmas, chances are a chubby old guy in a red suit comes to mind, with his signature white beard and jolly “ho-ho-ho”. We’ve associated Christmas with this sort of benevolent masculinity because the main figure for the holidays is a man with a round belly and an all-powerful Naughty or Nice list. Just like sparkly trees and too many mince pies, Santa is so entwined with Christmas that it’s pretty hard to separate one from the other.
Granted, the idea of Santa originated from the Greek Bishop St. Nicholas, who was indeed a dude. But the commercialised Santa we’re all familiar with is a far cry from this 4th-century religious figure who gave gifts to the poor. The idea of the legendary Santa (complete with magical reindeer and sleigh) is fictional, which means his gender could have gone either way.
So we got to thinking… what if Santa was a woman?
She’s Making a List, She’s Checking it Twice…
Azoomee’s co-founder Estelle Lloyd decided to tell her youngest daughter Melusine (age 6) that actually, Lady Santa would be handling Christmas this year. Estelle’s motivation for the transition from St. Nick to St. Nicola came from her thinking about gender equality in broad terms, and actively wanting to view more things through an equal-opportunity lens.
“I started thinking about the lack of powerful female role models, and realised – even the Head of Christmas is a man,” said Estelle. “Maybe all genders should get a chance to fill those boots,” she added. “So I decided we’d welcome Lady Santa this year.”
Estelle was surprised to discover that her daughter didn’t bat an eyelid. Melusine readily accepted the news of Lady Santa and took it in her stride. We wondered if other kids would react with similar nonchalance…
The First Noel / Noelle
We chatted to several different groups of kids, and the results were interesting. Turns out, when it comes to jobs, kids don’t have preconceived notions of gender “suitability”. Across the board, kids reported that Lady Santa would be just as effective as her male counterpart.
If Santa was a woman, could she do the job?
“Yes, because girls can do anything.” -Milana, age 7
“If a boy can do it, a girl can still do it. Santa’s not just for a boy, it can also be for a girl.” -Rosa, age 8
“Yes, because if she was already a Santa she would know what to do.” -Grace, age 7
“Yes, because it does not matter what gender you are, you can be trained to do the same thing.” -Vivaan, age 8
“Yes, all that changes is that Santa is a woman. None of the magic would change.” -Shihan, age 7
“The Tooth Fairy’s a woman, and she does every single night!” -Conor, age 7
We hear you, Conor. Let’s face it, if the (female) Tooth Fairy can do 365 days straight on the job, then surely another lady could handle a gig that requires only one working day a year…
It seems kids are cool with a Lady Santa, and believe women and men are equally able to deliver. We’re delighted that the younger generation supports gender equality in the workplace!
However, when we dove in further and asked kids whether Christmas as a whole would be different, it was clear that men and women really are perceived differently. Although we asked if anything about the holiday itself would change, kids focused on fairly stereotyped assumptions of a female’s appearance, diet, and ability to take on certain occupational hazards (sleigh driving and chimney soot, to be exact).
“Nothing would change except she might rethink the outfit.” -Ava, age 9
“Christmas wouldn’t be any different apart from lady Santa wearing a nice dress and no beard!” Lucy, age 9
“If Santa was a girl, she would probably go slower, but do a better job.” -Henry, age 6
“Getting down the chimney will be a bit different because women usually care about how dirty they get… so women would be a bit slower, because of the chimneys.” -Rosa, age 8
“We wouldn’t leave cookies for Santa, but just carrots, or maybe a fruit shake.” -Isaiah, age 10
“Santa would be skinny and young… and instead of reindeer, she’d have unicorns.” -Aoife, age 9
Although kids are readily willing to accept a female Claus, most assume she’ll have stereotyped ‘feminine’ traits.
All We Want for Christmas Is…
Equal opportunities for all. And the good news is, we’re halfway there. Clearly kids are open to men and women doing the same job, but there are still obvious assumptions of gender norms. Perhaps the world could benefit from a Lady Santa, not re-imagined in a prescribed version of festive femininity, but simply as a female donning the same red suit and getting on with it. After all, if the Santa character is fictional anyway, can’t we change the rules?
We’d like to live in a world where everyone can enjoy a whole range of experiences, unrestrained by gender. This starts with us, the grown-ups. We can continue to teach our kids that girls and boys are equally capable, and that limits of any kind can impede our potential. Perhaps we can question why females are expected to be daintier and neater than males? Or why men are expected to be braver and stronger than women? Opening our minds to these questions is the beginning of change.
Whether we welcome a hero or heroine of Christmas, the result should be the same: families and friends enjoying time together over the holidays and appreciating each other.
We wish you a Merry / Mary Christmas!