Stereotypes

“The song ‘Santa Baby’ is sexist because it reinforces the materialistic woman stereotype.” This is a paraphrase I heard regarding problematic Christmas songs (the most problematic being, of course, ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for obvious reasons. No dispute here). This brings up an interesting conundrum. How much of a stereotype is too much?

The song in question is only a single woman singing about all the stuff she wants for Christmas, like a yacht, a car, and a ring. She is rather obviously materialistic. But does this make her a stereotype?

Declaring this a stereotype and thus unusable is problematic. I know many woman, both personally and second hand, who are materialistic (for the record I know more men who are more obviously materialistic), thus they are not some boogeyman. ‘Santa Baby’ reflects (a part of) reality. The stereotype qua stereotype is bad, but how much can we use it before we reach that threshold?

The absurd answer is never. But let us look at the opposite. Imagine a short story collection with 20 works. All 20 feature materialistic woman. This is clearly stereotypical in a bad way. Now say only 10 feature those woman, the other ten showcasing women without this vice. Perhaps it is still high.

Imagine now that this story collection is all about lower-income women who have married wealthy men. Suddenly half of them being materialistic isn’t all that far off (for two reasons: first, materialistic woman are more likely to pursue wealthy men and second, as lottery winners have shown us, a sudden gain of wealth often inspires materialism). Context can salvage stereotypes.

As for ‘Santa Baby,’ the context (however problematic in itself) is the American materialistic Christmas. This woman isn’t somehow uniquely displaying this, the whole nation is. Furthermore, it is a single song. When a list of ‘materialistic women Christmas music’ is able to be produced, I will say there is a problem. But just one song, reflecting a stereotype that is true at least once, is not all that bad.

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