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Mikki Willis is a great dude. He’s the founder of Elevate films and I remember meeting him over a Skype call while I was Vancouver as we were having a big brainstorm session with the group over at Unify for our upcoming newsroom.

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When I saw this video pop up on social media and saw Mikki’s face I knew it was going to be good. Sure enough, it contained an awesomely switched on message in a cute and comical video. A message not only parents should hear, but the whole world, given how powerful the meaning really is.

Mikki and his son Azai went to the toy store to get a new toy for Azai’s birthday. While at the store his son asked to get a mermaid doll. Mikki ends up asking the question “Now, how do you think a dad feels when his son wants to get this?

Here’s his answer:

Gender Stereotyping

Now there’s something happening in our world that I find to be very inspiring. There is a shift in what we define as masculine and feminine taking place that’s really bringing into focus how arbitrary gender norms can be. When you think about it, we often hear in casual conversation blanket statements about what men do or don’t do, and what women do or don’t do, and they’re presented as self-evident observations. “Real men” don’t cry and “real women” take care of their appearance, or have curves, and so forth. Then we see these statements begin to affect people’s entire lives, often without them being aware of it. Suddenly they are doing and living by how others tell them how they should be. What clothes to wear, how to look, how to express themselves, what music to listen to, what toys to play with, and so forth.

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Our lives become a manufactured product of how our culture tells us we should be, and that includes how we should act based on our gender. And of course, all of this starts at a young age, not only because of what we see and hear but because our parents have been “trained” in gender norms too, unwittingly passing on that training to their children. What was clearly most powerful about Mikki’s response to his kid was that he chose to allow his kid to pick what he wants to do.

“You have my promise forever, to love you and accept you no matter what life you choose!”

The World Is Changing

Personally I’ve always been very passionate about the idea of not putting ourselves in a box based on our gender. Whether it be a male getting ripped on for being emotional or crying, or a female who’s teased for being more interested in sports and ‘rugged’ activities, don’t you find it incredibly limiting to think we are supposed to gravitate towards certain things based solely on our gender?

Interestingly, about a month ago, Target announced it was going to begin phasing out boy-girl references throughout its stores in sections where “suggesting products by gender is unnecessary,” such as toys, kids’ bedding, and entertainment.

Melissa Atkins Wardy, a children’s retail expert and business owner, told Upworthy in an interview: “There is no ‘boy side’ or ‘girl side’ to childhood… why would we tell a kid they can’t like cars or pirates or fairies or pink? Go for it, kid.”

I believe this is a great example of how our world is changing and how our perspectives are shifting. It’s gotten big enough that stores are now strategizing differently and more and more parents are allowing their kids to choose whatever life they wish. These are powerful signs of changing times.

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