By Aakriti Gupta
Elm Staff Writer
It was not a ninja toy or a GI Joe that a little boy Isaiah Willis from California, chose when his father asked him to make a choice between two toys that he received for his birthday. Instead Willis surprised his father, Mikki, by choosing a Barbie doll mermaid. Rather than taking the toy away from his kid, what most fathers would be traditionally expected to do if their sons were caught playing with dolls, Mikki expressed how comfortable he was with his son’s choice.
He wasn’t bothered about whether or not his son chose a gift that was deemed manly enough. What mattered to him was his child’s freedom of choice and what made him happy. A video of this moment got 5.2 millions hits on Facebook and circulated around the internet quickly. Why is it so popular? Why are people talking about it and appreciating it? In my opinion it is the element of surprise that has caused this video to go viral. It acts as a symbol of not conforming to stereotypical gender roles.
Even today, many parents like seeing their daughters play with Barbie dolls and kitchen sets while boys play with GI Joe action figures, swords and balls, conforming to gender roles. Crossing over to the other side is considered a hindrance in the development of their child’s identity. While a girl playing with her brother’s toys can be somewhat accepted, the other way round is a big no-no. A boy with a Barbie is often considered and perceived as a disaster. To make the distinction very clear, the aisles of toys in stores are physically separated with pink sides housing Barbie dolls and tiaras and a blue side with nerf guns and actions figures just to make sure there is no confusion while choosing a toy for a child.
Why is does it have to be made so obvious and so distinct? While one might argue that this is something that has been happening over the years and blame the color distinction on historical traditions. This blue vs pink battle didn’t begin until the late 1900s. Before, all children were dressed in white as laundering and washing was easier with a light color. An article in 1927 in “Time Magazine” showed the sex-appropriate color in leading U.S clothing stores. Blue was considered a color apt for girls as it was delicate and dainty. While pink was a masculine color that was associated with a fiery male temperament as it was a stronger and more powerful color.
Moving on from just color distinctions, children are socialized into their distinct gender roles right from the beginning. The video Mikki uploaded on Facebook was a symbol of opposing the existing expected gender roles. It is different from what most parents teach their kids. The attention that the video has received is the symbol that people feel the need to have permission to be themselves without any judgement. This video promotes the sense of individuality, and the widespread positive attention that it’s received validates this freedom of choice. Not everyone can be forced to change and break the stereotypes, but let us celebrate the one’s who have been bold enough to break the rules.