Does this Holiday Rom-Com perpetuate gender stereotypes?
Why did someone with a master's degree in Gender Studies (yours truly) subject myself to such frivolity? Because I eat this shizzle up, also because two of my best friends are pregnant and I owe them at least ten movie picks from my baby-induced cheesy movie selections in years past. Don't worry, I am not going to write about how the characters were unrealistic portrayals of women…duh, it's a RomCom, I get it. I wasn't expecting a feminist Christmas cinematic revolution. I actually laughed out loud several times, like at the scene when the Bad Moms were drunk in a Brookstone type store in the mall and while holding up giant back massagers, Kathryn Hahns character screams to the store manager, "which one is best for the vagina!?" I also loved how Kristen Bells character was not portrayed as sexy a single time during the film; she just rocked mom jeans and suburban holiday sweaters like a pro. I love when women forgo sexy and instead fully embrace comedy, sparing nothing for the sake of the laugh. Some of the women in this film do that…sometimes, and I am grateful.
This is what I am not grateful for. The perpetuations of the notion that women are responsible to make the world's holiday dreams come true. This film challenged how women would make them come true, and jokingly lowered the bar (barely), but it never once challenged the idea that a woman should be responsible for the holiday magic to begin with. Sure, it's funny to watch the Bad Moms steal Christmas trees from Foot Locker, order in Chinese food instead of cook, and enjoy a family outing to a giant trampoline park instead of a classical rendition of the Nutcracker. It was hilarious to watch Bad Moms hit their teenage sons in the junk with a dodge ball, and adult daughters send their overbearing Waspy moms flying through the air. (Seriously, go watch the trampoline scene).
What wasn't funny, or even joked about, was that no matter what, the women were going to coordinate something. The holidays might be done slightly differently, slightly quirky, with a modicum of restraint and barrels of suburban humor (Ha Ha Ha I'm not in church, I am watching Love Actually in my pajamas!)…but in this world, there is nothing funny about the Bad Moms not-doing the holidays, that was not part of the joke. A woman not orchestrating, coordinating, and managing the holidays is not funny…it's impossible.
Let's think about the next several weeks In Real Life. Who is coordinating the holidays? Who is on the phone with multiple relatives discussing what time, where, what to bring, how much, coordinating children's naps, planning around football games, and running around for weeks making sure presents are purchased for anyone and everyone that "must" receive something in order to know that they are loved. Who is picking out all these presents, budgeting them, weighing the actual and emotional costs of buying more or less, or not at all? I get that men are involved, they show up to pick out a tree when a woman tells them it's a good time, or hang lights that the woman "pesters" them to hang them, and follow the commands of the batty women they do the world a favor by "sticking by". But come on, are we not tired of watching men look like heroes for doing what they are told, and women looking insane for asking for silly favors like bulb replacements and turkey trimmings?
Bad Moms perpetuates the image of women as neurotic freaks who care about frivolous crap and men as dumb doting Labradors loyally by their side. Could we give a little more credit to both genders, and perhaps display some halfway point between wholesome and whore (thank you Susan Sarandon's character for at least providing the bad mom who literally drops every motherly ball except the strippers)?
In a time of an acknowledgement and resistance of emotional labor, a clear understanding that women in real life are giving up on the notion that we want to be both super heroes and domestic goddesses, Bad Moms could have served up just a tad more 'No Thank you', 'Nah Uh', and 'Nope'. The movie could have given women an example, a road map to unburdening ourselves of the pressures of creating holiday dreams that last a lifetime, and given us back a life we would actually be inspired to live. The movie hints at the unnecessary pressure women put on ourselves during the holidays, and the insane amount of people pleasing we get sucked into, but Bad Moms fails to truly reject that the holidays are a women's responsibility all together.
What would happen if women didn't participate this year? What would "the season" look like? I am not suggesting that men are purposely relying on us either. I am suggesting that in 2017, in the middle of Harvey Weinstein call-outs, domestic labor articles being written faster than coffee-cup sleeves are being shoved onto holiday beverages, and the constant rejection of standard mommy-hood madness is being yelled from the tops of diaper changing stations everywhere, the holidays come upon us and so many of us still find ourselves clinging to our archaic prescribed gender roles. How do we end this madness?
I'm not saying women are not to participate or even that all women want nothing to do with the holidays, I can already hear mothers yelling at me, 'I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS'! I am just wondering what it would be like to be a participant of the holidays, rather than the creator of…just wondering if we didn't buy, bake, and beautify, what would happen? What if we just stopped? Would we all be bad? Sad? Regretful? Would we create space for men to step in? Would children have the opportunity to step up and be creators instead of consumers? There must me some type of holiday-reset button…no? I will be searching for it. For now, you will have to excuse me… I have a pie to take out of the oven. #notkidding
By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture, is a Certified Life Coach, and can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.
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