You would think it would be easy. Almost anything can be related to a feminist perspective - after all, feminism is basically a way of life! Surely these songs would contain gender stereotypes, exploitation of women and children within the 'traditional' family, an obsession with now-you-owe-me-for-the-rest-of-the-year gift giving, endless heteronormativity, etc. Failing that, there's always rampant consumerism - that's all the holidays are about anyway, right?
I couldn't find any of these things - certainly not enough to write about. It wasn't for lack of trying. I read all of the lyrics for all of the popular songs (there really aren't that many). I listened more christmas music than I've ever listened to in my life. (Okay, some idiot was blasting it out of their dorm window...) I even found a few random essays on pop music and christmas. Still nothing. I was mostly left with a feeling a vagueness. The songs are vaguely happy. They are vaguely about 'goodwill to all men.' Vaguely heteronormative. Vaguely patriarchal. Nothing strong enough to write about.
Part of the problem is, most christmas songs aren't about real people! Snow, candy canes, lights, presents, Santa Claus - those are the staples of holiday music, not relationships and people.
Songs which are about people, ('I'll Be Home For Christmas', '(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays'), never mention gender; notably, they have all been covered by a fairly equal number of male and female artists. The 'Little Drummer Boy' could become the 'Little Drummer Girl' with the change of one word in the title. Even songs that are mildly sexual ('Baby, It's Cold Outside' comes to mind) are only made gendered by some minor references to typical male-female conversation patterns (and I'm pretty sure I've heard the voices reversed in that song, too.)
Excluding commercial jingles, there aren't many songs about consumerism, either. There's 'My Favorite Things' which is mostly about 'things' of the raindrop variety, and other intangibles. I'm also pretty sure that wanting a hippopotamus isn't too harmful, either. Everything is just so fuzzy and fluffy!
Perhaps that's the point. The whole idea of a christmas song is to forget all of your problems, ignore the real world, and pretend that everything is happy and fun. But, if you are happy about something, and you go around telling everybody what exactly you're happy about, it's likely that someone else won't be happy about that thing. You can't please everybody, but christmas songs try so hard to please everybody that they end up saying nothing at all.
Take 'Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas'. "From now on/ our troubles will be out of sight", it says. Notice that the only reason given, is that 1: it's christmas, and 2: lots of family members will be there. I'm not at all sure what the 'shining star' on the 'highest bough' business is about. Finally, notice that the song is 'Have your self...' not 'Have ourselvles...' The singer is apparently not having a Merry Little Christmas. Perhaps she (for some reason, the singer is always female in my mind) knows that the person she is singing to can't handle reality, can't know true happiness for lack knowledge about the world.
Most people hide from reality most of the time. They live in their little localized fantasy, not caring beyond their immediate experience. That's why so many people support senseless wars and discrimination against anybody but themselves. That's why so few people do much of anything beyond what makes them happy. And christmas, despite its supposed message of 'goodwill to all
Am I just a humorless, angry feminist? Probably... but I'm certainly not opposed to being happy! What I am opposed to, is mindless happiness for no reason. And yet, that is just the feeling I get from all of these songs.
What do you think? Have I missed some feminist issue that christmas music raised? Has my personal dislike for these songs blinded me to their value?
Next week, religious christmas music.