Magic of Father Christmas threatened by overly sensitive society

Opinion 24/11/2018
The annual Farmers Santa Parade in 2017. Photo: Getty.

By Rodney Hide, former ACT Party leader.

OPINION: Here’s the question of the day: can Father Christmas be a woman?

Not so long ago I would have said, of course not. He’s Father Christmas, not Mother Christmas.

But we have had it explained to us now that women can be dads and not to make assumptions about gender. We live increasingly in a world where gender is fluid, that stereotypes are wrong, and diversity a good thing.

It’s the same question as whether Father Christmas can be Chinese or Maori. The answer here should be a little more straightforward: of course. But then I have never seen a Maori or Chinese Father Christmas. That does clash with the stereotype we have of Father Christmas.

I can’t but help think that the Parade Trust have been overly sensitive.

Or here’s another one: can Father Christmas be skinny? I ‘spose he could be stuffed into a fat suit but wouldn’t even that be ‘fattist’?

I grew up in a more predictable stereotypical world where dads were, well, dads. Father Christmas was a big old white man, with rosy cheeks and white hair and beard. That simply was who Father Christmas was.

Not anymore. The news today is the Famers have sacked their long time Father Christmas for making “inappropriate comments”. We have a certain presumption about what such “inappropriate comments” would be – and when I read the headline, I feared the worst.

Neville Baker, who plays the man with the beard in the Santa Parade, said that he wouldn’t hire women to play Father Christmas. On a scale of 1 to 10 of inappropriateness, I would not have thought that would even rate.

But in this day and age of increased sensitivity, social media campaigns, and businesses treading on eggshells, Famers fired him. Well, to be strictly accurate, the Trust that runs the Santa Parade has fired him.

"We are distancing ourselves from this company,” declared Michael Barnett, chair of the Children's Christmas Parade Trust. “We found his comments to be inappropriate and unnecessary and will be not using their services for the parade."

I can’t but help think that the Parade Trust have been overly sensitive.

I fear that they are thinking too much about adults and politics and marketing and not enough about the children.

My little girls are growing up believing that they can do and be anything they set their heart on and work hard to achieve. They don’t suffer the rigid stereotypes that I grew up with.

But I know they would be bitterly disappointed to turn up to the Farmers to discover that Father Christmas is a woman. They believe in the magic of Christmas. It’s a wonderful time and a lifelong memory for them of when they were innocent of the wide world believing in elves, Santa’s workshop, flying reindeer, and presents in a sack down the chimney.

I think it would break the wonder and magic to have to explain to them that Santa can be a women. Which poses the question, who is the Santa Parade actually for? It’s the question the Parade Trust need to ask themselves.

Rodney Hide speaks all things politics every Saturday on RadioLIVE’s Weekend Life.