Who's Afraid of Gender-Neutral Santa???
Answer: some people. But why?
I'll set the scene:
Two older white guys sit in an Irish dive bar, just after Christmas. Middle age-ish. 40-50somethings. They've each had a couple beers, so their voices are starting to carry.
One of the men has recently read an opinion article that "some liberal" wrote about how Santa should be gender neutral and needs to talk about it.
....HE IS FURIOUS.
The arguments are traditional, as in: pro-tradition.
They are fairly consistent with the recent arguments against the idea of a "black santa:"
"Santa's always been a jolly, fat man."
"Why change it now?"
"I try to understand these people, but it but it's like: why are you all of a sudden angry about it? He wouldn't make sense as a woman."
He's right about a couple things.
1. He's right that it shouldn't make a difference to him. He's a grown up who understands the purpose of the story and has moved beyond it.
2. He's right about Santa not working as a woman (although not for the reason he thinks). If we changed Santa to a woman, we'd recognize how not-even-two-dimensional Mrs. Claus is, by comparison. Mrs. Claus' only job is to remind us what Santa's last name is (and to stay in the most isolated place on Earth while he leaves her at home to work). Oh, and to feed him -- except on the one night that he leaves to eat everyone else's food.
Mrs Claus is flatter than this pancake portrait of Severus Snape.
So: he's right about those two things... BUT...
He is wrong saying he's tried to understand. If he really wanted to understand, he'd talk to a neuroscientist about how stories affect our brains. If he wanted to understand, he'd learn about the developmental impact stories have on building a child's understanding of reality.
After 10 minutes of listening to his wrath, I had to interrupt.
Me: I couldn't help but overhear. Do you guys have kids?
Me: Do you want to have kids?
Me: Do you have wives or girlfriends?
Then why is this conversation even happening??
I don't care what people tell their kids about Santa because that's their decision -- BUT I can recognize why people in non-traditional families might appreciate him being gender neutral.
The more neuroscientists learn about the brain, the more they discover that our external realities are hugely impacted by what we are taught is "possible." And what we understand as "possible" is based on what we're told/shown/experience as truth. When children have no life experience of their own, what they believe is 99% the stories told to them by other people.
So when someone says "what's the difference" between a child being told one thing or another?
ANSWER: A LOT. YOU ARE CREATING SOMEONE'S REALITY.
What's the difference with Santa specifically?
ANSWER: The difference is that you're teaching a different lesson to girls, without realizing it.
Santa (in coordination with other stories) perpetuates the lesson that a little girl should be unquestioningly grateful to older men if he shower gifts on her for being a 'good little girl.'
Wow. That sounds pretty creepy now that I write it into words.
But I do my best to empathize with these angry bar men. Because that's kinda my "thing."
Why are these guys so desperate to control the fictional gender of a fictional character that they would tell the theoretical children of their imaginary wives/girlfriends?
I have one guess:
It's got to be some subconscious animal-brain level survival of the species type shit.
Underneath it all, these guys are smart enough to understand that if we tell women different stories, new things will happen.
1. If girls are no longer programmed to be grateful for gifts showered on them by men, these guys will have to do more than just buy a drink to get attention.
2. If they are no longer assumed to be worthy of a woman's gratitude, they won't get the attention they need to convince the girls they're worthy of sex.
3. If they lose the ability to have sex with every woman they buy a drink for, then they will fail at the biological imperative of procreation, which means they've failed at life according to animal brain.
I know it seems like a stretch, but if that isn't the reason, let me ask you....
why would two grown men with no kids, no prospect for kids,
and no desire for kids spending their time trying to control what
other people tell their kids????
ANSWER: THEY STILL BELIEVE IN SANTA.