Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Christmas Shopping

I've recently noticed something on television that I find a little disturbing.  All of the ads about holiday shopping either show:
1) Mom/wife doing all of the shopping for the family.
2) Husband confused and terrible at buying gifts, wrapping gifts, and guessing what people want.

I find this disturbing mostly because it mimics the gender roles in my relationship, and I never thought of our holiday shopping practices as gendered.  This is because in the past, I've been a student or I've been unemployed.  Therefore I have had the free time to go do all the holiday shopping.  In fact, since high school, I've played Santa for my entire family, from my grandmother to my little cousins, and this trend continues.  My mom and I usually go Black Friday shopping to buy gifts for people, but this year we missed that and I've done most of the shopping on my own because my mom has been overwhelmed at work (it turns out being a highly successful doctor is demanding.)

So this year, as in years past, we've collected together family wishlists, organized what we are getting, and then I ordered everything on Amazon or picked it up on my way to work.  We tackle wrapping together in the evenings leading up to Christmas, and try to make sure we have everything organized and together for multiple Christmases.  It works for us, because I don't work long hours and the Amazon prime subscription is on my account.  It works for us because I love buying gifts for people.  I love the challenge of thinking of what somebody wants or needs that they don't even know they want or need.  I love writing down gift ideas I have for people months in advance, and then three months later they are delighted I have remembered something they mentioned in passing.  I am, largely, the kind of person who is a little too blunt and a little too awkward and often says the wrong thing, but with gifts, I can say or do the right thing.

It nags at me, though, the gendered-ness of it.  That we reinforce the idea that women, as the caretakers and the nurturers, are the ones responsible for the purchasing of holiday gifts.  How can I fight the stereotype while not giving up on the thing I love the most about the holidays?  What do you and your partner do?


  1. Keep in mind that, all else being random / unsexist, if a task is handled by one partner or the other there's going to be a 50-50 chance that we wind up fitting the stereotypical gender roles. Taking everything together, I'd guess we're something like 65-35, which could be worse.

  2. I figure that marriage is a brilliant opportunity to do what you're good at and compromise in the areas where your talents do not lie. All that matters is that everyone speaks up if they aren't happy with the arrangements.

    Put all thoughts of fighting gender stereotype out of your head. While it shouldn't be something that you're forced into, it shouldn't be something you force yourself out of, either. The point of life is not to break the stereotype, but to be happy (and, I always think, useful). Do what makes you happy.