This mother’s 3-year-old son plays with a baby doll toy all the time. The mother thinks nothing of it, but when an acquaintance of hers judged her for allowing her son to play with a “girl” toy, the mother began t wonder what if there was something wrong with her son – or any son for that matter – playing with dolls.
These are the five things that she asked herself when thinking about what boys play with dolls.
1. What if he continues to select toys from the pink aisle?
So many toy stores nowadays have very distinct “boys’ aisles” and “girls’ aisles.” The boys’ aisles—which are almost always marked by a dark shade of blue—house the trucks and action figures and play weaponry. The girls’ aisles—which are almost always marked by some shade of pink—house the dolls and dress-up clothes and play houses and cleaning supplies.
Some might argue that this is the way that the world works. Boys grow up to be men who drive to work and make things and fight wars. Girls grow up to be women who have babies, wear make-up and clean the house. Any deviations from these norms would probably destabilize the entire universe.
Of course, there might be something wrong with these norms—and gendered toy aisles—in the first place.
“Scientists have not yet identified a “gay virus” that attaches itself to baby dolls and Easy Bake ovens and princess dresses, but many people seem to think that this virus is precisely how little (gay) boys grow up to be gay men.”
2. What if the doll confuses my son about his gender?
Perhaps deep in the recesses of the baby doll’s painted-on eyes is a tiny evil demon who whispers to my son, “You are not a boy. You are a girl. Or maybe you’re a zucchini. No, wait! You are not a boy—you are parallelogram. Or a pencil! Who love baby dolls!”
I would be worried about this possibility if it were not so ridiculous.
3. What if other kids make fun of him?
The “Toy Bullying” syllogism goes something like this: Baby dolls are girl toys. Girl toys are feminine. Femininity is weak. Therefore, baby dolls are weak. They’re for girly, weak children. And we can call those children “sissies,” especially when those children are boys.
Indeed, there are some parents who reinforce these rigid gender roles and stereotypes. Yet, while I might be worried about some other child bullying my own son someday, I am equally concerned about those parents who are raising children who will express those bullying ideas and behaviors.
4. What if he catches the gay from the doll?
Scientists have not yet identified a “gay virus” that attaches itself to baby dolls and Easy Bake ovens and princess dresses, but many people seem to think that this virus is precisely how little (gay) boys grow up to be gay men.
Thankfully, I’m not worried about this virus since I do not, in fact, believe that it—or anything like it—exists. If my son is gay, I will know that he was beautifully born that way.
I’m far more worried about general human stupidity, bigotry and hate.
5. What if his baby doll play helps my son to model being a caring father?
Because isn’t that what part of what pretend play does? Doesn’t it help our children to model the activities that they will engage in as adults? Don’t their toys help them to practice the behaviors that they find most interesting and important in their great big worlds?