Nothing says “Merry Christmas!” like an offensive, sexist gift.
I’m a big fan of weird novelty and gag products. On my desk at work, I have a miniature replica of my own office, made from Cubes figurines. At home, I’ve got Fighting Grandads wind-up toys and ice cube trays that make icebergs and the Titanic shapes.
But sometimes, novelty gifts stray away from being slightly odd to being just plain sexist. It’s never more apparent than at Christmas time, when these products get promoted as great gifts.
Example 1: Control-a-Man & Control-a-Woman Remote Controls.
The description for this product sells these remotes as a replacement for couples therapy: “Get him to take you shopping, stop farting, and most importantly, propose! Get her to hurry up in the bathroom, cook you a great meal, and strip on command.”
Obviously it’s a joke, but it’s a joke that relies on the assumption that women are out to change men’s habits and trap them into marriage, while all men want women to be domestic goddesses with insatiable libidos.
Example 2: Fake Hickeys.
These fake hickeys from gagsandgoods.com, which “adhere like temporary tattoos,” are marketed to men, but the picture shows one on the cheek of a sleeping woman. I know I’d be pretty pissed if I woke up to find that someone had put a fake hickey on my face, especially one I might not be able to wash off before work.
Is it only considered an appropriate prank because society treats women’s bodies as the property of men? Does that make it acceptable to play this kind of potentially humiliating and sexualized joke?
Example 3: Girl Flu Rescue Kit
This gift contains a “Grumpy, but Gorgeous” eye mask and a notepad for the sick girl to ask for gossip, trashy TV, a new credit card, ice cream, or wine. This reinforces the stereotype that women are moody and fragile and want men to give them money for shopping.
The sad thing is, it’s not like the sexist assumptions underlying these types of gifts are necessary for humor. I’m aware of no such beliefs underlying the awesome Deluxe Librarian Action Figure set, modeled on real librarian Nancy Pearl, featuring deluxe shushing action:
Or, how about using a remote control on some Hopping Yodelling Liederhosen instead of your girlfriend?
If you want to make someone else merry this Christmas, it’s more than possible to do it with a funny gift that doesn’t demean women.