Do you know who Lewis Hamilton is?
If you don’t, you should. At age 32, the British Formula One driver is considered the greatest of his generation, if not one of the greatest drivers of all time. He’s won the World Championship four times – in 2008, 2014, 2015 and 2017, and has had about 62 wins overall.
Basically, he’s Formula One’s Tiger Woods.
Did we mention Hamilton is biracial? This is important because Hamilton is the only black Formula One driver. Period. For the first time ever, people of color are actively watching Formula One racing – for him – which means he’s literally changed the game, just like Tiger Woods did when he first burst into the zeitgeist. There’s even a term for it, the “Hamilton effect.”
Hamilton first started racing with McLaren. He was signed to McLaren’s Young Driver Support program in 1998 after he approached McLaren team principal Ron Dennis at an awards ceremony and said “one day I want to be racing your cars.”
Three years later, he was a driver for the Formula One team, breaking records, and almost immediately cementing himself as a role model for young men of color.
As the Guardian explains:
For the first time in its history, motor racing is capturing the attention of the black community, an audience rarely associated with the predominantly white sport. As Hamilton cruises from podium to podium, the 22-year-old rookie driver from Stevenage is being hailed as a new black icon.
Hamilton even earned an MBE, a Member of the Order of the British Empire, one of the highest achievements a British citizen can attain.
The point is, Hamilton is someone people look up to and admire, which is why his actions this Christmas holiday were so spectacularly stupid and offensive.
On Christmas morning, Hamilton posted a now-deleted video on Instagram of his family gathered around the Christmas tree opening presents.
Hamilton prefaced the video by saying, “I’m so sad.”
The reason for his “sadness” was soon apparent. There, in the background was his nephew, draped in a pink princess dress, complete with magic wand.
“Look at my nephew,” Hamilton said to the camera, faux-mournfully.
“Why are you wearing a princess dress? Is this what you got for Christmas?” Hamilton asks his nephew, who grins and giggles in reply.
“Why did you ask for a princess dress for Christmas?” Hamilton further queries.
“Because it’s pretty,” the boy replies.
To this, Hamilton opines, “Boys don’t wear princess dresses!”
While it is not clear whether Hamilton was joking or not (although, to be fair, it seems like he was) this video is deeply inappropriate for a couple of reasons. First, it is generally not advisable to post images or videos of children online, particularly if they’re of a critical nature. Secondly, it is harmful and damaging to enforce arbitrary gender stereotypes on children.
So impressed by whoever bought that lovely little kid such an awesome princess dress. So horrified and distressed by Lewis Hamilton’s abusive and toxic reaction. And sharing it with the world? Vile.— James Rhodes (@JRhodesPianist) December 26, 2017
There’s that particularly nasty element of school playground bullying mentality when celebs use social media like this that makes me feel nauseous. And involving a child? Please… It’s all kinds of fucked up— James Rhodes (@JRhodesPianist) December 26, 2017
In the aftermath of Hamilton’s video, plenty of naysayers have emerged from the woodworks, protesting that he is correct and that all this political correctness is unnecessary.
Lewis Hamilton told his nephew not to wear a dress as boys don’t. Quite right . Feminization of boys in childhood is wrong , medically and culturally! The real point is that it’s his opinion and his family . An apology was bullied out of him. PC must be gotten rid of ! pic.twitter.com/VLXtoTHMtF— Graham Viking (@GrahamJ81609846) December 27, 2017
However, we must note that toxic masculinity, the “traditional norms of behavior among men in contemporary American and European society that are associated with detrimental social and psychological effects,” is just as harmful to men as it is to women, if not more so.
By repressing boys and forcing them to conform to arbitrary ideals of masculinity, we damage their growth and their psychological development. As Slate explains:
The rules governing masculinity require men to be stoic, to repress virtually all of their emotions (except anger). This leads many men to severely underdevelop their own ability to analyze and communicate about their own feelings. Our culture, not men’s nature, has enforced this emotional repression.
Hamilton may have been joking, or he may have been serious. Either way, he unwittingly became part of the chorus of voices that forces boys to become stoic, emotionless versions of themselves, all in an effort to become masculine.
In the aftermath, many chastised him for his actions.
Adios Lewis Hamilton. You careless twat. ?— Jameela Jamil (@jameelajamil) December 26, 2017
Hey, Lewis Hamilton. I present to you the most influential solo artist of all time, who sold 140 million albums worldwide and who impacted music, art, culture, fashion, film and theatre during his 50 year career. In a dress. pic.twitter.com/p31LUzhS6i— Hattie Blyth (@hattieblyth) December 26, 2017
Jesus god, Lewis Hamilton is a horrible person. Here he is shouting at a child for being delighted about wearing a princess dress. https://t.co/EoCVp2t8Kl— Another Ugly Stepsister (@stavvers) December 26, 2017
Hamilton quickly took to Twitter to apologize.
Yesterday I was playing around with my nephew and realised that my words were inappropriate so I removed the post. I meant no harm and did not mean to offend anyone at all. I love that my nephew feels free to express himself as we all should.— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) December 26, 2017
My deepest apologies for my behaviour as I realise it is really not acceptable for anyone, no matter where you are from, to marginalise or stereotype anyone.— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) December 26, 2017
I have always been in support of anyone living their life exactly how they wish and I hope I can be forgiven for this lapse in judgement.— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) December 26, 2017