Late Night TV host Jimmy Kimmel encouraged his viewers to film their children getting early Christmas presents that they would surely hate. The result is a collection of children acting badly: bursting into tears, saying they hate their parents, lecturing them on proper gift giving protocol, etc. It’s funny and also a great illustration of the gift-giving rules that Theodore Caplow meticulously lists in his article, Rule Enforcement Without Visible Means: Christmas Gift Giving in Middletown (pdf) (btw: this is the very first article I assign in Soc101).
(UPDATE: I was quoted briefly on this phenomenon in a New York Times story on the prank.)
In a number of cases, the gift is considered bad because the recipient is a boy and the gift is for a girl. One boy, for example, gets a Hello Kitty gift, another gets a pop star-themed coloring book. The boys’ reaction at being presented with a girls’ gift reveals their internalization of androcentrism, the idea that masculinity is superior to femininity. They express both disgust and, in some cases I think, fear at being poisoned by contact — especially such personal contact as “I got this for you” — with girlness.
More posts on androcentrism: “woman” as an insult, being a girl is degrading, making it manly: how to sell a car, good god don’t let men have long hair, don’t forget to hug like a dude, saving men from their (feminine) selves, men must eschew femininity, not impressed with Buzz Lightyear commercial, dinosaurs can’t be for girls, and sissy men are so uncool.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.