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Christmas marks a time of festivity and merriment, a time for the family to bond, but for many women, it’s that time of the year when the patriarchal divide is further emphasised. What is considered to be the best time of the year tends to be a point of stress for those who spend it behind the scenes making sure everyone’s else’s holiday runs smoothly.
Ahead of the holidays, Document Women put out a survey asking women how they felt about Christmas and the festivities. Out of the 22 respondents, the majority said they did not look forward to the holidays.
From the responses, a break is the highlight of the celebration, one respondent clearly stated that Christmas represents “a clear 10 days off when work emails virtually stop.” While some women like the time spent with family, the food and activities and the general ambience of the season, other responses ranged from nothing to “everything is okay because it’s Christmas”.
What do women like least about the holidays?
Everything and nothing; the requirement of buying presents, the visits from family members they don’t like, the guests, the loneliness, the endless barrage of chores and as one respondent said, “the false joy everyone thinks is mandatory”.
An integral factor of the holidays that women across the board seem to dislike is the cooking. Women spend a lot of their time in the kitchen while their male counterparts enjoy themselves at family gatherings.
Christmas can be hours and hours of unpaid, often unappreciated work, called emotional labour, and though it’s a year-long concern, it takes on an even greater impact around Christmas.
Women do the “Christmas shopping”, a study made in 2013 showed that 61 per cent of women were responsible for buying presents while just 8 per cent of men said they did the shopping. In Nigeria, it’s not uncommon to hear women make plans for the holidays as soon as the fourth quarter of the year rolls in. Women want to stock up their stores so there’s food for the family, any visitors and more.
It is oppression to view cooking, a high effort, low reward activity, as a woman’s prerogative. More ridiculous still is the fact that some people (men) expect women to do it sans complaint.
Mothers, and eventually daughters, are enlisted to take on every task possible either because the men won’t do it or they will but poorly. There’s also the expectation that financial provision for the holiday trumps the work expectations for the holiday, this pressure to make everything the best turns it into a not so merry Christmas.
Dishonest takes such as “it is a bonding experience” have been used to silence Nigerian women when they complain about the burden of spending time preparing elaborate meals. Women can bond outside the kitchen, in spaces where they can relax and be taken care of and contrary to popularly held misogynistic beliefs, many women do not look forward to the holidays for this very reason.
It’s not just about the physical effort of cooking and cleaning, it is the mental exhaustion that comes from having to concern oneself with everything that makes Christmas so special for everyone else.
Christmas is not a woman’s job, Women deserve to enjoy Christmas. It is not a woman’s job to create a magical day for someone else.