By Guest Contributor Renee; originally published at Womanist Musings
Jimmy Kimmel seems to just love getting parents to pull fast ones on their kids for laughs. As a parent, there is a big part of me that gets why moms and dads are so willing to do this. No matter how much you love your children, they absolutely will get on your last nerve from time to time. Sometimes there are days when you think they are on a personal mission to ensure that you snap. Both [my children] Mayhem and Destruction are particularly adept at this. On the other hand, I cannot shake the feeling that there is some cruelty involved in this. The intention is not to laugh with your children but laugh at them. The moment you start to laugh at someone, it’s no longer just good clean fun.
My concern with this exercise is the clothing choices that parents made for their children. Kimmel simply instructed parents to buy ugly clothes for their kids, but in many cases, parents chose clothing that was counter to their child’s gender. Boys were given what socially is determined to be girls clothing.
The boys got very upset and clearly did not want to look like girls. Of course, part of this is because things that are associated with femininity are almost always cast in a negative light. It also has a lot to do with peer pressure and a desire to fit in. This set up encourages boys to associate negative things with femininity. It was no accident that the boys were given girls clothing while the girls themselves just received ugly clothing that largely matched their gender identity. This once again shows the difference between how masculinity and femininity is understood. We cannot blame these little boys because all they are doing is expressing what they have been taught since birth.
One mother gave her son the following t-shirt to wear.
How is this shirt a practical joke on a child? To me, it looks like she is teaching her son that being gay is something to laugh it. With her choice, the joke was no longer on her kids but on gays and lesbians. This was beyond inappropriate and, unfortunately, her son was the only one who said this. If it turns out that her son is actually gay, she is also denigrating his identity.
This may have seemed like a harmless joke but it is laden with many social messages that should at the very least make us uncomfortable. These are things that we shouldn’t take lightly because it reveals what children have internalized as normal.