Humbugs abound as I do my annual Christmas shop. Not because I don’t revel in the idea of finding exciting and unique gifts to shower upon my loved ones, but because everywhere I turn I’m confronted with ridiculous lists of ‘gift ideas for him’ or, indeed, ‘her.’ In honour of this horror, here are my 12 sexist (and not so sexist) Christmas gift lists.
On the first day of Christmas my true love/friend/mum/colleague who drew my name in the office secret Santa gave to me…
1. A Ryan Gosling tea-towel
That’s right, number one on the Prezzybox list of ‘stocking fillers for women‘ is a Ryan Gosling tea towel. Because if there’s one thing women love more than spending quality time in the kitchen, it’s drying pots and pans with a celebrity’s face. Bonus points for trying to persuade us to spend almost an entire tenner on a ‘stocking filler’.
Note that those who might not have been tempted by the Ryan Gosling tea towel might instead like chocolate pills. So what’s the equivalent for men?
2. Tabasco-flavoured chocolate
Luckily the man in your life can have chocolate in his stocking too, but none of this ‘chocolate pills’ nonsense. This sweet treat for your man is Tabasco-flavoured. According to prezzybox, to women chocolate is some sort of emergency medication, but to men it is a delivery mechanism for SPICY HEAT.
3. A gendered gift experience
For those with more money to spend, why not treat your loved one to a special day? They can go paintballing, if they are blue, or for afternoon tea, if they are pink. Boots actually gets bonus points in the ‘trying not to be too sexist’ stakes, because when you click on either of these panels they take you to the same page. If they get rid of the pink ‘for her’ and blue ‘for him’ landing pages next year, Father Christmas might take them off his ‘naughty’ list.
4. A mug that kills women who touch it
There’s nothing more traditional than a mug with a crap slogan, and iwoot (the website formerly known as I Want One Of Those Dot Com) has come through with a few. Their gifts for him offers the ‘man mug‘. It comes complete with spirit level, to check how horizontal your masculinity is. It also has a sign on the bottom which makes it absolutely clear the mug is Not For Girl -, I can only assume that if a lady drinks from it, she is instantly poisoned:
Still, ladies mustn’t worry, because if they’re lucky then they’ll get a mug in their stocking too. For women iwoot suggests this ‘Little Miss Giggles’ mug (spirit level definitely not included):
5. Virgin experiences
If you’re after a special day out, Virgin’s one-upped Boots and does indeed have special, separate pages for women and men. Phew. No more wading through spa days when you want to buy a dude a day out: it’s cars and paintball almost all the way. I say ‘almost’ because… what’s this?
That’s right – a special afternoon tea. Not one of those boring ladies’ ones with sandwiches, no. This one has been (as the copy explains) ‘designed to satisfy a man’s taste and appetite’. Which it turns out means switching sandwiches for mini toad-in-the-hole. Oh, and illustrating the ‘tea’ with a picture that contains ‘beer’. Although, according to the copy, there will only be a choice of tea or coffee, there is beer in the picture because that is what men like. See below.
7. Beer, glorious beer
How much do men like beer? A lot, according to totallyfunky.co.uk.
Of course these beer-related items only appear first because the list is alphabetical, and if you scroll down further you’ll see that men also like Darth Vader and eating out of dog bowls.
So that’s Christmas sorted for your dad/brother/husband etc. But what should you get your daughter? Totallyfunky suggests bath products, gloves, and a shoe that you put a spoon in. Or you could go for…
7. Anything to do with One Direction
If the lady you’re buying for is a bit too young for the Ryan Gosling tea towel, The Works has you covered. With One Direction. EVERYWHERE.
Of course, boys don’t like One Direction, so instead they get dinosaurs and helicopters.
8. Not-so-sexy underwear
One of my personal bugbears is that when it comes to Christmas underwear, straight guys are encouraged to buy something sexy, slinky, and sensuous for their partners, whereas straight women are offered a selection of comedy Christmas socks or hilarious cock-cosies with which to wow him. This red-hot image brought to you by TopMan…
9. A world I don’t want to live in
Onwards, now, to presentfinder, where boyfriends are ‘difficult’ and girlfriends are ‘gorgeous’. It’s tricky to compare these gifts because they’re all so twee and quirky, but essentially we’re being asked to believe in a world where men like booze, money and edible tits which come in a tiny metal box:
While girls like pink VW camper vans, and being given plasters for Christmas.
Is there a better way to write Christmas gift lists?
If we say to shops “hey, this Christmas gift list is a bit sexist, isn’t it?” their response will most likely be “but it has to be – this is the stuff you’re searching for, and the stuff you end up eventually buying. If we were to stop being twats about it we’d never sell anything.” Which is partly true. We do search for ‘Christmas gifts for her’ and ‘Christmas gifts for him’ (although it looks like we’re doing it less each year).
But that’s not to say they can’t grab our attention in other ways. It’s more than possible to market effectively without descending into lazy stereotypes. Even at Christmas.
To round off the twelve, here are a few examples of shops that, I think, are doing it better.
Not-so-sexist Christmas gift lists
10. Lovehoney’s underwear hot-off
As mentioned above, I dread the ‘Christmas underwear’ thing. Mainly because it seems the idea is for a woman to receive something sexy and lacy and beautiful, and a man to get a comedy santa-hat for his bellend.
So credit, then, to Lovehoney. As a sex toy retailer, it’d be pretty hard for them to not split their toys by sex, given that so many of them depend on the sex organs that you have. So their ‘gifts for her‘ and ‘gifts for him‘ pages make sense. But on top of that, they also have the same feel: these gifts are genuine gifts for people. It’s not split by comedy vs sex: there are genuinely sexy pants for the guys, and toys that individuals will actually play with (rather than giggle at) on both sides of the sex divide.
UPDATE September 2017: Well this is very embarrassing. It’s actually not necessary to split sex toys by gender – it’s far more helpful to split by category in this instance too. Not only because there’s no need to list out e.g. ‘butt plugs for men’ (spoiler: butt plugs can be used by anyone who has a butt) but it also excludes trans and non-binary people.
To show it’s possible to sell children’s toys without painting half your website pink and shouting “YOU WANT TO BE A PRINCESS, DON’T YOU, PRINCESS?!” here’s a picture of the Argos ‘toys’ menu:
Do you see? Toys divided by category, brand, age and popularity. If you can find any hint of gender segregation there I’ll give you a mince pie.
12. Marks and Spencer
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve had a peruse of the M&S ‘Christmas’ page, and I can’t find anything that is unnecessarily gendered.
It appears that the nation’s favourite place to buy socks and knickers has resisted compiling lists of ‘gifts for him’ and ‘gifts for her’. They stick to ‘men’ and ‘women’ for clothes, which is understandable given that’s how they split it in the shops, but there don’t seem to be any lists of gifts ‘for him’ or ‘for her’. The only page I can find where they categorise gifts is by personality. “Gifts for foodies”, “Gifts for gardeners” and suchlike.
For that they get a gold star to stick on top of their Christmas tree.
The examples above are, of course, the product of my own frequently-flawed opinions and half-arsed research via Google. But I’d welcome any more examples (especially ones of shops who do it well) in the comments or via Twitter. Please tag them with #RyanGoslingTeaTowel, because Christmas should be FUN.
How to not be sexist at Christmas
Every good Christmas story has a moral, and this one’s no different. Just as it’s possible to sell toys without labeling them ‘for boys’ and ‘for girls’, it’s more than possible to flog your Christmas deals without assuming that men want beer and women want bubble bath. Not only will you get my admiration if you split your Christmas deals by personality, you’re also (prepare for a shock) making it genuinely easier for me to find the perfect present. After all, we’re not painfully simple creatures: we usually know more about the person we’re buying for than simply what gender they identify as.
I know that Sarah likes cooking, Bob likes cosy sleepwear, and yes, Ashley is a big fan of both Ryan Gosling and drying dishes. It’s a damn sight easier to find these presents if you narrow it down by something useful.