“Do I wear blue because I’m a boy, or am I a boy because I wear blue?” asks a perplexed young toddler, dubbed the “philosotoddler,” in a meme on a Buzzfeed Pinterest post. A seemingly simple question that, once pondered, actually conjures up all sorts of questions, conjectures, and arguments in today’s gender culture. The post, originally intended to be nothing more than a joke about the confusing life of a toddler, has no philosophical meaning when looked at in its original context by an average viewer. The intended audience for this post is the modern internet-user, in particular a Pinterest user, which means it is likely aimed more at younger audiences, especially teens and such who are frequently on Pinterest. Because the post was originally meant to be simple entertainment, many people have surely seen this meme and have thought nothing of it. Most peple who see this post have likely grown up in the heteronormative, gender stereotype-enforcing culture in which we live today, therefore they did not read deeper into the meaning of the picture and merely laughed at the “philosotoddler’s” deep inquiries about life. However, when the post is viewed through the probing lens of gender and sexuality, the reader can truly realize a much deeper meaning hidden between the lines.
This perspective first reveals that, by merely making the assumption that blue is masculine, the post abides by the heteronormative trends that have consumed society for hundreds of years. The meme addresses the role of gender stereotypes and the idea that certain qualities or accessories are so associated with a certain gender that they are seen as identifiers of that gender. For example, a baby wearing blue is typically assumed to be a boy. He is a boy because he has male genitalia, and he is expected to eventually exhibit the qualities that are typically seen as being masculine. This progression is the logic most people use in society even today, because these are the ideas of heteronormativity. The baby has already been assigned the gender “male” because of his biological sex. Almost automatically, the baby, not even old enough to speak or express his/her own identity, already has expectations to fill and assumptions to meet because of gender stereotypes. These concepts were not part of the original poster’s intentions in discerning meaning from the post, but these topics, heteronormativity and gender stereotypes, are the main focus of this meme when analyzed through the lens of gender and sexuality.
Looking at the original post makes it clear that Buzzfeed originally posted the meme as a joke; along with this meme, there are many others with the same picture, but with different captions: “How did she turn the spoon into an airplane?” “How can you really know something if you haven’t put it in your mouth?” The point of the other memes is merely to joke about the “deep questions” of being a toddler, yet this meme in particular means much more than that, and many Pinterest users have noticed this idea. For example, another user pinned the meme, stating, “It’s a good question to ask. Gender stereotypes are so big for young children.” Because such basic assumptions are made about gender in this meme, it means much more than Buzzfeed originally intended, and has a greater significance than many of the other amusing memes with the confused toddler.
Looking deeper into the meaning of the post through analysis from the perspective of gender and sexuality, one can find meaning in the use of a baby as the one posing this meaningful question. The baby has not yet had a chance to understand gender stereotypes, yet he is already being influenced and even defined by them. The gender norms of society are being forced upon him and shaping his future, already affecting his learning of what gender is and what it means to be a boy. The normative gender idea of dressing baby boys in blue is already affecting the baby, before he even has a say in what he wants. Because of the color blue, the baby already has expectations to be masculine and to fulfill the role of a boy in society. Associations and assumptions such as these will only continue to happen and expand as he grows and begins to understand more about life. Blue is a boy’s color. Trucks and cars are toys boys play with. Boys are tough and masculine. It all begins with the color blue.
This tendency to enforce gender stereotypes also has a connection with following the heteronormative ideals of society. For example, teaching young boys that they should be masculine goes along with the idea that they are not feminine. Being feminine is for girls, and so is wearing pink, and being emotional and fragile. Because of heteronormativity, one assumes that this boy, who will grow up to be masculine, will grow to like girls. The baby is put in a categorical gender at a young age, and this gender gives him a natural, expected role in life. He will follow the idea that girls have a feminine, even subordinate role in comparison to men, and he will grow up surrounded by the idea that romantic relations are most fitting for those of opposite sexes. All of these assumptions and expectations are related to the heteronormative culture that begins at such a young age that it can affect the shaping of one’s future.
In conclusion, although this Pinterest meme was not originally intended to demonstrate such meaningful and controversial topics such as gender roles and heteronormativity, many users were able to see a deeper meaning in the post. There is irony in the fact that the “philosotoddler,” meant to be nothing more than a joke, actually did end up posing more of a philosophical question about normative gender roles in today’s culture. The meme can be seen as an implementation of our tendency to assume the roles of gender in society, and to make assumptions based on gender that cause expectations to be held throughout life. Maybe a better question for the toddler to ask would be when will we stop adhering to gender roles and heteronormativity and allow kids to discover their own roles in life instead of having them assigned at birth?
Original Buzzfeed post: https://www.buzzfeed.com/jpmoore/the-philosotoddler-meme?utm_term=.mkMeWBl2l#.epMbEklKl
Post from user about gender roles: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/450360031460785367/