Five Creepy and/or Sexist Christmas Songs

December 21, 2011

You’ve heard them about a bagillion times before, and every December they are played over and over again, yup, it’s the same old Christmas and Holiday songs. But have you ever noticed that some of the lyrics can be just down right creepy? Check out this video for my Top 5 Creepy and/or Sexist Christmas Songs.

NOTE: I include Mariah Carey’s song “All I want for Christmas Is You” only to illustrate the larger overall pattern in mass media where women are constantly presented as “only wanting a man”. Carey’s song itself is not really a huge issue but the larger media pattern is definitely problematic.

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* My earrings were made by Abiquite, go visit her etsy shop.

** This video is available to be translated into other languages by volunteers like you. Please visit the subtitling page on Universal Subtitles and click TRANSLATE to get started.

Transcript

It’s that time of year again when regardless of whether you celebrate, enjoy, participate or even care about Christmas you’re constantly inundated with painfully cheery, sappy and repetitive Holiday music, everything from the Bing Crosby classics to the latest pop star’s rendition of jingle bells.

Every store you go into, every mall you enter, and all over our television screens and radios these songs are stuck on repeat for a solid month, if not more!  Those of us who happen to live in the West, probably know all the words by heart and find ourselves unintentionally singing along.   But have you ever really paid attention to what’s going on in these lyrics? Some of the messages are just down right creepy and they’re passed off as holiday cheer with hardly a comment year after year.

Here is my list of the top 5 creepiest and sexist Holiday songs.

At number 5 All I want for Christmas Is You

CLIP:
“Make my wish come true, all I want for Christmas is you”

While it might sound like an old time classic, it’s actually a contemporary Holiday song, produced for Mariah Carey in the 1990’s. On the surface it may seem cute and romantic but there’s a nasty little message embedded in the lyrics.  It’s the tired old, all women need is a man myth.  We see this disturbing message embedded in Hollywood movies, especially in romantic comedies where it essentially serves as the back bone of the entire genre.  In these stories we’re taught that women’s primary goal in life is to find Mr Right and without him, apparently our lives are all unfulfilled, boring and meaningless.

CLIP:
“I just want you for my own, More than you could ever know, Make my wish come true, All I want for Christmas is you”

With lyrics like:
“I just want you for my very own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas
Is you”

the singer expresses no desire, needs or interests in anything other then being gifted a man for Christmas.

While most covers of this song are done by women such as Shania Twain, Miley Cyrus, and Mercedes from Glee, it’s not any less creepy when a man sings it because the lyrics could be interpreted as bordering on stalker territory.

Here are some other things that you might want for christmas in addition to romance: quality time with friends and family, days off for relaxation, good homemade food, or an 11 inch, cast zinc, life size, replica of Buffy’s Slayer Scythe complete with authentic ostrich skin wrapped hand crafted wooden handle… just an idea.

And at number 4 is I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

CLIP:
“I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus, underneath the mistletoe last night”

This song was commissioned by Saks Fifth Avenue in 1952 to sell their annual Christmas Card and was originally recorded by Jimmy Boyd. It’s still a widely popular holiday song, covered by a variety of musicians from Amy Winehouse, The Jackson Five to Reba McEntire.

The song starts with “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus underneath the mistletoe last night,” and then it goes on to say “I saw Mommy tickle Santa Claus underneath his beard so snowy white.”

The story is about someone’s mom whose cheating on her husband with Santa Claus and the poor kid has to watch the whole thing, or in the best case scenario it’s his dad dressed up as Santa Claus, but either way… bleh.

Number 3, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Clip
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go, take a look in the five and ten”

This Christmas favourite was popularized by Perry Como and Bing Crosby back in 1951.  And while they sing about candy canes and silver lanes, they also celebrate and reinforce harmful gendered stereotypes in children’s toys.

Clip:
“A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots, Is the wish of Barney and Ben. Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk, Is the hope of Janice and Jen.”

The lyrics go:
“A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots, Is the wish of Barney and Ben. Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk, Is the hope of Janice and Jen.”

Really? Baby Dolls for little girls and guns for little boys? Continuing to segregate and advertise toys based on gender just works to perpetuate those nasty gendered stereotypes, plus it severely limits the development of all young people.  You can check out my video Toy Ads and Learning Gender for more on all of that.

Coming in at number 2 is Santa Baby

Clip:
“Santa baby, a 54 convertible too,
Light blue.
I’ll wait up for you dear,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.”

Santa Baby was originally recorded by Eartha Kitt in 1953 and has been covered countless time since then by artists such as Shakira, The Pussycat Dolls, Taylor Swift, Madonna.  This song might seems cute, and sweet and some have even tried to make it sexy, but it’s really another tired old stereotype about how women are materialist and shallow.   This woman is urging Santa to hurry down the chimney and bring her a convertible, a yacht, a duplex, and a ring.  The Gold Digger trope is sadly still pervasive in our popular media from pop songs to hollywood movies and this particular holiday song gets dragged out every year again and again.

And at Number 1 for the most sexist holiday song, Baby It’s Cold Outside.

Clip:
“I really can’t stay but Baby it’s cold outside
I’ve got to go away but Baby it’s cold outside
This evening has been – Been hoping that you’d drop in
So very nice”

Occasionally referred to as the Christmas Date Rape Song, this duet was written by Frank Loesser in 1936.  While the song has a sweet melody to it, this style of duet is often referred to as mouse and wolf where the mouse part is traditionally sung by a woman and the wolf part by a man.  The predatory style description is amazingly accurate given that the man spends the whole song subtly pressuring the woman into staying with him for the night.

In the first verse the woman sings “I really can’t stay, I’ve must go away, my mother will worry” and the man responds by saying “baby it’s cold outside”.

Clip:
“Beautiful, please don’t hurry
Well Maybe just a half a drink more – Put some music on while I pour. The neighbors might think – Baby, it’s bad out there. Say, what’s in this drink – No cabs to be had out there”

When she reluctantly agrees to “half a drink more” suspiciously asking “say, what’s in this drink.”  He responds that she shouldn’t hurry, she wouldn’t be able to get a cab anyway, and oh ya by the way your lips look delicious.  He also resorts to the use of guilt, with lines like “What’s the sense in hurting my pride” and “Baby don’t hold out”. Throughout the rest of the song he used to uses deceitful and manipulative techniques to constantly pressure her into giving in and getting what he wants, and just in case you aren’t clear on this point, what he wants is to get laid.

Through his slow and sustained pressure he lowers her defenses by refusing to accept her insistence on leaving.  And he may have even drugged her?

Clip:
“I simply must go but Baby, it’s cold outside
The answer is no  but baby, it’s cold outside”

I mean, she literally says, “The answer is no” yet he ignores this and keeps persisting. The song concludes with her finally giving in with the shudder inducing line, “well I really shouldn’t…. alright”.

These lyrics are a perfect illustration of the way men pressure women into experiences that they don’t want, aren’t ready for or aren’t interested in. Songs like this work to normalize this problematic male behaviour, a behaviour which contributes and perpetuates rape culture in general.

Yes, most of these songs were written over 50 years ago but every year the airwaves are flooded by the old versions as well as new rerecorded ones by the pop star of the hour.  While you probably won’t be able to avoid any of these songs this month, maybe you can use them as a way to engage in a conversation about sexism with your friends and families over the holidays.  It will make for interesting and lively conversations, I promise.

Or you could just show them this video…

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8 Responses to “Five Creepy and/or Sexist Christmas Songs”

  1. I think Jingle Bells comes in a close 6th…
    Verse 3:
    Now the ground is white
    Go it while you’re young
    Take the girl tonight
    And sing this sleighing song
    Just get a bob-tailed nag
    Two-fourty for his speed
    Just hitch him to an open sleigh and crack! you’ll take the lead

  2. I love this list, and agree completely. In fact, I was just having a conversation the other night about how “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa” creeps me out beyond reason. Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one.

  3. Wow, yes, thank you for including “baby it’s cold outside.” When I heard that song over and over this Christmas (had the xmas music bug in me!) and heard a version where the “wolf” part was particularly menacing, I finally just said, “this song is CREEPY!” My sister was baffled as I tried to explain why, because sexual overtones were high, and she refused to believe that it was even remotely about sex. “He just wants her to stay!” Either way, she clearly doesn’t want to, so let her …

  4. Thanks a lot for this great video. Guess I need listen more closely to those songs :) My thoughts on the Mariah Carey one were pretty much the same.

  5. The only one I would argue over is “Mommy Kissing Santa.” I never took it to be a lip-locking, spit-swapping kiss. When I was a kid I thought she kissed him on the cheek or nose or something. As an adult the idea of her husband dressing as Santa just amuses me. The other songs I agree with, though.

  6. One song that is creepy for both genders is – imho – “Santa Claus is coming to town”. Honestly. “He sees you, when you are sleeping. He knows, when you’re awake.”? Sounds extremely stalkerish to me.

    Well, I have to admit, hence I am not american, I didn`t know “baby it’s cold outside”, but agree with you, it is creepy, it is talking a woman into something, she doesn`t want…

    And I have to admit, that “all I want for christmas is you” was not seen as that sexist, because I thought about the woman singing, that she is in love and I found it quite cute. Now, that I have seen another perspective, I see it quite differently.

    By the way, I just knew the blip-clips since yesterday, but I have to say, that you do an extremely good job. So, keep it up. *thumbs up*

    Greets

    Cal

  7. Liza Minnelli and Alan Cumming actually did a duet of Baby, It’s Cold Outside where they swap roles halfway through, which is both funny and refreshing.

  8. I agree with everything except your interpretation of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. I think it’s a radical interpretation to say it’s a Mom cheating. It’s a confused kid who doesn’t realize that his/her dad IS Santa.