Even Mistletoes Can’t Escape the Patriarchy

Posted -

Like most women in contemporary America, I’m pretty fed up with the sexist, misogynistic rhetoric being dispelled so nonchalantly everywhere from politicians’ mouths to the mainstream media to ignorant Twitter users — #repealthe19th? Really?

So when I went about my business searching for apartment decor for the holidays and came across a blog post on the origins of the mistletoe, and realized how painstakingly sexist they were?  Done. Just so done.

To add some context, mistletoes were seen as good-luck plants that increased women’s chances of marriage and fertility (because you know, what even IS a woman without a man by her side and baby on her hip). But the plants were only good luck if the woman accepted a man’s kiss underneath it. Note, the rule did not apply the other way around. A man waiting for kisses? Yeah, right. And if the woman rejected a kiss? Well, bad luck fell upon her, because what kind of lady would reject a man’s kiss?  

Now, am I going to throw out every mistletoe I see from here on out? Or hold a grudge against these cute little parasitic berry plants? No. Obviously, I have nothing against the plant itself.

But this idea that invasion without consent is okay, even if it’s “just a kiss,” is harmful. The stupid origins of this little plant contribute to today’s pervasive rape culture. And while I’m tempted to ask how on earth did the patriarchy find a way to gender something so trivial as a winter plant, I know the more worthy question to ask is how are we going to stop it?  

Reading that post, I came face to face with a brutal realization: gender is entwined in every aspect of our lives. There is no escape — not that I want to escape my womanhood, women are badass, and I’m proud to bear the identity.

But the truth is simply being a woman affects us so much more than most of us know. It’s exploited for commercial gain and justified as a means to deny equality. And if you’re thinking of disagreeing, let me just mention five words: pink tax and wage gap.

So to return to my earlier-posed question: what are we going to do to stop it? Well, it’s simple. I’m going to reclaim it. I, Taylor Seely, reclaim the origins of the mistletoe. As of the publishing date and time of this post, the mistletoe meaning has hereby been re-established. The mistletoe is now a symbol of female empowerment. It is a representation of the brave women who have stood and continue to stand up for themselves and other women. It is also a remembrance token for the women before us who did not have the support and resources that we have today to rise against oppressive ideologies.

So spread the word, ladies and gents — we just took back the mistletoe.


About The Author

Taylor Seely is a journalism and special events management student at Arizona State University. She is also a member of Barrett, The Honors College. Post graduation in 2017, she plans to move to California and pursue a career writing about women's rights, lifestyle and social justice issues.