From: Tess Benser
Date: December 3, 2021
Subject: Center for Women & Gender Equity December 2021 Newsletter

Greetings Golden Rams!

It's hard to believe the end of the semester is already upon us. Our return to campus for an in-person semester has flown by so quickly. In many ways, this semester illustrated how a return to what was once considered normal is simply not possible. It also made clear the ways in which "normal" as we knew it was undesireable. As we adjust to a world still grappling with a pandemic two years after it first began, we have so many opportunities to reshape and reimagine how we define normalcy, what we prioritize, and how we can better support our communities in challenging times. 


Purple and light teal quote graphic: We are grounded in a vision of joy, liberation and justice for everyone, and intentionally center those who have historically faced systemic barriers to living out the fullness of that vision.

In our first ever newsletter to campus, our director, Dr. Sendy Alcidonis, wrote that our space was "grounded in a vision of joy, liberation, and justice for everyone" and that we "intentionally center those who have historicall faced systemic barriers to living out the fullness of that vision." I invite us all, as we close out both this semester and 2021, to consider how we might make this vision a reality in the new year.

As you read on, you will find writing by the Center for Women & Gender Equity Peer Educators that will offer some insights into our world in this transitional time. We have a fun guide on sex toys, chock full of recommendations and information on what toys might bring you the most pleasure and joy in these cold months to come. We have a section dedicated to examining and reimaging the work place as we move through this particular pandemic era. We highlight another of our Charlotte Newcombe Scholars. We offer reflections on the gendered implications and gender politics of gift giving, a common practice during this season of many holidays. And we hold space to sit with the tensions that exist when social justice work and the art world collide and coexist. 

We hope in these pieces you will find moments of joy and imaginings of a more just and liberated world, and we look forward to continuing this work together in the Spring. 

Wishing you joy, health, and safety as we finish out the year!


Mx. Tess Benser
Assistant Director of Outreach & Engagement


Perriwinkle Background: Image Reads December 2021: Upcoming Events


Dowdy Multicultural Center DIY Finals Care Packages

Monday, November 29 at 1:00pm
to Friday, December 10 at 1:00pm
Dowdy Multicultural Center (Sykes 003), 700 S High St, West Chester, PA 19382, United States
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Dowdy Multicultural Center
DIY Finals Care Packages
Stop by the DMC and create your own DIY care package to destress before finals week
Monday, November 29 to Friday, December 10
Monday-Friday Between 9 AM-4 PM
Dowdy Multicultural Center (SYKES 003)

Items include:
Index Cards, Sticky Notes, Highlighters, Chewing Gum, Cookies, Candy, Soup, and more...
Available until supplies last
Questions? Email



Winter Palooza

Friday, December 3
12:00pm - 2:00pm
Commuter Center, 3rd Floor of Sykes, Sykes Student Union, Suite 238 110 W Rosedale Ave, West Chester, PA 19382, United States
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Cozy up to watch The Polar Express and make a cup of hot chocolate with our hot chocolate bar. Feel free to stop in to grab your hot chocolate or stay a while, get comfy, and enjoy the movie. Plus, be entered to win in our week of giveaways!



Winter Wonderland

Friday, December 3 at 8:00pm
to Saturday, December 4 at 12:00am
Private Location (register to display)
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Accessibility in the Workplace

Friday, December 3
8:15pm - 9:30pm
Sykes 210, McKelvie Hall 102 W. Rosedale Avenue, West Chester, PA 19383, United States
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This presentation will demonstrate how students can make their workplaces more accessible for students with disabilities and how to make presentations that are accessible for everyone.



BSU Kwanzaa Celebration

Saturday, December 4
7:00pm - 11:00pm
Sykes Ballroom, 700 S High St, West Chester, PA 19382, United States
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HABARI GANI! As our first semester back on campus comes to an end, the Black Student Union would like to formally invite you to our first ever Kwanzaa Celebration! Join us Saturday, December 4th at 7pm in Sykes Ballroom for night of fun, food, and performances by Wahala Dancers, Island Vybz, and D.R.E.A.M. Team. Afrocentric attire preferred. Masks required for entry. We can't wait to see you there!



Voice Your Values

Monday, December 6
11:00am - 12:00pm
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Voice Your Values is a co-curricular workshop to aide you in further exploring one of the measurable pillars of well-being, purpose. Over the course of the workshop, we will discuss what is a value, how values influence decision-making, begin to identify our personal values, and conclude by exploring how values congruence connects to finding our purpose.



Transforming Tuesday- Service Opportunity "No Sew Fleece Blankets"

Tuesday, December 7
12:30pm - 2:30pm
Sykes Ballroom A, 715 S. New Street, West Chester, PA 19382, United States
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The Center for Civic Engagement and Social Impact is a great space to stay connected with community service partners and variety of service opportunity in the local community. We invite you to join us every month on the second Tuesday of every month from 12:30pm-2:30pm to engage in civic engagement and service based activities while learning and expanding on your ideas and commitment to civic participation, service and justice. This month is "No Sew Fleece Blankets," we are partnering with various Community Partners to provide them with fleece blankets for children and senior care patients.



Nobel Leadership Series

Wednesday, December 8
8:00pm - 9:30pm
UNA 161/162, 700 S High St, West Chester, PA 19382, United States
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Finals Prep Stress Less Event

Friday, December 10
1:00pm - 3:00pm
Private Location (register to display)
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If you're feeling overwhelmed by finals and classes, maybe we can help! Join CTQA for an afternoon of pizza, therapy dogs, coloring pages, and more! All are welcome to celebrate the end of the semester with us on Friday, December 10th from 1:00pm - 3:00pm in Sykes 255. Hope to see you there!



Finals De-Stress

Friday, December 10 at 8:00pm
to Saturday, December 11 at 12:00am
Private Location (register to display)
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Fall 2021 International Student Celebration

Tuesday, December 14
1:00pm - 3:00pm
Sykes Ballroom C, 675 S. Church Street Mitchell Hall 3rd Floor South, West Chester, PA 19383, United States
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Come celebrate our graduating international golden rams and the end of another successful semester! This stole ceremony and end of the semester celebration will take place for international students in Sykes Ballroom C on December 14th.

A light green banner with dark green words reading "Sex Education: An Introduction to Sex Toys," and "December 2021," with graphics of various sex toys including a vibrator, anal beads, a dildo, butt plugs, handcuffs, a whip and a coll

Sex Education: An Introduction to Sex Toys
By Callie Anderson (she/her)

Please take note that this section discusses different types of sex toys, how they are used, and how they are cared for. The end of the year marks a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration, and we believe that sexual pleasure is part of that! Engaging in conversations that break down stigma around sex is also an important part of how we engage in anti-violence work. We encourage you to read only as you feel comfortable!

When it comes to sex toys, there can be an overwhelming number of choices whether it’s your first time buying or your tenth time. While sex toys aren’t required for good sex or masturbation, they can add some variety and a new way to enjoy sexual activity.

Sex toys can be purchased in person at Spice2Nite in Malvern or from retailers online. Some online retailers include Come As You Are, Early to Bed, Enby, and Smitten Kitten.These retailers have toys for all genders and sexualities and kinks. They use discreet packaging to protect your privacy throughout the shipping process.

The following is an introductory guide to different types of sex toys, but it is in no way an exhaustive list. Many stores like the ones mentioned above have informational sections on their websites or staff that are experts in helping you find what you’re looking for. Smitten Kitten even founded, which is a resource for toy and lube safety.

Vibrators are designed to produce pleasure when in contact with erogenous zones like the vagina, clitoris, and anus. Vibrators are versatile as some are made for penetration, some for clitoral stimulation, some for dual stimulation, and some for prostate stimulation. They also can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some can be phallic shaped while others are rounded. Some can be six or more inches long while others can be attached to one’s fingertip to use.

Because there are so many different types of vibrators, here are some starting points for looking for one you’d like. G-spot vibrators made for penetration include the Orchid Mood G-spot Vibe, the Splash, and the Razzmatazz. For clitoral and external stimulation, check out the Satisfyer Layons Sweet Sensation, the Mini Swan Rose Pink Massager, or the Satisfyer Pro 3 Vibration. There are also suction vibrators like the Satisfyer Pro Traveler. Options for dual stimulation vibrators include the Pretty Love Tim Mini Silicone Vibrator, Eve’s First Rechargeable Rabbit Vibrator, and the Butterfly Kiss. For anal vibrators or prostate stimulation, make sure that the vibrator has a flared base to ensure easy removal. Some options in this category include the Gossip Desire Anal Explorer, the Fuze Arrow Plug, and the Vibratex Pandora Prostate Massager. Some options for fingertip vibrators include the Tingling Tongue and the Rechargeable Finger Teaser.

Another popular sex toy category is dildos. Dildos are phallic shaped, but they come in a variety of colors and materials, so you could choose one that looks realistic or one that is beaded glass or anywhere in between. They also come in many different sizes, so you can find one that fits your preferences. There are dildos with suction cups that can stick to a wall, the floor, or a shower, or that could be attached to a harness. There are also dildos made for anal penetration that are designed with a flared bottom.

Some starting points for realistic-looking condoms are the Loverboy Top Gun Tommy 6 Inches and the Vac-U-Lock 7 Inches Thin dildo. A few unrealistic dildos include the Egon Neon Green Dildo and the Little Buddy. If you’re interested in a glass dildo, check out the Glas Relic and the Glas Clear Curved G Dildo. There are also options for a harness and dildo set, such as this Beginner Harness Kit.

Anal sex toys is a whole category itself with many different options. Butt or anal plugs are similar to many dildos, but they are specifically designed for insertion into the rectum, so they tend to be shorter and have a protruding or flared edge to prevent it from getting lost inside. For a smaller and more beginner-friendly butt plug, consider the Luxe Explore. The Fuze Pleasure Plug is available in four different sizes ranging from 4.5 inches to 6 inches. To ensure that anal play is comfortable and enjoyable, there are training kits to help figure out what one enjoys. For example, there is a Booty Call Trainer Kit with 3 butt plugs, and the smallest is 2.75 inches and the largest is 4.5 inches. There is also a Silicone Anal Trainer Kit that comes with 3 butt plugs ranging from 4.5 inches to 6 inches.

Anal beads are a series of attached spheres or balls that are inserted into the rectum. There are a variety of sizes of spheres depending on what your preference is. There is also a ring or handle at the end of the anal beads to prevent the beads from becoming stuck and for easier removal. Beginner-friendly anal beads include the Petite Sensations Pearls, which also has a mini vibrator at the base, and the Curve Novelties Perfect 10. For glass anal beads, an option is the Glas Quintensse Beaded Glass Anal Slider. There is also a starter kit for anal play, the Back Door Basics Kit, that includes a Booty Call Plug, Silicone Booty Bands, Slippery Stuff Lube, and a sheet with anal sex basics.

There are also sex toys made for penises. For example, cock rings (sometimes called c-rings), which are rings worn at the base of the penis usually for the purpose of restricting blood flow to make an erection stronger and longer. C-rings are made out of a variety of materials including silicone and metal, and some c-rings vibrate. A good beginner option is the Screaming O RingO. There is also the RingO Pro x3 pack that comes with 3 c-rings ranging from 1.5 inches in diameter to 2 inches in diameter.  An option for a leather ring is the Spartacus Velcro Leather Cock Ring. If you’re looking for a vibrating c-ring, consider the Satisfyer Rechargeable Vibrating Rings and the PrimO Vibrating Ring

There are also toys called strokers, sleeves, and other forms of artificial mouths, anuses, and vaginas to simulate oral or penetrative sex. These can look realistic or unrealistic and are usually made from a soft, lubricated material. Some options for strokers include the Neon Luv Touch EZ Grip Stroker, the Tenga Air Cushion Stroker, the Coed Sucker Mouth Stroker, and the Back Door Masturbator Stroker.

Along with sex toys, lube and cleaning products are often necessary to keep sexual activity fun and healthy. Lube decreases the amount of friction and can help with penetration of the vagina and anus. There are multiple types of lube: oil-based, water-based, and silicone-based. It’s important to think about what kind of lube you’re using as oil-based lubes can breakdown barrier methods of birth control like latex condoms, water-based lubes can dry out faster, and silicone-based lubes can breakdown silicone-based sex toys. An oil-based lube is Stroke 29. Some options for water-based lube include F*ck Water Clear Lubricant, Wicked Sensual Care Anal Jelle, and JO Tri-Me Triple Packs, which comes with three flavored lubricants. For silicone lube, consider Sliquid Spark Menthol or Uberlube. Also, there are silicone and water blend-based lubes, such as Wicked Simply Hybrid and Sliquid Organics Silk.

When buying sex toys, it’s also important to know how to take care of them and keep them clean from harmful bacteria. To clean your toys properly, first you need to know what they are made out of. Porous materials, such as fabric, leather, hard plastic, and rubber, have microscopic holes that bacteria can grow in, so you may want to consider using a condom for protection. Nonporous materials, such as silicone, metal, and glass, are usually easier to clean because there aren’t holes for the bacteria to grow. Many sex toys can be cleaned with mild soap and water. Sometimes you will need to deep clean your sex toys, and you definitely should deep clean and disinfect them if they are being used by multiple people. There are cleaners made specifically for sex toys, and some recommended brands/products are Medamore, Sliquid Shine Toy Cleaner, and Satisfyer Cleansing Foam. For more information on how to clean sex toys and a breakdown of what is necessary for different types of materials, check out this article.

There are so many different types of sex toys and products, but this overview will hopefully empower you to embrace your sexuality and explore beyond this list to figure out what toys (if any!) you’d like to incorporate into your sex life.

Newcombe Scholar Spotlight: Edwena B. Lanier

Yellow graphic featuring photo of Edwena B. Lanier
"My name is Edwena B. Lanier. I was recently awarded the Charlotte Newcombe Foundation. My anticipated graduation year is 2023. I wanted to express my deepest level of gratitude to the university and committee for allowing me the chance to be a part of something so impactful and long-lived. This award allows great relief to me financially, and will support my goals of helping my mentees and community members. Moreover, helping the scholars in the community get back to school items that will set their school year up for success."

This slide is blue with graphics of three people doing varied tasks. It reads: Reimagining the Work Place: Minimum Wage, the Pay Gap and Advocating for our Needs as Employees

Reimagining The Work Place: Minimum Wage, the Pay Gap, and Advocating for our Needs as Employees
By: Dana Pratt (she/her)

The Wall Street Journal published an article about the employee loss that occurred when the pandemic began. This trend has been dubbed “The Great Re-imagination.” In the article, it is defined as,

 “... a fundamental reexamination of workplace systems that can help businesses weather the future shocks sure to arise.” 

The article discusses ways to catalyze this change, mentioning changing the operating systems of work environments, as well as letting folks be dynamic, rather than being static and stuck in a position with the same tasks. The article mentions the use of “tiger teams,” the strategy used in producing Covid-19 vaccines incredibly efficiently. These new models for the ideal workplace come to the parallel- finally- that folks are not only their jobs. They are parents, partners, advocates, and more. We are complex human beings with skill sets that cannot be limited to a one-page resume, and it is about time that workplaces begin to foster that reality.

Image shows the tiger team model of working, a circular path from


While this has been a breath of fresh air to employees and people everywhere, it has caused a divide between people, specifically within political parties. Conservative-held beliefs keep strong to the idea of the “American Dream” and the “Self Made Man,” ignoring the voice of the people who need reform. It is not everywhere that society works before it plays, and it was only a matter of time before real change began to happen on the American front. The Covid-19 pandemic was an opportunity for many to re-evaluate their lives, their passions, and their long-term goals free from the constant flow of work. In places like France, the work-life balance differs incredibly from our model in the U.S. According to, there have been laws put in place that have changed working hours. The article states, “A law to reduce the statutory working week in France from 39 hours to 35 hours in 2000, for companies with more than 20 employees and, in 2002, for companies with 20 employees or fewer.” Further, their work hours are broken up, giving them, on average, 15 hours of leisure time a day for “self-care, sleeping, eating, etc.” 

The push for fair working conditions in the U.S. is not a new fight, but it is gaining more traction than ever, with really new, imaginative ideas of what work could look like. It is important to discuss what folks are dealing with now in the workplace so that reform brings change to everyone who needs it. Employees historically work under conditions that do not honor some of our most basic human rights. According to, “77% of American employees do not think that they are paid enough.” Further, many of the employees in this survey said that they would give up higher pay if workplaces included benefits like healthcare or childcare. This is only the tip of the iceberg when we talk about inequalities within the workplace. It is also critical that we recognize the largest abusers of employees, and call for them to create real change within this re-imagination. While small businesses have lower revenues, it is often large corporations that dehumanize their employees.  Amazon, one of the largest profiting businesses in the world, has fallen under fire multiple times for the working conditions they submit their workers to.

Minimum Wage Breakdown:

Here in Pennsylvania, the minimum wage is $7.25, totaling only $15,080 a year before taxes and before accounting for sick days or holidays. According to, the following are the average costs of apartments in Pennsylvania.
  • Studio apartment: $700
  • One-bedroom apartment: $807
  • Two-bedroom apartment: $999
  • Three-bedroom apartment: $1,272
  • Four-bedroom apartment: $1,407
According to these statistics, many pay more than the aforementioned minimum wage salary for a year of housing, which means that for many reasons, $7.25 is not anywhere near a liveable wage. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 59% of people who are paid minimum wage are adults. Lawmakers against raising the minimum wage frequently argue that minimum wage jobs are better suited for teenagers, but when post-high school education has become mandatory for nearly every job, it is not surprising that minimum wage jobs are increasingly dominated by adults. The effects of folks relying on minimum wage (which should, technically, be the minimum amount someone can LIVE on) is due to a snowball effect of the rising inaccessibility of secondary education due to rising costs of college, lack of options for childcare, and unequal distribution of student aid. Especially during the pandemic, financial security became even harder to come by due to the closure of childcare facilities, workplaces, and other institutions that were considered essential. 

Oppressive Systems: The Inaccessibility Within The Workplace

 It is also important to acknowledge the oppressive systems in place that keep folks from moving up the ladder, or even being able to find the ladder in the working world. 

Here are a few things that keep folks from securing jobs, many of which have been exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic:
  1. A higher level of education is needed than what someone has been able to access 
  2. Not having proof of a permanent address if unhoused or displaced.
  3. Lack of access to professional clothing for a job interview 
  4. Lack of access to childcare due to cost, transportation, etc.
  5. Lack of proper legal documents, such as adequate proof of identity, citizenship, or non-citizen work authorization, in order to secure a job 
  6. Inability to secure reliable, cost-effective transportation to work
  7. Disability whether visible or invisible that makes working inaccessible due to lack of accommodations, a potential risk to a disability, or benefits.
For those in high socioeconomic positions, these barriers are often overlooked, making society less likely to discuss the real implications they have. It is about time that lawmakers, companies, and other systems in power change the narrative. The conversation must turn to be centered around the oppressive systems at work in the workplace and how we make them more accessible, rather than expecting folks to choose to work in unsafe, underpaying working conditions. The re-imagination of the workplace is a platform that can advocate for these issues if we keep them at the center of the vision for truly inclusive workplaces that serve everyone. 

The Pay Gap

These work conditions plague all people but affect some more than others. We regularly mention the “gender pay gap,” but do not acknowledge how much it affects women’s wealth long-term. According to the American Association of University Women,“ At the current rate of progress, the gender pay gap will not close until 2111. We can’t- and won’t- wait that long.” The wage gap transforms into a wealth gap, leaving women with significantly smaller amounts of savings, retirement funds, and pensions. The pay gap is not equally distributed, either. As illustrated in the infographic below, racial disparities further lengthen the pay gap.
Blue Background. The photo reads: Because of the gender pay gap women have less money for a rainy day: underneath are 6 umbrellas illustrating how much each ethnicity or racial group make compared to white men: - Asian Women: 87%, White Women: 79%, Black


When the Covid-19 pandemic began, the economic impact on women was apparent immediately. In an article from the AAUW they write, “In 2018, women made up about two-thirds of the low wage workforce overall.” In order to close this gap, we must first understand how it began. The following excerpt from the American Association of University Women helps to summarize it. 

AAUW: The Origins of the Pay Gap

“The origins of the pay gap are complicated: The interwoven forces of discrimination, pervasive sexism, and systemic racism translate to different genders having varying experiences and taking alternate paths through education and training. This means that women are often steered into particular fields and even specialties within fields. Societal expectations about gender roles also come into play, as do general biases based on outdated stereotypes. Depending on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, gender orientation and other factors, women face a variety of barriers that limit their opportunities. Work done by women is undervalued. Occupational segregation—that is, when one gender is overrepresented in a particular sector or field—accounts for as much as 51% of the difference between women’s and men’s wages.13 Workers in women-dominated fields are paid lower salaries than workers in fields dominated by men, even when the jobs require the same level of skill, education and training. Women are more likely to work in lower-paying jobs. In fact, they make up about two-thirds of the nation’s low-wage workforce.14 Not only do these jobs pay poorly, but they are generally less stable and less likely to offer employee benefits, such as sick leave, health insurance and paid time off”(

These are just a few of the realities that have motivated people to call for change at the most foundational level of the workforce in America. For some, it looks more like “the great resignation,” but for others, it is the beginning of a long road of repaving and reimagining just how dynamic, fulfilling, and inclusive work paces can become. It is about time we ask ourselves, should I live to work, or work to live? I do not think we should ever have to make that choice, and these conversations can spring us towards a future where we no longer need to. It is about time stop putting aside the well-being of ourselves and our families in order to afford our basic needs.

Pink text on a green background with a graphic of presents reads, "December 2021. Advocacy in Action: The Gender Politics of Gift Giving."

Advocacy in Action: The Gender Politics of Gift Giving

By Jocelyn Brown (she/her)

Winter holiday gift shopping and gift-giving are some of the most exciting times of the year. However, it can also be one of the most challenging times of the year. This is why gift cards have consistently been the top present in the United States. Although some people may think that gift cards are a lazy or boring gift, gift cards do close the gap between the amount of money that gifters spend and the value that recipients place on the gift. Gift cards give the receiver the freedom to choose whatever gifts they want. Freedom of choice is something that might actually be lacking in some conventional gifts. As we will come to see, gift-giving is a very visible intersection of gender and class in the U.S.

The Culture Behind Gift Shopping

Gifts are loaded with meaning, especially in a capitalistic society such as the U.S. Companies have a direct interest in making sure that gift shopping and giving is the only way to curate identity. Obviously, what gift we choose reflects how we see another person: how we interpret their personal identity and interests. But a gift also gives away how we see ourselves, or want to be seen. Sociologist Marcel Mauss writes, “to make a gift of something to someone is to make a present of some part of oneself.” Most likely, this part of ourselves that we include with our gift will be our internalized values and beliefs. One such example is reinforcing gender stereotypes. 

Gift shopping itself has become an inherently gendered act. Thinking back to childhood, did you notice a difference in how your parents approached gift shopping? In the typical American family, the onus falls on the mother. In a 1990 study, Eileen Fischer and Stephen J. Arnold interviewed 299 people to study the impact of traditional gender roles on gift shopping. They found that, especially in families, the women of the households were solely responsible for gift shopping. Although the women interviewees enjoyed it, they emphasized the fact that they considered Christmas gift shopping “work” that they had to complete. Fischer and Arnold speculated that because children are at the center of Christmas, society assigns this work to women. Mothers pass this idea of “work” down to their daughters, through observation and through gifts that enforce the gender binary. 

However, women are still the primary gift givers outside of the family, as well. While no research explicitly states that women are better gift givers than men, Fischer and Arnold report that women start shopping earlier, buy for a greater number of recipients, and spend more time on every recipient. A 2013 study that follows up on Fischer and Arnold’s research finds that the vast majority of gift exchanges occur in relationships between women. These are often friends and even coworkers. On the other hand, the study finds that men do not often give gifts outside of the family, and especially not to their  masculine friends. Again, while we cannot definitively say that women have more emotional intelligence, they at least have more experience in giving gifts. However, the fact that we automatically expect all women to give more thoughtful gifts is itself a generalization. No one should be shamed for not being the best gift-giver, and no one should miss out on giving a great gift to a friend because they are worried about how others will perceive their masculinity. 

Furthermore, it is a shame because women should not feel pressured into buying gifts for larger social circles, especially if they cannot afford them. Class has a strong impact on gift shopping beyond gender. According to Fischer and Arnold’s research, working-class women give more gifts but spend less money per recipient. Both men and women with higher incomes spend less time shopping but spend more per recipient. Fischer and Arnold speculate that higher-income gift givers are substituting money for time. Although this research focuses on an American context, women are the largest consumer group across the globe—but also the most impoverished group. And in an article published by the International Center for Research on Women, Linell Ajello writes, “If we align these findings with poverty statistics, we can extrapolate that gender expectations and social pressure around gifting stress women both economically and psychically.” The research is clear: we have to untangle gift shopping from traditional gender roles, if we all want to truly enjoy the holidays.

Gifts For Him vs. Gifts For Her

Unfortunately, the onus of gift shopping resting on women is not the only area where gender roles appear. How companies encourage to shop for gifts also reinforces the gender binary. Stores and websites are divided into ‘Gifts for Him’ and ‘Gifts for Her’ categories. I took a look at two online shopping examples: Target, a corporation, and Etsy, which highlights small businesses. The results were still the same. On Target’s website, their gendered gift guides had many of the same categories. However, the categories of beauty & self-care, Hearth & Hand (Target’s home & lifestyle brand), jewelry, cooking & baking, and candles were unique to Gifts for Her. Video games, grooming, sports & outdoors, mixology, and sports fan merch were unique to Gifts for Him. The first items that appeared under Etsy’s Gifts for Her page were candles, jewelry, recipe books, and tumblers. The first Gifts for Him were a D.I.Y. whiskey kit, leather flasks, grilling aprons, and beard oil.

These subtle—or sometimes not-so-subtle—differences reinforce traditional gender stereotypes. It comes down to how companies choose to market these products, which could easily be considered part of the same category otherwise. For example, only women can cook or bake; men are regulated to grilling and mixing drinks. But this is still all cooking, which should bring people together. Beard oil and other self-care products for men cannot actually be marketed as self-care without society worrying about masculinity. They have to use the term grooming instead. Men are not allowed to genuinely engage in self-care; it has to be hidden or satirized. Like the lack of gifts in friendships between men, this is not fair to anyone.

Companies also market to couples along the same traditional gender lines. Almost all advertisements directed at couples, especially jewelry ads, feature couples that are white, straight, and upper middle class. Commercials prop up these couples as the ideal couple. Holiday commercials also often reinforce gender roles within a heterosexual couple. For example, a GMC Black Friday commercial from 2019 portrays a straight white couple in a large, expensive-looking house. The husband purchases two vehicles as a gift: a black truck and a red SUV. The gag of the commercial is the ending where his wife prefers the truck over the SUV, a typical “mom” car. Not only does this ad gender cars and comment on a woman’s role in a relationship, it also makes it seem like gifting two vehicles is something that all couples can (or should be able) to afford. Commercials like these reinforce the idea of gifts signaling the quality of a relationship. Whether it be a car or a necklace, the more expensive the gift to your partner, the better and more long-lasting the relationship. But then, do couples who cannot afford these gifts truly not love one another? Of course, the answer is no. And how are couples that do not see themselves represented in these ads supposed to shop for gifts? Or aren’t they?

Of course, people can buy gifts for their family, friends, and significant others that cross gender lines. But again, the act of gift shopping and gift categories are not something that should be gendered in the first place. It creates artificial barriers in our decisions and in our relationships that we may be afraid to cross, depending on our community and how well we feel we know the recipient. 

Gifts for Children

Nowhere are these barriers clearer than in gifts for the children in our lives. Even if you don’t have to buy toys for your own children, you might have cousins or niblings. In this case, the past actually paints a somewhat positive portrait for us to look to. The International Center for Research on Women article includes a story about a mother in 1905 whose son wanted a doll and whose daughter wanted a “tiny hammer.” The mother had no problem fulfilling both requests. She isn’t alone: a 2014 article from The Atlantic reports that the marketing for children’s toys is now more gendered than it was 50 years ago. During the 1970s, the market de-gendered their toys, and kids could play with anything they were truly interested in.

However, it didn’t last. By the 1990s, gendered marketing returned full-force. Companies had repackaged 1950s sexism and sold it to families in new, sparklier packaging. The Atlantic writes, “While girls’ toys focused on domesticity, toys for boys from the '20s through the '60s emphasized preparation for working in the industrial economy. . . In essence, the ‘little homemaker’ of the 1950s had become the ‘little princess’ we see today.” Judith Elaine Blakemore of Indiana University−Purdue University researches the marketing behind children’s toys. We are still echoing the most negative aspects of the past: educational toys are still categorized as masculine or gender neutral, but never feminine. While much of the research that exists focuses on how gendered toys limit girls’ potential, they limit the boys’, as well. Blakemore finds “that girls’ toys were associated with physical attractiveness, nurturing, and domestic skill, whereas boys’ toys were rated as violent, competitive, exciting, and somewhat dangerous.” How are our generation of toys, that more subtly reinforce the gender binary, any different than the toys of the 1950s? While there has been a wealth of research on how gendered toys affect girls’ development, there is significantly less research on how these toys may inhibit boys from exploring their full emotional range. Overall, while boys are more encouraged to play with educational toys, they have less freedom of expression. A Lego survey finds that 71% of boys worry about being made fun of if they play with a toy typically associated with girls, but only 42% of girls would worry. Echoing the divide I found in gifts for adults, the same survey finds that parents are three times more likely to encourage their girls to cook/bake, while they are four times more likely to encourage their boys to play sports. And all of this gendered marketing says nothing of families that choose to raise their children in a gender neutral fashion. Where do they shop for their children?

People have come up with several solutions. In America, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that requires large retailers to have non-gendered toy sections. California is a large state, so this is great for gender neutral visibility. But the law does not take effect until 2024, stores are still allowed to have gendered sections along with the non-gendered section, and they only receive a fine if they do not have one. In Australia, grassroots group Play Unlimited advocates for #NoGenderDecember, which hopes to eliminate gendered marketing in kids’ toys. The campaign also uses the hashtag #GiveGiftsNotStereotypes, as it emphasizes choosing gifts based on your children’s genuine interests, rather than gender roles. Finally, companies can choose to market toys by age instead of gender. Despite their gendered adult sections, Target and Etsy both market gifts for kids by age. So, while some progress is being made, companies clearly do not expect children to grow out of gender stereotypes. 

If you are looking to buy gender-neutral alternatives for the children in your life, there are many websites like A Mighty Girl that list toys by activity, specific interest, and type of play to encourage girls to develop into their truest selves. 

Gifts for Gender Diverse Folks

If the gift shopping world is highly gendered, what about shopping for gender expansive folks who do not feel represented? Unfortunately, even all of the research I could find on gendered gifts is part of the problem by only focusing on the gender binary. Target’s Gifts for Anyone section uses gender neutral pronouns, and it combines bits and pieces of the Him and Her sections: gaming, cooking & baking, beauty & self-care, and mixology, among others. Etsy’s most similar non-gendered category is Unique Christmas Gifts, which is labeled as being “for everyone on your list.” Searching on Etsy for gender neutral gifts results in almost entirely gender neutral gift sets for babies. 

Of course, if you know the recipient’s interests, then you do not have to rely on shopping by gender. But this can still be a difficult line to walk when trying to support the people in your life. The International Center for Research on Women article includes an example of someone on an informational message board in 2011 asking “whether it would be appropriate to get a feminine present to commemorate a friend’s gender transition.” The moderators commented that hopefully they knew their friend. If their friend would take it as a reaffirming gesture, then great; but, it might be better to buy a gift that more closely reflects their friend’s complete identity, personal interests and all. 

This speaks to the complicated issue of pride merchandise. Well-meaning allies or family members may be tempted to buy solely pride merch for the trans and queer folks in their lives. First, like the moderators advice above, we should still consider our friends’ interests first. Does it  match their fashion or decor style? Would it be practical or safe to wear often or display where they live or with their family?  While there is no completely ethical consumption under capitalism, especially when it comes to pride merch, we need to ask where the profits are going. Do these companies actually support the LGBTQ+ community with their labor practices or unions? How much of the profits, if any, are they donating to charity? In the same breath, are these companies and their executive boards also donating to organizations or political campaigns that would strip queer and trans folks of their rights? These are the questions that we have to ask as the LGBTQ+ community becomes both a viable customer base and a commodity for corporations.

For example, in 2020, Gucci included a “Gifts for Them” section along with Gifts for Him and Gifts for Her on their website. In his Instagram post on Gucci’s gesture, fashion designer José Criales-Unzueta wrote, “It is of course sort of an empty capitalist ‘diversity & inclusion’ gesture, and it is safe to say that it is most likely born out of a merchandising strategy to appeal to Gen-Z and Millennial queer shoppers rather than a heartfelt effort to make the community feel included; but I find that it ends up having both effects: it both correctly approaches and includes a demographic that is always excluded in Holiday gifting, and it exposes product in yet another way that makes it even easier to shop.” The products become more visible than the community. Other critics pointed out that the photo for the Gifts for Them section was a shot of multiple people, which seems like lazy inclusion; instead, Gucci could have highlighted an upcoming nonbinary model. Gucci is a luxury brand, anyway, and out of the realm of affordability for most consumers. Again, not all gender diverse people or LGBTQ+ couples are upper middle class. Yet, even if queer gift guides do not solely recommend pride merch, like Gucci, they continue to recommend gifts that most people cannot regularly afford. In one example, Philadelphia Gay News’s “The Ultimate Guide to Gay Gift Giving 2021” mostly includes items in the hundreds of dollars. 

To conclude, instead of relying on companies’ pride commercial campaigns that may donate 1% of their profits or less to charities, you can donate directly! Here is a list of 15 LGBTQ+ community organizations in Philadelphia to donate to, and donations in someone’s name always make a great gift. If you would still like to buy pride merchandise for yourself or a loved one, many non-profits that uplift queer BIPOC voices sell merch, and 100% of the profits support the non-profit’s mission. For example, Black Alphabet is a Chicago-based orgnization whose mission is “to identify and present the stories that portray the variety of gender and sexual expressions of the Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) community through the art of film.” You can visit Black Alphabet’s store here.


Unfortunately, the research surrounding Fischer and Arnold’s initial inquiry shows that, in the United States, holiday gift shopping and gift giving have long been gatekept by the barriers of gender and class. When we give away a piece of ourselves with our gift, we want to make sure that piece is not an idea or stereotype that could harm our loved ones. Question the structure of gift shopping in your families. Encourage your masculine friends to give gifts to each other. Gift giving is a language of love, not a job! Most of all, Linell Ajello writes, “As you're out shopping for holiday gifts in the next few weeks, and throughout the year, decide to disrupt the gender status quo. Buy gifts for the children in your life based on their individual personalities and interests instead of defaulting to gender-specific (read: limiting) gift options. If you want to be very bold, do the same for your significant other, your parents and friends.”


For further reading, visit these websites: 

The Clash Between Social Justice and the Art World
By Holland Morgan (they/them/theirs)

Historically, what is considered ‘high art’ has been dominated by white and male museum curators and board members, which has shaped the narrative of art and the industry.  It was reported in May of 2021 by the L.A. Times that Black people only 32 of 585 board seats at ten of L.A.’s most prominent art groups, and only 19.5% of museum board members identify as non-white.  This example comes from just one city in our country, but it is indicative of the patterns across the museum and art industry.  In response to this issue, The Art Newspaper reported that diversity and inclusion directors are now on staff at distinguished art museums in New York, Washington, DC, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis and Toledo.  This is designed to not only be in response to more inclusive curating but also addressing the systemic racism within the museums themselves.  The exclusivity of the art world and the artists it has chosen to support is not a new issue, so why are they making these changes now? 

With all of the social change in regards to racial justice in this country in recent years, many industries have been held accountable to address issues both systemically and culturally in ways they hadn’t been previously, and the art field is no different.  For a brief history on how the art world we know has developed, socio-economic factors have dictated the meaning and accessibility of art.  Starting the 1970s, changes were stemming from globalization as well as major social justice movements.  Later on, the technology boom of the 90s and 2000s expanded what was considered art and it also became more accessible to consumers.  Art was less confined to the walls of expensive and exclusive museums, and gave more people the ability to create, share, and consume.   As the world has changed, economies have become deregulated and privatized, and the art world was not protected from this.  So this leads to the question of whether or not true creative and political resistance is possible when capitalist forms of production, marketing, and financialization, have impacted the meaning of art? 

When the art world is more engaged with socially and politically charged art, what does this mean for activist artists that have been historically ignored?  In the book Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism, G.G. Scholette analyzed the blurred lines between activist art and capitalist intervention, and stated that activist art “challenges the traditional view that art is an autonomous phenomenon that is immune from the political conditions and economic turmoil of a historical moment”.  This is an important idea because other fields of emotional and creative expression like music, dance, and film, are not devoid of political or social issues, so why should art be any different?  Famous musicians including Nina Simone or Kendrick Lamar, or filmmakers such as Cheryl Dunye, have all responded to Black rights movements through their different forms of art.  Instituting a diversity and inclusion director at a notable museum or attaching the name or work of a Black artist does not solve the issue of systemic and cultural racism within the art industry.  This  leads us back to the earlier question of whether or not activist art is sincere if it is entangled with capitalism.  I personally believe that it is possible.  We all live and or contribute to a capitalist system in some form, so to be able to create a piece of art within a capitalist system that still reflects your own ideas, values, beauty, emotion, whatever it may be, can be incredibly liberating.  We can not get discouraged by the fact that we are all inherently intertwined with these oppressive systems, so using those feelings of anger or frustration to our advantage and creating a unique expression of your ideas is an effective form of resistance. One great example of this can be the “Spray Their Name” art project led by Hiero Veiga and Thomas “Detour” Evans.

The art project by Veiga and Evans has the mission of creating murals of Black and Brown individuals who have lost their lives as a result of police violence, and have created notable portraits of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Elijah McClain.  They look at art as a way to grieve and have the families partake in the design of the mural.  They want to showcase the names and faces of those that have been silenced by systems of white supremacy and give voice to their communities.  Spray Their Name travels across the country and partners with local activists and artists to ensure that they are getting an accurate perspective.  I included this specific art project because I think it is a wonderful example of activist art within a social movement as well as our modern capitalist world.  Spray Their Name is not backed by a major museum or art group with the underlying goal of profiting off seeming more diverse or inclusive.  Their project is fueled by the power of public art and acquires all of the funding for supplies and transportation through donations.  They are sending a political message while also taking care to make it a community experience and memoriam.  We need to continue to expect better from the art world and appreciate the beautiful and diverse creations that can come out of it.

Lilac graphic with floral accents