The Privilege of Christmas Carols

shutterstock_222571633It’s that holly, jolly time of year again when the festive patriarchy and cultural majority rises up and celebrates itself for its good-spirited, happy camaraderie. A time when we sing in hearty chorus, celebrating the triumphs and tribulations overcome by our favorite heroes, chipper and forward-looking, pulling themselves up by their red-and-green-striped bootstraps.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas carols. Aside from gorging myself on butter-filled, bad-for-me, you’ll-never-get-into-Self-magazine cookies, they’re my favorite part of the holidays. But where are all the lady-centric songs?

We can’t really fault the religious hymns for being about a guy. According to all the churches, God had a Son and we will sing about Him on Christmas when He was born.

Then there are our favorite secular-ish good guys. We’ve got Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a quirky little fellow who’s just a bit different, but uses his unique traits as selling points until the establishment is forced to recognize his value. Nice job, Rudolph! That’s how you do it all by yourself, see? No one in a position of power readily gave you a boost or anything.

And who could forget Frosty the Snowman, a jolly pile of man-snow who basically just does whatever the heck he wants. Eff the police, am I right, Frosty? Law enforcement will obviously understand you’re just a silly, happy-hearted bloke with a penchant for goodwill and a blind spot for stoplights.

Seems women are underrepresented in this realm, like so many others, save for a few tunes like “Santa, Baby.” Let’s see what it would look like if the vast majority of women were represented in that song:

Santa Baby:

Santa baby, just looking for a moderate raise, these days;
Been a good employee, Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa baby, a comfortable maternity leave;
I’ll sign up for the care; Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight.

Think of all the work I’ve done;
Think of all the money that I haven’t won;
Next year I could be just as good… if you lift the ceiling up to the sun

Santa baby, I want to trot and not be told that I’m hot;
I should smile some more; Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa honey, I’d really like some child support…
In court… that would help out our kids, Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with the money, not for me;
Then call your kids on the line, Santa cutie,
and hurry down the chimney tonight.

Come and trim my Christmas tree with health care decisions made for me by me;
I really do believe in you;
Let’s see if you believe in me…

Santa baby, and don’t call me a slut or a whore, for sure…
when you’re drugging my drink; Santa baby,
So hurry down the chimney tonight

Hurry down the chimney tonight
Hurry, tonight!

Boy, I can feel the patriarchy collectively holding hands and belting that out. Or not. I guess everything is just that much more fun when you’re a cheeky holiday hero out for a laugh, telling a heartwarming tale that could happen to *almost* anyone. Don’t listen to me. Go blast those carols, I know I will. I hate ruining Christmas. Maybe next year the world will change enough so I won’t have to.

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Image via Shutterstock


Darlena Cunha is a former TV producer turned freelance journalist and mom. She blogs daily at Parent Win and writes for TIME magazine, The Washington Post and The Atlantic among others. She’s been published in The New York Times, McSweeney’s, and Wired, plus many more. You can find her on Twitter @parentwin.


  1. For the religious, my family always shared an older obscure carol at Christmastime which focused on Mary as much as Jesus.

    “Oh the holly she bears a berry as white as the milk/and Mary she bore Jesus all wrapped up in silk/ Mary she bore Jesus our savior for to be/and the first tree that’s in the greenwood/ it was the holly.
    And the first tree that’s in the greenwood/ it was the holly. ”

    It goes on like that, green as the grass, as blood it is red, as black as the coal, and so on.

  2. The Mary-carols and songs most often tell of the accepted female things; how she looked, she mothered, what she did for Him.
    Not actually about Mary. Kind of like in movies, where they place a woman to give pondus to a man, highlighting His deeds, supporting him, talking of him etc. A footlamo highlighting male characters.

    I’d love to write a song about how it must’ve been for Mary to actually live in that pathriarcal culture, knowing she kind of carries a “bastard”-baby, risking her life, what did she think, what did she feel, what was her dreams and wishes besides all. 🙂

  3. Can we rewrite “baby it’s cold outside” as well? How about “baby it’s cold outside, but I’ll run out and get your car started for you because I understand you need to leave and I respect that and want you to be comfortable and warm on your drive home.” Vs the usual “nah baby, it’s ok, have another drink…by the fire…lemme take that coat off…” Even my kids find it uncomfortably “date-rapey.”

  4. Seriously? You’re actually going to deconstruct Christmas carols? Does everything have to relate to some perceived political statement or position? You really need to get a life! Tell you what, you can sing about a snowwoman instead of a snowman if that makes you happy. You can also make Scrooge and the Grinch into female villains as well. Geeze….

  5. Charles Dickens says:

    A Christmas Carol in Prose

    Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the
    moment, said, “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug.”

    “Don’t be cross, uncle!” said the nephew.

    “What else can I be,” returned the uncle, “when I live in such a
    world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas!
    What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without
    money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour
    richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em
    through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I
    could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes
    about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his
    own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He

    “Uncle!” pleaded the nephew.

    “Nephew!” returned the uncle, sternly, “keep Christmas in your
    own way, and let me keep it in mine.”
    “Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.”
    “Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it
    do you! Much good it has ever done you!”

    “There are many things from which I might have derived good,
    by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew.
    “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of
    Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration
    due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be
    apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant
    time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when
    men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts
    freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were
    fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures
    bound on other journeys.

    December, 1843

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