Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas is the sweet old grandpa synonymous with a global good mood during the holiday season. You know, the figure that kept kids sleepless with anticipation, hope, and joy at receiving Christmas presents throughout the centuries. The stuff of legend…
Well, some are now finding a fault with that.
Times change, and 2017, for example, has seen a greater acceptance of terms such as “gender fluid” – the idea that a person doesn’t necessarily have to identify with a specific, fixed gender, regardless of their biological sex.
The term and the notions it implies have caused a controversy amongst not a small number of the population, with some feeling that renaming public, or cultural figures is a bit too much. The latest locus of these politically charged wars? Santa Claus, or as some call him, Father Christmas. Some people have a problem with Santa being exclusively male, i.e. a “father”, and seek to rename him to Person Christmas so as to make “it” more neutral – but others fiercely oppose this, seeing it as an unnecessary intervention into what has been a centuries-long tradition.
No one asked Santa how he feels about changing gender, though.
Twitter, of course, had ideas. Twitter always has ideas:
Petition for me to be the new gender-fluid Santa Claus. Cute stockings and a deep hearty belly laugh. https://t.co/1lVIIxApkP
— Enby Claus (@RinnieWinter) October 10, 2017
Santa Claus is gender fluid. https://t.co/ObGsVug45L
— Donovan McNasty (@Optimus_blu) March 29, 2017
ok cool but what about a gender fluid santa!!!!!!!
— Chico Montoya (@JoaquinHerr) December 3, 2016
After John Lewis removed gender labels from their clothes, some hoped that they’ll introduce a gender fluid Santa too. But, it’s not what happened:
John Lewis will be first department store to have a gender fluid Santa. They’ve already brought in gender neutral labelling for kids clothes
— Patriotic Brit 🎅 🇬🇧🎄⛄️️ 🎅🍾 ❤️💘 (@PatrioticBrits) September 21, 2017
And while adults are apparently capable of arguing about anything – one has to wonder, why are we using childhood figures like this (i.e. Father Christmas) – as the latest battleground for concepts adults are obsessed with? I’m starting to think most adults are irreparable control freaks. It’s either my way, or the highway, the gist of a lot of opinions seems to be.
Historically, however, Father Christmas (Santa Claus) grew out of legends and traditions inspired by Saint Nicholas. Who, you guessed it, was a guy. Should we erase that fact?
Children don’t really care.
But few people know that Santa Claus and Father Christmas are not the same person. Sure, they are mostly conflated because the ideas are pretty much the same, but according to Dawn Porter, a writer for Time Travel Britain, there is nuance here:
“The American Santa Claus has one source – he originated from Dutch settlers’ stories about Sinter Klass – the Dutch name for St Nicholas and how he gave presents to girls and boys. St Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in Turkey in the 3rd century AD, who would travel in his red bishop’s robes and give gifts to the poor.”
There has been some confusion about Santa and his red outfit, though, with some believing it was added later by Coca-Cola in an advertising attempt. But that’s not true, because Saint Nicholas, the Bishop f Myra himself, is known for wearing red robes, lined with white, even back in 3AD.
But let’s do a thought experiment and imagine that Father Christmas is now Person Christmas. What will such a change entail?
Well, for a start, no more beard. The iconic symbol of Santa Claus will have to be erased, and people all over the world will not be able to disguise who they are whenever Christmas comes. Besides, what will the kids have to pull then? That beard is kind of a necessary pacifier.
A Person Christmas would have no beard.
And how about making a snowman? Is it going to become a snowwoman? Or a snowperson? Maybe a snowBEING? Because, you know, political correctness?
But the list goes on. Will Rudolph the reindeer have to be turned into a… dunno, what exactly would be a genderless reindeer? Is that even possible?
Twitter offered a solution:
My mom and dad just made up a new reindeer for Santa. Gender fluid deer named “Sancerre” after their favorite wine
— Adah (@adahkayy) July 3, 2017
On the other hand, Claudia Carvell, a member of the LGBT Foundation, spoke to UNILAD. She said that we need more gender fluid representation, regardless of what we do with Santa:
“Gender fluidity is an important issue for everyone, regardless of their gender identity – it shouldn’t just be a LGBT issue. The conversation just starts with gender-neutral clothing lines or gender-fluid imagery, we need to be hearing more of the voices and experiences of gender-fluid and non-binary people.”
She then added: “In Western societies we’re fixed on binary gender roles – but we need far more representation for non-binary and gender fluid people, and ‘they’ pronouns instead of just he’s and she’s. We need representation across the board and not representation in a fixed way – stereotypes can be damaging to people for numerous reasons.”
“We have a restrictive idea of what a man or woman is and it assumes women have to be feminine and men masculine – and there’s no room for people who feel they’re both or neither. Everyone experiences these gender pressures, whether they’re LGBT or not, so gender fluidity is something we all need to be discussing,” Claudia concluded.
And she raises some valid points.
But Santa is probably the last place to start with that. It probably needs to start at home, at least in raising awareness. In fact, some couples have already raised their children as “gender fluid”, with the intention of letting the child decide what they identify is – male, female, or something else – when they grow up.
The (biologically) boy is called Star, and “his” parents, or its parents (difficult to navigate this by conventional grammar rules, no?) Louise and Nikki Draven, claim that they want the child to explore ‘both sides’, which would allow it to discover its own gender without constraints from the outside. (Doesn’t everyone do that though, albeit to a lesser extent?)
Star’s (biological) mother, Nikki, says she identifies as both female and male. Star, however, refers to Nikki as ‘dad’ – even though it is Louise, who is undergoing a transition to becoming a female, is Star’s biological father.
In case that made you scratch your head a bit, here’s an interview:
It begs the question, though, if this form of experimental parenting is actually beneficial or confusing to the child, who keeps referring to one of them as ‘dad’. Because, let’s face it – regardless of what dad looks like, a dad is invariably biologically male.
Are we back to adults playing their games over children? Or will Star end up more enlightened in the end, anyway? Enlightened about what, though? Hard to say.
Twitter users had their remarks too:
You want your child to be able to make their own decisions, and yet you’re forcing the child to have no gender? #ThisMorning
— Nicole❄️☃💨 (@evildollhouse) August 15, 2017
#ThisMorning as much as I agree with transgender etc. This is crazy let the kid live then let him choose who he wants to be.
— Lick my baubles (@screamobeast) August 15, 2017
Basically they are just giving the boy more labels. Just let him be and do what he wants without adding confusion to it. #ThisMorning
— Sarah (@CottomSarah) August 15, 2017
Well, what do you think? Should we push for a change of social norms for the sake of change? Are some social norms there for a reason? What could be the possible effects of the changes, and the status quo, respectively?
One thing is certain, however – the debate is far from over.