Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton has received a lot of backlash over the past two days after he posted a video of himself seeming to admonish his young nephew for wearing a princess dress on Christmas, BBC reports. The video, which Hamilton has since deleted from his account, was captured and shared on Twitter by at least one social media user.
"I'm so sad right now," Hamilton shared with his 5.7 million followers in an Instagram Story. "Look at my nephew. Why are you wearing a princess dress? Is this what you got for Christmas? Why did you ask for a princess dress for Christmas? Boys don't wear princess dresses!"
The troubling comments disturbed many people, who found it both inappropriate and harmful to shame an adorable, happy little boy for expressing himself and having fun.
This conversation extends past Hamilton teasing his relative. For far too long, toxic gender norms have forced people to live in two rigid boxes. For example, gender norms dictate that girls should wear things like the colour pink and frilly dresses, while boys are told that they must never dress up in this kind of attire. These expectations are not only completely antiquated, they're also ridiculous — there's absolutely no reason someone who identifies as a boy can't sport a dress if he wants to.
(To learn more about gender identity, head over to Refinery29's Gender Nation Glossary.)
On Tuesday, the race car driver apologised to fans in a series of tweets, saying that was "playing" with his nephew and "meant no harm and did not mean to offend anyone at all." He also added that he loves that his nephew "feels free to express himself as we all should" and recognized that stereotypes can cause long-lasting damage.
Though Hamilton's apology may not have been enough to absolve his behaviour, it was an important step in the right direction and demonstrated to his following that our actions and words have consequences. Hopefully, the conversation surrounding Hamilton's video will inspire him and his following to be more mindful, inclusive, and considerate so that we can all feel safer and freer to be our true selves in the year to come.