On Mother’s Day, some of the gendered gifts range from ‘why would we want that?’ to just plain sexist. Sarah Lang looks into what mums actually need.
Flowers, potted plants, scented candles, soaps: all gifts that are popular choices for Mother’s Day. For some women, they’re great! But not everyone wants another hand cream to add to the 12 at the bottom of that bathroom drawer that you avoid opening.
We know that gifts for children can be very gendered, but this can also be true of gifts received as adults. It’s as though the concept of gendered gifts has melted into our subconscious. Social conditioning and all that – plus a hefty dose of companies perpetuating gendered stereotypes. They make their pink in-house displays, they send out their gendered promotional material, and they shape the choices of those looking for gifts.
For a May promotion surrounding Mother’s Day, a New Zealand company advertised potted plants and dishwasher tablets (yes, really). Whereas, back in September, the company’s Father’s Day promotion suggested a drill kit and a barbecue kit. Emma-Joy Andrews, a mother of three from Nelson, saw both of the promotions. Turns out she actually wanted a Dremel (a handheld power tool used for different tasks) and a water blaster for herself.
“I’m so MAD!” she says. “It’s so disappointing to be sent ads for such boring things, that mums supposedly want, when they are absolutely not the things that I, or any other mums I know, would like to be given. It just shows that marketing teams for big companies are still so often stuck in old stereotypes and seemingly have no interest in changing the status quo.”
Also, why should a company assume that a man wants a drill kit or barbecue kit for Father’s Day? Because, through the gift, you’re effectively giving him a job to do. Maybe he wants a potted hyacinth or a fragrance diffuser! That can wait ’til September, but right now, it’s about this Sunday.
Another New Zealand company’s online ‘great gifts for mum’ ideas include an apron and a cookbook. Wild idea: maybe someone else could wear the apron and cook us dinner? On another site, a suggested gift is a monthly ‘draw and erase calendar’ as the ‘perfect way’ to help her ‘stay on top of her busy life’. Really? Why not give her a fridge magnet that says ‘mental load’ on it? Mother’s Day should take a load off, not the other way around.
Yet some women have been given household appliances, even cleaning products. Gotta love a new vacuum to remind you that your house is filthy and it’s your job to clean it up! Anyone keen on a mini pink toolkit for wee indoor jobs?
In fact, many women end up buying their own Mother’s Day gift, because their partner hasn’t got around to buying anything – let alone something that he can give to the kids to give to her. Surprise!
In a story called ‘Moms Are Buying Their Own Mother’s Day Gifts’, a survey shows that more than half of mums buy the gift themselves. “It works better if they just buy themselves something instead of their spouse getting them a gift they don’t like or need,” the article says.
“However, a big problem could still be that communication around gifts: 57% of the women said that their family does not ask them what they want for Mother’s Day or any holiday.” So, how about asking us what we want? Or even better: try to notice the things we like and might like to receive. Nope, a ‘voucher’ for a month of backrubs that might last 40 seconds each doesn’t count.
Here are some examples from various sources of The Worst Mother’s Day Gifts Ever Gotten.
- Pajamas four years in a row
- Olive oil because my husband thought I’d really like the bottle it came in
- A dog-hair remover brush
- Wiper Blades
- A gift card for a golf course my husband likes to play at
- A Wii Fit
- A pillow and socks that both read ‘drama queen’
- An offer to spend quality time with the kids by taking them out for a special activity that I would choose and arrange
- A pedicure with my mother-in-law
- A vacuum and not a great vacuum either
- A foot massager that didn’t work
- A self-help book on motherhood
- A monogrammed iron
- A gift that’s being re-gifted
- A gastric ulcer (via a spicy noodle dish)
To be fair, some partners are great at buying gifts for Mother’s Day, birthdays, and other occasions. “My cis, white male partner is a feminist,” one woman tells me. “He has never bought me any gendered gifts in our 13 years together. We now have a daughter and the non-gendered trend has continued. I am however TERRIBLE at remembering special occasions so we definitely break gender stereotypes. This is about companies and corporations perpetuating the problem.” Hear hear.