Fox News host Bill O'Reilly reinforced bogus stereotypes about gender and masculinity, telling a guest on his show that, if his son likes the color pink, “you might have to send him to camp.”
During the June 3 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly discussed a Wisconsin elementary school that offered its students the chance to voluntarily dress up as the opposite gender as a part of the school's Spirit Week celebrations. O'Reilly and his guest, comedian Adam Carolla, criticized the event, calling the school's teachers “pinheads”:
O'REILLY: You know why they're doing this, though, right?
O'REILLY: Well, it's all about anti-bullying and putting the children in other people's positions so they don't make fun of girls and boys. It's a politically correct tactic that's far too sophisticated for the children to understand and that's why it's stupid, and that's why these educators are pinheads.
CAROLLA: It's interesting.
O'REILLY: Because while they may have a noble intent, they have no idea how children process things. You don't dress up like a little girl when you're five and you're a boy. That's just stupid. Go ahead.
CAROLLA: Putting a boy in a poodle skirt and saddle shoes-
O'REILLY: Yeah, I mean it's insane.
CAROLLA: Is bullying. I mean, listen, I have a six-year-old son, I have twins. He had to ride in his sister's pink car seat the other day for a mile and he screamed like a stuck pig the entire time.
O'REILLY: That's a good sign. That's a good sign because, if he had liked that, you might have to send him to camp.
In addition to being factually inaccurate - the gender-swap day was proposed by the school's student council and had nothing to do with bullying - O'Reilly's comments are harmful to LGBT youth and the people who raise them.
While the school's gender-swap day may have just been a playful celebration, the issue of allowing transgender children to dress how they prefer is a serious one. Allowing children to dress in the clothing that corresponds to their gender identity isn't “stupid” and “insane,” as O'Reilly puts it - it's a critical part of creating a healthy and supportive environment for gender-variant youth.
The most chilling part of O'Reilly's comments, though, is his recommendation that any boy who likes pink should be sent “to camp,” ostensibly to either punish the child or correct such behavior.
Such adherence to strict gender norms is problematic for a number of reasons, but it's especially damaging for LGBT youth who don't fit expectations of how boys and girls are supposed to act. Parents who try to force their LGBT kids to abide by strict gender norms - rather than merely accepting their children as they are - end up doing incredible emotional and physical damage.
This is especially true for parents who may be considering sending their child to “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy, a practice that relies heavily on the false belief that men become gay because they have a “weak” masculine identity (and vice versa). Such was the case for Kirk Andrew Murphy, a man who took his own life after his parents put him through years of “ex-gay” therapy because they noticed him “playing with dolls and stuff.”
When O'Reilly instructs parents to send their gender-variant children to a “camp,” he's not just adding to his long line of terrible parenting advice; he's encouraging hostility towards vulnerable LGBT youth by the very people who should be supporting them the most.