Sage sexism row after Christmas document claims women ‘carry the burden’ of traditions

Advice on how to stay safe this Christmas by Sage has been criticised for being sexist after it claimed women “carry the burden” of traditions.

The advice, which was published on Friday, suggested that women bear the brunt of Christmas traditions.

It has since divided opinion on social media, with some lamenting it as outdated while others have admitted it is simply a reality for many women.

The document, by the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said: “Women carry the burden of creating and maintaining family traditions and activities at Christmas.

“Messaging should be supportive of women adapting traditions and encouraging those around them to share the burden and to be supportive of any alterations to adapt for Covid-19 restrictions.”

Tweeting the document, Sky News journalist Sophy Ridge queried “what century are we in?”.

While Alice Rose, Head of Programmes at Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “This year I wrote a list of presents we need to get for each family member. Gave it to my husband and informed him that I have resigned my post as Head of Present Procurement.”

Responding to BBC radio presenter Jane Garvey, who asked her followers if it is profoundly irritating or just a reality, most seemed to suggest the latter.

SAGE Christmas document: "Women carry the burden of creating & maintaining family traditions and activities at Christmas" and messaging should support "those around them to share the burden and to be supportive of any alterations" (what century are we in?) https://t.co/i7zWsOB396

— Sophy Ridge (@SophyRidgeSky) November 27, 2020

Discussing the topic on Woman’s Hour with Garvey on Monday, behavioural scientist Dr Pragya Agarwal said: “I think on one hand it’s the reality but also these kinds of narratives reinforce that kind of pressure on women.

“Women internalise these kinds of societal expectations and pressures and feel that they are the ones that have to carry most of the labour of Christmas.”  

Dr Agarwal added that there was “an irritation” amongst people that this was a “societal reality”.

"Messaging should be supportive of women adapting traditions and encouraging those around them to share the burden and to be supportive of any alterations to adapt for Covid-19 restrictions,” she said.    

She suggested that one reason women tend to take on the load was because some enjoy it and “do it better” than their male counterparts.

“I suppose it’s enjoyable on one hand. It’s nice to do.

“But again I think it becomes a story in most households – I know in my own household – that you feel like you are the one who does it better and then you are doing it again and again because the other person feels you are doing it better.

“It’s clear that you enjoy doing it so why not do it?” she said.  

Impact of lockdown on women – pay | work | parenting | stress

While the document focuses on Christmas, studies have suggested women will pay the price of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In June, a study by the University of Sussex suggested that Covid-19 had meant women’s careers are regressing due to traditional childcare duties being shifted back onto mothers.

Researchers found the proportion of mothers responsible for 90 to 100 percent of childcare rose from 27 to 45 percent during lockdown.

Their study involved more than 2,000 volunteers, with at least one child enrolled in primary school, responding to a questionnaire and follow-up surveys about how their family unit has coped since April.

Commenting on one person’s suggestion that women do Christmas for other women, Dr Agarwal said that there could be a pressure created by social media.

“Maybe women are more active on social media, there’s a whole perception of mums tweeting and instagramming about things they’re doing and creating pleasant family situations and images and this becomes a competition about who is doing Christmas better,” she said. 

You may also like...