Do you hear it? See it? Feel it?
That height of commercialism, here at last. And despite all attempts to limit media influence, most of us are at least somewhat caught up in the frenzy — calls from relatives talking about gifts, friends pondering out loud about gift giving, checking out another shoppers’ cart at the store and anticipation of holiday get-togethers.
Still, despite the mania, or, perhaps, because of it, I’m convinced that now is as good a time as any to step back, take a deep breath, and take stock of what this holiday should or could mean for those of us practicing intersectional feminism, for those of us looking to manage this holidaze, and be as close to 100 percent true feminist self as possible, particularly when giving gifts.
Here are some thoughts, a quick list of do’s and don’ts, to get us started;
Give an inadvertent message. Whatever it is, you are fucked up if you give something sending a message of how you want or wish someone else should be, think or do. Whether intentional or not, gifts send messages, and it is better not to give than to give your own politics.
Give authentically- I like to give a gift with a note which says why I picked what I did. I can’t always do it for everyone, but when I can I know it sends the message “I am holding who you are in my mind.” I also NEVER give in order to be thanked. Ms. Manners and many others might vehemently disagree with me, but if a thank you card is needed, the idea of giving is muddled with the need for recognition of giving, no?
Show you Know- Thoughtful giving means giving something in line with someone’s current interests, or honoring who that person is inside. Nothing shows profound respect more than knowing someone has noticed a bit of the real you.
Now for the some suggestions:
Whether gifts to service projects, it is very much possible for you to maintain your intersectional feminist principles and give credence to authenticity in body, mind and personal relationships during the holiday hub bub.
1. Books. It’s a given that feminists are life-long learners and avid readers. So, of course you should consider gifting them incredible works of fiction or non-fiction that provide some strong role models through literature. Be creative, not boring! And if you don’t have an avid reader, don’t waste your money on books which will collect dust. Maybe audiobooks or a video would suit them better. The main idea here is to gift with these ideals in mind, to give books defined by empowered woman characters.
2. Journals. A journal, sketch pad, or art materials, says “your thoughts and perspective matter.” As a feminist, you encourage other women to value mindfulness and the need to make time for your own thoughts. Gifting someone with a journal shows that.
3. Body Positive. One of the best coming-of-age gifts given to me as a teen was “Our Body; Ourselves.” It was one of the few times growing up I felt recognized for where I was in my journey. Yes, some of us need the validation of where we are, especially when it seems that beginning, end, or middle of anything body positivity is absent from the mainstream media circuits. Body positivity gifts, tokens of support to help us find the joy in the journey, enable us to keep perspective and counter-act that nasty body-shaming narrative.
4. Mentoring. Gift someone your time, and humbly offer to mentor a friend on a subject she’s been anxious pick your brain about. Invite her to lunch, a walk on the beach, a spa date, a hike, or a special upcoming event you know she will treasure. Create a certificate and make it fun. Women not only have a rich history of mentoring one another and sharing expertise, but also an openness to receiving relationship-centered gifts.
5. Self Care Products or Cards. Emphasize her worth by presenting her with a self-care package. Make sure you are giving not what you want for that person but what they want for themselves. There is a double edged sword with this one; so check back to our list of do’s and don’ts above. We’re thinking self-care, self-love or indulgence, not plastic surgery, exercise or diet plan.
6. Music Mix. I’m taking y’all back to the ‘80’s now. Seriously, gifting inspiring music to uplift another gladiator? What could be better? Yes, maybe Aretha will make the mix. But she doesn’t have to. More than anything, this is a wonderful excuse — oops, I mean opportunity — to share terrific music power with a friend.
7. Wall Quotes. Yep, I’m all for written reminders and words of encouragement hanging on the wall.
My favorite this year is ‘Do Epic Shit’… but there are other kick ass statements you can find to fit the kind of encouragement a feminist friend might need to take on the world.
8. Charity. Honor a friend’s cause with a donation. Again, remember those do’s and don’ts. It isn’t new to give donations in someone’s name or honor, but to stop and think about where someone might want a gift directed is taking it one step further. Ask your friend or relative about a cause close to her heart. Make it a moment of connection, a learning opportunity. Obviously, not a good choice to make if you expect to differ greatly on where to give.
Beyond the giving of gifts to those we know, there is the giving of ourselves and our resources to those less privileged — people we don’t necessarily know or might never know. Nothing is more intersectional than working to empower everyone and, in doing so, helping to incorporate this ideal into the next generation of givers we’re creating. How do we do this?
Make your giving visible. It isn’t the amount of money that is important, it is the act of participation. In fact, my children rarely know if I have given $18 or $180. There have been times I just could not give to the myriad of fundraisers that come home in the backpacks… but when I do, I try hard to have my children participate, with me. I want them to know we are a family of “givers” and giving is not just with money, we can through service, acts of kindness and helping others understand certain causes better.
Make your giving tangible. Create ziplock bags full of toiletries and other basic needs for the homeless. The idea being, giving these bags (as opposed to cash) when we meet up with individuals asking for help. This year I’ve seen a new version of this arise: filling lightly used purses with feminine hygiene items and other goodies for homeless women.
Exchange donations to charities of participants choosing instead of workplace or group secret santas. This works for kids or adults. You pick the members name, research the charity of their choice, make the donation and provide a brief but meaningful presentation during a “circle of giving” time. Months ahead my children planned their charity choice, and it never ceased to amaze me what the youngest children present and understand through their research.
Image Credit: iRate Doran, via Flickr Creative Commons