Do you have a boy? Does he like to play with dolls? Have you noticed the limited number of options available to him? Why are these toys just for girls? I think these are all questions that I’ve asked myself, and I know that the wonderful Kristen Johnson and her sister Katie Jarvis asked themselves before they created Boy Story. I’m so glad they did. You see I have a little boy that I don’t want to feel like he has to fit into the mold of this is what boys do. I want to let his personality shine through. I also want to teach him empathy and compassion. I want him to learn to accept his nurturing and loving personality. This is part of why I’m so glad to know that there are doll options for boys. I’m hopeful that this form of pretend play can be created in a way that is genuine to little boys without sending the mixed message of this is for girls.
When boys don’t know that dolls are for girls, many of them play in much the same way a girl would. They love to dress them, feed them, and take them for rides. This is a normal interaction. It’s obvious when you watch this that the same nurturing characteristics we see in girls are very present in boys. This is important! It’s important to note that pretend play with dolls is generally meant to reinforce taking care of something other than yourself. It’s used with girls as a teaching tool for how to take care of younger siblings. It’s used as a tool that sets in the lifelong expectation that women are to be the main caretakers of the family. In reverse boys are told that dolls are only for girls and thus they do not have to be the main caretaker in a family. They are outright told it’s wrong to play with dolls by many adults in the world.
Why is it wrong for boys to play with dolls?
The answer is that it isn’t. Dolls are a part of growing up. They’re a learning tool the same as most other toys. Truthfully, I’m beyond excited to be able to share a doll with my son. The market has made this difficult. Many of you probably saw Gina DeMillo Wagner’s post about how she created an American Boy doll for her son. I know I remember reading it. It was an eye-opening experience. I started looking in toy stores at the options available, and I realized that it is very limited. When we were children, you could at least buy a My Buddy, but you have no such option today. This doll was discontinued in the 1990s. It also was a very generic looking doll. You couldn’t customize it to look like YOU. American Girl makes millions of dollars off the very idea that a doll can be a likeness of the girl buying the doll. Of course, this is still not perfect. It’s harder for girls of mixed race for instance to find a good match. It’s a step in the right direction, though.
Toys, in general, are still living in a very antiquated existence. We’re still separating toys based on gender and creating pink versions of toys that don’t really need one. Do I really need a Rebelle Nerf gun? I honestly don’t think so. Of course, I realize that toy manufacturers continue making toys because they sell. I’m aware of how business works. That doesn’t mean we can’t change it.
What is the answer?
The answer is that we should be giving all children the option to play with a variety of toys. Legos aren’t for boys any more than dolls are for girls. We should be offering a wide variety of dolls in every color and gender. We should help girls learn to build anything they want with Legos. It’s my hope that we will be breaking the toy market wide open with not only the dolls created by Kristen and Katie, but we will also help our children decide on what toys they like for themselves. I hope that children will be given a wide range of options and allowed to use their imaginations to create limitless ways to play with it. I would be at my happiest if this was true.
What is your child’s favorite toy? I want to hear all about your child’s imagination. How do they interact with the simplest things in your life? My little guy sure does love to bang on anything from the pots and pans to bookshelves. We’re all about the drumming!
Photo credit: Ann Fuentes
Here is a little bit about Kristen Johnson and Katie Jarvis
Kristen Johnson is a former international lawyer, family devotee, and social changer. She can’t decide whether to lean in or lean back, but with two young sons, her hands always seem to be full. Her village is her rock: her husband, family, friends, and colleagues. She co-founded Boy Story with her sister, Katie Jarvis, a brilliant designer, goofball aunt, and the-girl-you-can’t-stop-laughing-with.