The video, called “Stereo,” was originally just a homework assignment, as part of Ella Fields’s participation in the Cinematic Arts Academy at Millikan Middle School in Los Angeles. But it’s become part of a movement. “One of the first things that popped into my head was gender stereotypes,” the extremely talented teen told Huffington Post of coming up with a subject for her project. “And how I truly believe that anyone can wear whatever they want and how colors should not have any gender associated with them; they are just colors.”
So she created a 6.5-minute film that challenges gender stereotypes by reversing them, and in doing so, proves just how ridiculous they are. And it’s not just some silly kids video; it’s well edited and thoughtful. Although she posted the video in September, it’s continuing to make the rounds, with 3.5 million views so far and counting. “That’s pretty crazy because I didn’t think anyone would see it, to be completely honest,” Ella said of the attention her project is getting.
“Ever since the beginning of time, things have been exactly the same,” a narrator says as the video opens. “Boys and girls are separated by what they can and cannot do. It’s all so boring,” the young woman preaches. “Boys wear pink, girls wear blue. Boys wear dresses, and girls can’t,” she continues over images that go against gender rules: “It’s a girl” written on a cake in blue, a young man in a gown, and a woman in an oversize suit. “We’re viewed as the strong ones, we play sports,” she says. In this fictional yet still all too familiar world, if a boy develops an interest in football, he is told to “go back to the kitchen where he belongs.”
“Stereotypes suck,” she declares. Then the story begins: A girl named Jamie is shopping with her mom for clothes. The scene is the same as many we’ve seen before — they’re in a section designated for one gender, and Jamie looks uncomfortable as her mom deems certain items “cute.” The difference is that they are looking at boys’ clothes and Jamie is wearing a boyish outfit. Jamie is drawn to a dress across the floor, but her mother tells her, “This is the boys section, nothing for you here. You, stick to the girls clothes.”
This story continues as Jamie watches TV filled with men pushing makeup (James Charles makes an appearance) and women playing sports. She lands on a man singing opera and is entranced. But her mom turns off the TV and declares, “I raised a strong athlete, not a wimpy musical theater kid.”
In the film, young boys twirl in dresses, and girls slump in hats and baggy clothes at school. But Jamie has a secret; she painted her nails. Students begin to realize it and judge her, and it gets worse when she shows interest in the school’s theater club. “Oh my God, Jamie’s doing musical theater!” one boy cries. Everyone crowds her to laugh and point, and she runs away crying.
The film reaches its climax as Jamie enjoys a video of the “first-ever female performance on Broadway … a big step for gender equality!” at home in private. Her mom busts her and scolds her for watching the video and showing interest in a dress. But Jamie delivers an epic declaration. “It’s an article of clothing. It’s a piece of fabric. There is no gender assigned to a piece of fabric,” she says, brilliantly.
She continues: “Who says girls can’t wear makeup and paint their nails? I’m so sick of being stereotyped and being told what I should and shouldn’t like just because of the way I was born. I want to wear that dress. I want to paint my nails. And I want to star in the school musical, too. You’re my mom and I love you, but I wish you would support me.”
The next and final scene shows Jamie walking to school wearing that dress she spotted in the store with a smile on her face. People laugh and point, but she holds her head high as she marches over to the musical theater sign and rips off a tab with the phone number for auditions. And while the fact that Jamie finally got the support and confidence she needed to feel comfortable and free in her own skin has the power to induce chills, that isn’t even the best part. What happens next: A little girl, wearing this alternate universe’s typical girl’s clothing, is empowered by Jamie’s act, and takes one, too.
Cue the tears and warmed hearts.
“This is such an interesting presentation of gender stereotypes. It’s presented in such a unique matter, in a way that will raise awareness and make us think,” Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist specializing in family and relationship issues, told Yahoo Lifestyle after seeing the video. Greenberg is delighted it’s getting so much attention because of the way it combats these outdated beliefs.
“The problem of gender stereotypes on young kids is that if they have an interest in something that is not typically gender specific for them, then they start to think that something is wrong with them, and then they feel shame,” she points out. “And then they are at high risk not to explore interests that they think are not appropriate for their sex, and that’s a shame, because they’re not exploring things that can make them feel happy and passionate. We want them to explore things that will make them feel creative.”
Watching this film can help young ones see that exploring something outside their gender boundaries is OK. But Greenberg points out that the really little ones will need a disclaimer before watching the film.
“Teenagers will certainly get the message here,” she says. “Kids around 12 will get this. Kids under 12 will need this explained to them, because I’m concerned that if this is shown to kids under 12 out of context, they might be confused by it.” And it’s not only kids who need to learn these lessons. “But everybody should see it,” she says. “Adults should see it too. It’s so clever.”
The final moment in Ella’s film depicts exactly what she wanted when making it. “All that matters is that I make one person feel like they have a voice, one person feel like someone understands them,” the now-14-year-old said in a follow-up video. “That’s all that matters honestly and that’s kind of what I was trying to do with Stereo. And I’ve had some people tell me that they felt like that, so my job is done.”
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