Tag Archives: gender norms

Boys Play With Dolls, Too

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“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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Gender Matters: My Son Won’t Play with “Girl Toys”

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“Will doesn’t care about Elsa from Frozen. He’s a boy and that’s girl stuff.”

That’s what a dad said to his daughter in front of my 5-year-old son recently. My son who, just a few days earlier, excitedly danced in his seat while watching Frozen in a movie theater accompanied by — gasp! — me. His dad. Yup, that’s right. A father and son trip to see an animated Disney musical about sisters, relationships, love, and sacrifice.

You know, total chick stuff.

Since this is someone we encounter on a fairly regular basis, I suppressed the dad blogger rage and accompanying vehement diatribe on gender equality that was desperately attempting to escape from my mouth. But I saw the confused (and slightly ashamed) look on my son’s face and it broke my heart, so I knew I had to say something.

“Actually, Will and I saw Frozen and we absolutely loved it. That movie is great and it’s for boys just as much as girls,” I said, choking down my anger. “Right buddy?”

But after hearing it labeled a “girl movie” and therefore unacceptable, all Will would offer at that point was a tepid “Well, it was OK.” Just OK. Three days ago it had been deemed “AWESOME!!!!!!”

And then it was my heart that broke.

Continue reading Gender Matters: My Son Won’t Play with “Girl Toys”

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