The holiday winter season is a special time of the year. Around the world, families, friends and random guests get together around the dinner table to celebrate and share. Most of the festivities are linked to specific religious celebrations while others are linked to historical practices such as Boxing Day or ancestral observance of natural phenomenon such as the winter solstice, a landmark of rebirth. These holidays are unique opportunities to practice tolerance and kindness.
In spite of the different elements that motivate these celebrations, they share a common element: people gather to share the joy. Joy meaning gifts. Starting in Thanksgiving (last week of November) and ending in Día de los Reyes (January 6th) the gifts exchange is an essential part of holidays. Some countries start early with Saint Nicholas (6th or 19th December) while others try to extend their celebrations as much as they can. This is the case of Mexicans celebrating Posadas or Colombians with Novenas, starting on December 16th until Christmas day. All of these dates bring out the best of us, invading our hearts with love and empathy for each other.
This is also a very happy time for businesses. In the US, around 20% of total yearly retail sales take place during the holiday season, estimated this year in 620 billion dollars. Billions. To get a better sense of this number, the annual U.S. Defense budget for 2015 was 601 billion, while funding 15 UN peace operations for a year cost around 8.3 billion. We are talking serious money in here. Not happy with these numbers, businesses foster debauchery events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It is common to see videos of people fighting to get stuff on discount on these dates. Capitalism’s greed has the great ability to make profits and encourage the worst on us on holiday season. Beware.
But let’s not get discouraged by this. The 2015 winter season offers a unique and remarkable opportunity to use our ability to spread the joy to promote social change.
Use this season to promote gender equality purposefully . How? Here are three specific actions to do it:
- Shop with purpose
Use your dollars, pounds and pesos to send a clear message. Support companies and start-ups using business opportunities to shape society in positive ways. It is highly likable that they are not going to be featured in Amazon, so it might require some effort on your side. To help you in this process, check out Clothes Without Limits. This is a fantastic initiative by nine business women who offer fashionable clothing for kids challenging the pink-for-girls-blue-for-boys kind of approach. Also, moving away from the gender binary to allow kids to explore life based on their interests and not based solely on their sex. You can use your purchasing ability as a powerful tool to promote ideas of gender equality and challenge harmful gender norms in society.
- Call out gender inequality crap
Use this holiday season to hone on your skills to call out sexism and the promotion of gender inequality in ads and publicity. If you see publicity that is sending the wrong message, share it widely. Tag the company and share it with Defying Gender Roles on Facebook or Twitter, use the hashtag #HolidayCrap. Social networks are powerful tools, companies will pay attention, so speak up and speak out! This is the most important season of the year for them. If you don’t believe me, check out what happened after Bloomingdale’s published this disgusting date rape suggestion ad. If you see something, say something!
- Foster conversations about gender issues, especially with men
If you are not into buying gifts, what about giving experiences? Use this holiday season to foster conversations about gender issues, especially with men. Gender inequality requires men to get involved. Prevailing harmful gender roles and norms that affect women but also limit the way in which men experience in life. Here are three cool movies to watch: Boyhood, Miss Representation and The Mask We live in.
Take advantage of the holidays to gather with family and friends and create meaningful conversations about how prevailing gender norms affect us all and how we can work together to promote gender equality.