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Holly's take on it


‘Feminist’ bauble, by Rockett St George

As we start our manic descent into Christmas — or what, for many women, is akin to running up a hill carrying eight sacks of potatoes and the weight of an in-law’s cold hard stare, to try and catch a child with a box of matches in one hand and a firework in the other — there’s only one way this is going to be a ‘Merry Christmas’. We need to call ‘bullshit’. 

Yes not all men leave the vast majority of the work up to women and there’s a real danger in gender stereotyping for many reasons but the facts are this:

  • Women do 40% more housework and childcare than men¹
  • 33% more women than men reported feeling stressed, anxious, depressed and lonely at Christmas²
  • In a nationwide survey, British men admitted spending an average of 11 hours over the Christmas period hiding away from their families³
  • One in six female respondents believed they were more likely to suffer emotional or physical abuse from their partner over the Christmas period too⁴ (of course, not all partners will identify as being male but it’s fair to assume a pretty high proportion of them will do)

What women are experiencing is not equality. Christmas is a feminist issue. So let’s just collectively agree to approach this year differently — here are some thoughts on how…


Christmas is the time when stereotypical gender roles manifest themselves the most. Research shows women tend to take on most of the Christmas chores and emotional labour which often leads to both mental and physical exhaustion. Are all the presents bought? Can we really fit in two dinners? Are both sides of the family receiving enough attention? Is all the food ordered? Wasn’t P’s eldest a vegan? Shouldn’t we be using eco-friendly wrapping paper? The list goes on. As dear Roald Dahl noted, it’s not Father Chirstmas but Mother Christmas who’s frantically busy in the run up to the big day itself.

mother Christmas

‘Where art thou, Mother Christmas’, by Roald Dahl (featured on Tyger Tale)

This year, agree with whoever you’re spending it with, the kind of Christmas you want to have. Then look at the tasks that will get you there and divvy up the responsibilities between you. Make sure that everything — the mental as well as the physical jobs — are under consideration, and that you all have a fair share of each. It takes a lot more brain power to work out all the extended family’s gifts than it does to buy some sprouts, for example. 


As women, we want to enjoy it and often know that the only way we’ll be happy is if it’s done the way we want it to be done. There is no way Frank will ever just run Christmas. Well, not with it being anything like how I would want to spend it or for my house to look. As much as I’d love to say, “Yes I’m leaving it up to you because I’ve done it every other year since history began and I need a break.” But I’m a 45 year old woman and I have needs! So what I might need to do is communicate better. 

Me having to explain to Frank for the third time in a row how or where to hang the advent boxes or what to fill them with isn’t taking something off my list, it’s adding to it — so I need to say that. Feeling like all the hard work I put into organising a memorable festive break for all of us is ignored hurts me. I’m not looking for gold stars, just basic acknowledgement. Harry saying a heartfelt, “Thanks for making this Christmas really special, Mum.” is enough. And surely it’s right, as women, that we ask for and expect that. We need to have the conversation. Explain why it means a lot to us and ask for what we want. What would good look like for you this year? 


Be honest. There’s a fine line between being cross when partners or other family members aren’t helping, and actually just not letting or wanting anyone else to do it. Ringfence the bits that bring you joy but other than that, invite help. Bring up children to do it themselves: Going to the post office, roasting parsnips, collecting the grandparents, sending their own cards — it’s important they learn it’s not ‘Mum’s job’. I mean, my son won’t so I wish you all well reading this and hope that you’re better role models than me, but still!

Christmas planner, by Fox & Moon


Change takes time. If you’ve not addressed this with the people you live with before, it’ll likely take two or three years to happen. It takes an average of 66 days for new behaviour to become automatic but that’s when you’re practising it consistently⁵. Christmas happens once a year and then we forget about it for the next twelve months. That’s why it’s important to keep talking about the issue or emotional labour and reinforcing the idea over time, not just for us but for the generations that follow. 

‘Do not let yourself burn out’ candle, by Jack Laverick in collaboration with [vinegar & brown paper]


There’s a whole psychology behind why many men wait until the last minute to buy Christmas gifts⁶, and in many cases, it’s actually not for negative reasons. Some are perfectionists who want to find gifts their family will truly love. As pragmatic shoppers by nature, some find the experience stressful because they prefer to ‘buy’ rather than ‘shop’. Plus there’s a difference between not being thoughtful and just not wanting to get it wrong. 

So how can we work around it to even out the workload? Start earlier and do it together. Map out the run up to Christmas week by week and make mini deadlines. We’re not just busy in real life but busy in our brains too so spreading it out and clarifying jobs makes it easier all round. We can’t be our most creative selves otherwise and this takes the pressure off. Similarly, if there’s a gift we’d really appreciate, doesn’t it make more sense to say so or help them find it rather than hoping they get the hint and being disappointed if they don’t? It feels like we’re setting people up to fail somehow. 

‘It’s the most stressful time of the year’ print, by Paper Sheriff


For far too many women, Christmas most definitely isn’t the most wonderful time of the year. A survey by Stowe Family Law found that one in six respondents believed they were more likely to suffer emotional or physical abuse from their partner over the Christmas period. Plus an estimated 15,000 children in the UK will be exposed to domestic abuse over the two week festive season⁷ — which again, will impact women more than men. So how can we help? 

If the majority of perpetrators are men and we’re often treating the symptom not the cause, then surely it’s men that need to address it somehow? Women can’t control what men do. What we can control, however, is trying to help the females in our lives to achieve financial independence before they are in a situation they are dependent on. Can we pool our skills? Help with childcare? Or set up joint emergency ‘fuck off funds’ for those who need to leave dangerous or difficult situations or better still, leave situations before they become dangerous? Keep talking to friends and pay attention, and if you are worried that someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free and confidential advice on 0808 2000 247. 


For once, think about you and what you want to get out of this Christmas. If it’s creating memories you’ll look back on with joy, not rushing around feeling miserable, then create that. Make space for you and the things you love. As the wonderful Mo Gawdatt said on Conversations of Inspiration, we are all responsible for our own happiness, if it’s possible to attain it. We live but once. It is not selfish but self-full to ensure you are in the best place mentally.

‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’ mug, by Zara McLaughlin Studio

I wish all of you who celebrate it the merriest Christmas there could possibly be, and that this year, us women take the time to make the most of it. Because Christmas is a feminist issue and it’s about time things got evened out. 



  1. Guardian article on emotional labour at Christmas 
  2. YouGov report on mental health at Christmas
  3. Guardian article on emotional labour at Christmas 
  4. DV-ACT report on domestic abuse increase over Christmas 
  5. Healthline article on forming habits
  6. Forbes psychology of why men wait to Christmas 
  7. DV-ACT report on domestic abuse increase over Christmas 

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