While we've made strides in 2017 to leave outdated gender norms in the past where they belong, society unfortunately still has a long way to go. Case-in-point: Lewis Hamilton, a British Fomula 1 Driver, shamed his young nephew for wearing a princess dress in an Instagram post apparently filmed on Christmas Day. According to the BBC, earlier this week, Hamilton posted a now-deleted video of his nephew wearing a pink and purple dress while holding a magic wand. He can be seen in the video saying, "I'm so sad right now. Look at my nephew." Hamilton later apologized for the video in now-deleted tweets, stating his "deepest apologies" for his comments, and that he loves that his nephew "feels free to express himself."
Hamilton's apology followed comments from Liam Hackett, the founder of anti-bullying group Ditch the Label, posted on Twitter. "Disappointing to see somebody with such a huge platform use it to publicly shame and attempt to undermine a small child," Hackett tweeted. As of Dec. 31, Hamilton appears to have wiped both his Instagram and Twitter accounts of all posts.
Understandably, many people are outraged by Hamilton's comments about his nephew. Page Six reported that the British Fashion Council is being urged to drop Hamilton from its committee for Men’s Fashion Week. Additionally, Instagram-influencer Diet Prada wrote an open letter to Hamilton on the social-media platform criticizing the race-car driver for his remarks. "We hope you took the time to apologize to your sweet little nephew instead to tell him that what you said is very wrong and that he should be able to dress however he wants. Your words won’t harm the majority of us, but they can be really damaging to such a young kid," Diet Prada wrote in the Instagram post.
While the backlash might be a teachable moment for Hamilton, the bigger issue lies in the double standard that his video reinforces. If Hamilton had a niece dressed in boys' clothes, he likely wouldn't have made a video at all, according to one writer who's been on the other side of the equation. "In fact, looking back, I remember some people even praised me for being 'boyish,'" Yas Necati wrote in an essay for The Independent.
"I was called strong, brave, individual… and a whole host of other positive words," Necati continued. "I know this isn’t everyone’s experience and I’m not ignorant to the negativity that I faced also, but I think it’s fair to say that young boys are ridiculed much more for acting in a 'feminine' way than girls are for acting in a 'masculine' way. And this trend also seems to continue far into adulthood."
While Hamilton received backlash for shaming his nephew, there are, unfortunately, plenty of people supporting him on social media. While it's acceptable to support someone who has made an extreme verbal gaffe if they take honest and significant steps to mend fences, comments attacking people who are hurt by Hamilton's shaming highlights a larger problem.
Since the video and subsequent apology went viral, Hamilton has wiped his Instagram, which currently says that there are no posts on the account. Similarly, on Twitter, all of Hamilton's posts from the last four years have disappeared.
Though Hamilton apologized, this is only the latest instance of a person being shamed for the way in which they present themselves — and unless we as a society take steps to educate others, it will not be the last. Hopefully, Hamilton has learned from this experience, and will take steps to understand that anyone can dress and present themselves however they'd like, no matter what gender they identify as.