Boys Play With Dolls, Too

samdoll

“Dad, we can’t get this doll. It says it’s for ‘mommies in training.'”

I love that my 7-year-old is such a voracious reader, but sometimes I worry about the messages he’s now capable of absorbing.

The mission was to head to the toy store and find a baby doll for my youngest, Sam. Unlike his older brother Will who was 5 when he became a brother, Sam will only be 26 months old when his new baby brother or sister is born in September. So the idea was to buy him a doll to get him used to having a little baby around.

We naively thought the difficult part would be getting a not-quite-2-year-old to gently handle the baby and keep it out of the microwave or from being thrown down the stairs. Little did we know our troubles would begin much sooner than that.

As veterans of the toy store, we’re prepared for and grit our teeth through the “boy” and “girl” aisles, as designated by the not so subtle blue and pink coloring. We’ve had many discussions with our oldest about how toys are toys and both girls and boys can play with whatever the heck they want, but as we came upon the baby doll aisle and tried to choose just the right one for Sam, we noticed a disturbing trend.

All of the messaging on all of the boxes was aimed at girls.

This doll helped “mommies in training” while that doll allowed young girls to “become the best mommy in the world.” And suddenly I realized I had stumbled on a far more troubling problem than all the dolls being girls clad in gender stereotypical pink.

Just think about the message this sends to our boys. By eliminating them completely from the messaging, the manufacturers are basically saying “dolls aren’t for boys.” After all, looking after a baby requires love, patience, great care, and compassion. You know, girl stuff.

Just as little girls are all too often left out of the equation when it comes to superheroes, trucks, and anything that might leave their knees scraped or their hands dirty, boys are taught from an early age that being caring, gentle, and kind is best left to the women. Sorry son, no dolls for you. But why don’t you hop on over to the blue aisle and grab a GI Joe or a toy gun from the plastic arsenal.

You might think this is me nitpicking and making a mountain out of molehill, but I believe you’re wrong.

All of this gender nonsense is destructive, harmful to our kids, and tied together. And as much as informed parents rail against it, so much of it is unavoidable because it strikes from all angles. Girls are pretty, boys are smart. Boys are strong and brave, girls are princesses in need of rescue. Girls are caretakers, boys will be boys.

We let boys go through life thinking things like involved parenting are a woman’s job, and then clutch our pearls and wonder why there are so many absentee fathers. And on the flip side, perhaps there are so few female CEOs because they’re too busy taking care of kids at home — a job men are hesitant to do because they’ve seldom been included in that discussion.

Let’s just stop. Stop the pink vs blue and let kids go naturally to where they’re comfortable. Stop the pigeonholing with stupid onesies like “Lock Up Your Daughters!” for boys and “Too Pretty for Homework” for girls. Stop pretending boys have an inherent interest in guns and trucks while girls automatically seek out Barbie. Sure it might hold true in some cases, but let’s stop putting the expectation there before they’re even old enough to walk.

What’s the worst that could happen if dolls are suddenly marketed to boys as well as girls? Heaven forbid a little boy with a doll might one day grow up to be — gasp — a devoted father!

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After putting this on Facebook, I was contacted by a GREAT new company in my home state of Massachusetts that is tackling this exact problem. I am not affiliated with Wonder Crew in any way, shape, or form, and I’m not being paid for this plug. I’m just a big fan and think it’s a great product, so I’m sharing it here.

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7 thoughts on “Boys Play With Dolls, Too

  1. We went through the same thing. Our oldest got a baby boy doll when his brother was due to be born. Years later, my youngest boy wanted his own boy doll. No problem, right?

    Wrong.

    All of the dolls were girls. He wanted a little boy doll but they were all pink-clad baby girls. Even assuming the “dolls are for girls” message, do marketers think that girls would never want to take care of a little boy?

    We eventually found a “gender neutral but probably a boy” doll for my son. He is equally at home playing with his doll as he is playing with his superhero figures.
    TechyDad recently posted..Asperger’s Syndrome and SiblingsMy Profile

  2. I’m concerned about this same thing but on the other side, for my daughter. We haven’t entered the doll phase, she just throws anything and everything around for the most part, but I strive to limit the amount of exclusively pink things we surround her with. Thankfully there’s Ninja Turtles!

    Enjoyed reading your post and totally agree with the message. We’re surrounded by so many who seem close-minded and buy into the pink for girls, blue for boys marketing, but hopefully they’ll open their minds for the sake of all kids!
    RC @ Going Dad recently posted..Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge (Day 2): Skin-to-Skin BondingMy Profile

  3. When I was pregnant with my oldest child, the room included a doll that had been passed down to me as a child. When I gave birth to a son, that doll remained his. When I was expecting baby #2, we bought a baby doll for my son at a craft show – great alternative to a store bought doll. While he and his brother can be found shooting each other, and me, and random people who try to walk in our house, with Nerf guns, they still have those dolls around! Since I Work full-time and their dad has always been the stay-at-home parent, they don’t have some of those gender bias ideas that seem to still be perpetuated by companies.

  4. Many years ago, a doll named Joey came out. Joey was the baby from “All in the Family” and the doll was…
    ANATOMICALLY CORRECT
    It was a big controversy at the time!

  5. I was raised very gender neutral, I’ v even prefered “boys” toys but also liked barbie and dolls. Two things I remember so clearly as a girl where these:

    1. One of my friends had a great amount of different dolls and doll stuff but when I visited her one time she told me she had a new favourite doll. She showed it to me and I was fascinated from the beginning. It was a very realistic new born boy doll, it even had a little penis. From that day on we would alwasy would fight over who may care for the boy this time. So yes…girls would LOVE to care for boy dolls. 😉

    2. As I was older I was in the toys section of our local store and I witnessed a father and his little boy (I guess 3-4 years old) standing around arguing. The boy was crying and repeatedly said he wanted to have the doll so badly. The father had a red head and was shouting at his son: “No!! Boys don’t play with dolls, I by you a car or something. Now shut up!”
    I was so shocked…I was like 11-12 years old that day.

    So…genderising kids is harmful to all…boys and girls to the same level. And I always hated pink as a girl -_-

    Thanks fpr being such a great father and giving your boys the freedom to choose.

    Oh and maybe if you wonder about he boy doll…I’m from Germany…the thing with nudity is no big deal around here 😉

  6. Uh I find this so annoying too!!! I’m desperately trying to find my son a boy doll that comes with a toy bath/potty etc. The only nice boy dolls I have found aren’t cheap and don’t include either but are better than pink dolls (I don’t like pink by the way and I’m his Mum!!!). Currently he really likes babies he’s 16mths and is very insistent that he wants the baby in his story book… he even tried taking to dolls at the clinic home with him (not 1 but 2) he sees them like any other cuddly toy (he is cuddly toy mad) and likes looking after them. As he might become a big brother someday/a daddy we’d like him to have a doll so he can continue to practice being gentle… so far looks like it’s the elc cupcake doll for us at £20!!!! I was hoping for a somewhat cheaper doll though seems it’s for role play and he’s so young!!!

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