December 22, 2019

Consent, Sexism and Colonialism in Popular Christmas Songs

By Christina Daudlin

On the day after Halloween (or Remembrance Day if you’re lucky), it’s safe to say that the music on the radio changes a little. Suddenly, we’re heading Byng Crosby and Michael Bublé crooning about white Christmases, Spotify keeps recommending the newest Jonas Brothers Christmas single and Mariah Carey is back up on the most frequently streamed artists lists.

The arrival of Christmas music truly signifies the beginning of the holiday the season. More recently, some of our favourite Christmas songs have been receiving backlash over their sexism and problematic themes.

Here are 5 Christmas songs that need a little updating:

  1. Baby, it’s Cold Outside

This song has been called out for the past few years for its implications of rape culture and how it depicts (the lack of) consent, especially with the rise of the #MeToo movement. Some artists have tried produce more “woke” versions of the song, such as the version released this year by John Legend and Kelly Clarkson.

Most problematic lines: “My Mother will start to worry (Beautiful, what’s your hurry)/ My father will be pacing the floor (Listen to the fireplace roar)… /Say what’s in this drink?”

2. Santa Baby

This song has always made me feel a little gross. This Santa guy sounds pretty controlling- talk about a power imbalance.

Most problematic lines: “Been an awful good girl/Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight…/Think of all the fun I’ve missed/ Think of all the fellas that I haven’t kissed/ Next year I could be also good/ If you checked off my Christmas list”

3. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

Another song that always seemed a little off colour to me. Is the kid’s mom cheating on their dad with Santa? Is Dad dressed up as Santa and the parents are unaware of their child watching them? Why is the kid so excited? This song just leaves me a confused and uneasy.

Most problematic lines: “I saw mommy kissing, kissin’, kissin’ Santa Claus/ I did, I really did see mommy kissing Santa Claus/ And I’m gonna tell my dad”

4. Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer

Why are we singing about someone’s grandma getting injured? This song is all about violence against women and the grandpa’s lack of reaction to the situation make it even more inappropriate.

Most problematic lines: “Now we’re all so proud of grandpa/ He’s been taking this so well/ See him in there watching football/ Drinking beer and playing cards”

5. Do They Know it’s Christmas?

This song isn’t the one that we initially think about when thinking about problematic Christmas songs, but this song has strong implications of themes of white saviourism and colonialism. The song also homogenizes and makes grossly inaccurate depictions of African countries.

Most problematic lyrics:  “And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime/ The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life/ Where nothing ever grows/ No rain nor rivers flow/ Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?”

Next time you hear Christmas music playing in the car, the stores and in your headphones, take a second to think about some of the implications that some these songs make. While many of them were products of their time, that doesn’t make the sexism, colonialism and ignorant themes ok.

Happy listening everyone and have a safe & happy holiday season!

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