Photo by Kleigh Balugo
Giving gifts to your loved ones is second nature during the holiday season. When I was little, I would always look forward to opening presents on Christmas morning. However, after I attended my first feminist theory class in college, I learned that being excited to open presents on Christmas morning was actually the result of oppression inflicted on me by the consumerist machine.
Just kidding, but also very serious. It’s pretty basic knowledge that big corporations greatly profit off us scrambling to buy zodiac mugs and gingerbread scented candles for our friends and families during the holidays.
I have always contemplated what this means for me, the consumer. I realize that I buy gifts because of the “evil system,” but does that make it my fault? I’m sure that if I didn’t buy any of my friends Christmas gifts like I usually do, I would just seem like a jerk, not some brave activist fighting for a social cause.
The truth is, we were born into this system. It’s pretty messed up that we have to spend hundreds of dollars on our loved ones every year to prove how much we really love them, but I doubt that’s the worst problem caused by consumerism. It is pretty fun, shopping for people and seeing what other people buy for you. Am I a capitalist pig for admitting that?
It can’t be all that bad though, after all, gift-giving is one of the five love languages. But I really doubt you would be proud to tell people that your love language is buying/receiving gifts. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it, it just sounds way better to say your love language is something less superficial like quality time or words of affirmation.
Whenever I think about problems like this and how I contribute to them, I always try to remind myself that the world is not binary. Meaning, not everything you do can be easily measured on a scale of good or bad. Is it bad that I give Target’s CEO my entire minimum-wage paycheck to buy Hello Kitty keychains? Yes. Is it good that my friends get those Hello Kitty keychains for Christmas? Also yes.
Sometimes, I have nightmares thinking about how many things I have consumed as one person. Imagine standing on a huge pile of everything you’ve ever bought, put in the back of your closet, or thrown away. True nightmare fuel.
But, there has to be a way to indulge in holiday gift-giving in a sustainable way. As long as you’re not the person buying every Animal Crossing Nintendo Switch off the shelf at Best Buy just to resell them, I think you are an OK human being. If all else fails, just tell your grandma you didn’t buy her a gift this year because you’re boycotting consumerism. At least then you can tell your feminist theory professor that you tried to “dismantle the system.”