I’ve been compiling my Christmas list for gifts to craft or buy for loved ones in my life. I flip through gift guides looking for inspiration and ideas, seeing if anything triggers thoughts of someone I know. Most gift guides are sorted by gender, which is not entirely useful. Women’s guides are full of jewelry, clothing, kitchen gadgets, art/craft supplies, and what my aunt calls “smelly stuff”–soaps, lotions and perfumes. Which is mostly fine, except for many men who are cooks, artists, and fashion-forward dressers. I’ll admit to being inspired by women’s gift guides for male friends. More than once.
Gift guides for men, truthfully, are downright insulting. “Smelly stuff” is only acceptable if it’s bacon-scented or beer-infused soap. There is only one kitchen gadget: bottle openers. On walls, on keychains, on sandals. Apparently men must have a half dozen ways to open a beer at any given time. The lack of food prep gifts would make you think that perhaps men weren’t interested in food, but there are plenty of edible options: most of it bacon-flavored, chocolate-covered, beer-infused, or some combination thereof. There are also a lot of games: lego sets, videogames, “silly putty or other slimy substance“, and nostalgic toys from childhood.
Is this an accurate image of men in our culture? This is the portrayal of children. They must be coerced to use soap, they only want to eat fatty or sugary foods, they’re excited about the same games and toys you would give prepubescent boys. (Did you click on the link to bacon-scented soap? From a company called “Perpetual Kid”. All I did was google “bacon soap”, and it came up first.)
The only difference? If you’re romantically involved with him, you’re encouraged to give him massage oil (presumably for you to use on him) and lingerie (for him to use on you).
This isn’t the men I know. And these aren’t the gifts I give. But when blog after blog, magazine upon magazine, gift guides from so many sources echo the same sentiments, I can only assume that this is, at least to some extent, a reality in many gift-exchanges across USAmerica.
I want to urge: don’t believe the media. We often have conversations around unrealistic images of women’s bodies and how those should not be the expectations. How dare we ask that men view us more fully than our media caricatures, when we perpetuate the caricatures of them? Let’s talk about the portrayal of men as stupid, sloppy, and childish, and work to restore their dignity. Which makes a thoughtful Christmas gift carry within it a deeper, better gift: respect.