Have you decorated your home for the holidays? A patriarchal plot to make me hang ornaments instead of conquering the galaxy

Recently several people have asked me something that strikes fear into my cold and icy heart. The question is innocuous. The question is well-intended. The question makes me want to pull out my big librarian rubber stamp and do some smiting.

The question:
“Have you decorated your home for the holidays?”

No, this isn’t a war-on-Christmas screed, nor is it a rant against bland conversation.* This is about feminism. Specifically, this is about a brand of feminism I subscribe to, the kind of feminism that thinks being a woman really doesn’t require me to do extra crap around the house.

I’ve got nothing against decorating for the holidays. I’ve got nothing against talking about decorating for the holidays. I’ve got nothing against the holidays.** What I don’t like is that the lads seem to be exempt.

I have the good fortune to work in I.T., which means my co-workers are mostly male.*** I took an informal survey of these guys to see how they responded to this particular social pressure. Donning my best “we’re all girls together” face (you know the one) I sidled up and asked innocently “Have you decorated your home for the holidays”

The result? Derisive snorts, awkward this-chick-has-gone-nuts pauses, glassy stares, and one guy actually did a spit-take. Finally one gentleman described his holiday decorations. His wife, it seemed, had done a great job this year.

Fine, maybe it’s the nesting hormones. Maybe women really do love to decorate. Maybe we’re all a bunch of scented-candle-chugging tinsel-hangers. But still, I get all gitchy when somebody just assumes I subscribe to this apparently gender-specific hobby. I mean, hell. I’ve got some garlands and shit, but I don’t enjoy feeling like it’s my venereal duty to start shooting holiday cookies out my oven just because every other woman on the earth seems to be.

I would love to sum it all up for you and present a nice, clear solution to all this damned gender inequity, but I can’t think of one. Just, maybe, the next time you ask someone about their hobbies, try to stay away from the race, gender, and sexual orientation-related ones. Don’t ask the gay man if he enjoys flower arrangement Just Because He’s Gay. He might love flowers but that still doesn’t make it cool. Don’t ask the black woman if she likes collard greens Just Because She’s Black. She may love them (how could you not?), but that doesn’t make you less of an asshole. And dangit, don’t ask me about my dang holiday decorations. Ask me about my Star Wars Battlefront score. I conquered the galaxy yesterday.

*Sure, the world needs conversational crutches. But lately, the holiday decoration thing seems to be as important to office social lubrication as “what are your vacation plans?” and “can you believe how cold it is?” Hopefully, it will never be as important as “here, have another drink.”
**I’ve even got nothing against Martha Stewart. Hell, I dumpster-dive Living from the Borders’ recycling bin regularly.***The inequities of this are so obvious they don’t need to be stated right? Right?

14 Replies to “Have you decorated your home for the holidays? A patriarchal plot to make me hang ornaments instead of conquering the galaxy”

  1. I have been laughing out loud all morning at all of the responses posted here! What a hoot! It takes a lot for me to laugh while sitting in front of my computer screen but this takes the cake! Write on…everyone! I cannot wait to read more!My husband (the lazier of this partnership) is still in bed. It’s Christmas morning…teenagers in our domicile are not as perky to see what Santa brought as they used to be when they were a wee bit younger. Hence…they are also still in bed. I can hardly wait to read these responses aloud to them. My daughter who is 15 now will surely enjoy the responses to gender bias…Whether my husband and son see the humor remains to be seen. I guess I should be shooting some cookies out of the oven since I am the only one up at this time but I like my new tradition of sitting lazily in front of my computer screen laughing profusely instead. Merry Christmas to all!

  2. I love to decorate, but not for Christmas. This year my husband and I set up a tree though, because my kids (aged 3 and 5) asked for it and we needed a place to store the presents anyway. We don’t skip that part of Christmas!
    No one bothers me about decoration (anymore), I think friends and colleagues must know me by now. :-)

  3. I came home from work last week and my husband had the house in lights, the tree up and decorated and all the stockings hung by the chimmney with care, I haven’t lifted a finger granted I am more of the Halloween yard haunt person and he is a jolly elf so, my job is in October his is in December. Don’t get the wrong idea, he is crap at all but vacuuming, and occasionally swapping the laundry from washer to dryer. He won’t darn my socks or bake me creme brulee every night like I keep asking him to. It’s quite the give and take situation over here, but, it’s fairly equal if you look at the big big big picture.

  4. And in my lesbian household, no one has decorated. We had a half-hearted discussion about it, but are both too busy and tired.

    Oh wait, that’s not entirely true. I happened to find a Christmas dish towel and hung it on the fridge door, replacing the “regular” one.

    Also, no one has asked me.

  5. Nope, I think you’re a bit off. My husband is the big decorator as are most of the males in our circle of friends. In fact most of them enjoy the shopping and wrapping more than us girls AND do most of the cooking as well. The girls are usually chased from the kitchen and handed some wine and glasses with which to keep ourselves busy. The only thing that really falls to us is the writing of the cards.

    Perhaps we’ve just gotten ourselves a different brand of men/houseboys!

  6. I do a very secular Christmas. I like the tree and the lights and sitting in front of a roaring fire while sipping hot cocoa and watching the movie “A Christmas Story” (you’ll shoot your eye out!) on Christmas Eve.

    This is the first year that I am staying firmly planted at home and not going anywhere for the holidays. So, yeah, decorating happened.

    John and I obtained the (real) tree, set it up, and decorated it as a joint effort. John put up the icicle lights on the porch and around the fireplace – I just told him what to do. I did/am doing the baking because all of the recipes are from my Mom and Grandma and I have a firm sense of ownership there. One of the things I made (which is currently marinating happily in the fridge) is a real brandy-soaked fruitcake, because I am apparently one of the very few people in the world who loves fruitcake. (John must eat at least one piece, but if he ends up not liking it… more for me!)

    I guess we are pretty gender-equitable here at chez Lock and VanRoekel…

  7. Let me tell you that it’s even worse when you’re asked that question, and you don’t even celebrate the “holiday” that they clearly mean: XMas. Sigh.

  8. Hooey. have really minial decorations at my house (neighbor does the street-side shared rowhouse balcony in wall-to-wall lights) but it’s on my brothers & me to decorate the tree whatever house we’re celebrating in at the time. could easily do without but Mom likes it.
    –besides, what ARE proper solstice decorations if you don’t want to buy in to the Xmas thing? burnt offerings nailed to the porch?

  9. Love your site! I’ve been reading for ages without interaction but your lastest post demands a response!

    In my house, the decorating drive is initiated by the men (aged 38, 9 and 5) but is invitably completed by the female (a.k.a. me – age unimportant).

    This year, I nearly returned the tree to the lot (no late night adventures with a saw for this family) when the younger two of the three men broke a string of lights – the end result of a game of tug-o-war.

    So not only can you not count of the males to decorate, you can’t even count of them to not break the damn decorations (and potentially electrocute themselves)!

  10. Heh. I decorate for the holidays, in a half-assed way that mostly involves the fact that I love christmas lights, all sparkly and glowy…

    And then the cats knock over the little villagers, and pull down the strings of beads, and I shove the candle centerpiece out of the way so I can use my laptop at the table.

    It doesn’t seem worth it, somehow.

  11. I like to decorate for Halloween. Christmas decorating is just a pain to me

    If I could “[shoot] holiday cookies out my oven” though, the holidays would be a lot more fun. I’ve got some neighbors I wouldn’t miss if they were victims of drive-by cookie slayings.

  12. Guys, come on — defend ourselves. Or are we indefensible? I am banned by my partner (I nearly said ‘the good woman’!) from participating in the festive house dressing because I am crap at it. Of course, a critical discourse might claim that ‘we men’ develop this incapacity as a justification for simply being plain lazy. In that spirit I can’t be bothered to write further …

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