Two women dressed as Santa (Getty Images)
Two women dressed as Santa (Getty Images)

SocietyNovember 26, 2018

An urgent plea on the debate over Santa’s gender

Two women dressed as Santa (Getty Images)
Two women dressed as Santa (Getty Images)

The furore over whether or not Santa can be a woman has roared through the New Zealand mediasphere over the weekend, and even into this morning. Alex Braae offers a counterpoint on the debate.

You may have found yourself on the spot in the last few days, being asked whether or not Santa Claus should be allowed to be a woman. A man called Neville Baker, who has played Santa for the last five years, was sacked from the Auckland Christmas Parade for saying that the role should not be played by a woman.

That has led to furious social media debate, self-selecting polls, even serious news stories on the subject. But which side is right? What position should you back? Here’s a counterpoint:

Everyone, please, stop talking.

That’s not a statement of support or opposition for any side in this debate. It is merely a request that nobody ever talks about this as an issue ever again.

You do not have to have an opinion on this. You do not have to fill what precious seconds you have on this earth considering, pondering or debating whether or not women can or should wear Santa costumes. You can merely choose instead to stop talking.

To the Howick local board chairman David Collings, who said as a kid he would have preferred “Santa with boobies, just like Mummy”: please, Mr Collings, consider not talking.

To the employment law expert Jennifer Mills, who spoke to the AM Show and made the point that it was unlawful to discriminate in hiring on the grounds of gender: That’s a great point, and there is no doubting your expertise, but on this, please, stop talking.

To National Party leader Simon Bridges, who confidently told Duncan Garner that Santa is a man and ‘that’s how it should be’: I get it. You get asked questions in interviews on every subject and are expected to throw an answer out there, just like John Key did. But consider this as an option: when Duncan Garner gives you a question like that, instead of answering it, tell him to please stop talking.

We have collectively forgotten that we didn’t invent Santa so that he could be a political football in our messed up culture wars. We invented Santa to enforce behavioural norms on children. And just like the prisoner in the panopticon doesn’t care about the gender of their jailor, children obviously don’t care whether or not Santa is a man or a woman. They merely fear Santa’s awe-inspiring power and envy his endless production line of goods built by indentured elf labour. Those are gender neutral concerns.

The fact that an entire weekend has gone by with ostensibly serious adults discussing this is a disgrace. Particularly so when there are far more important issues that deserve our urgent attention.

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