I grew up in the 1980s. The 80s were initially progressive, somewhat like the 70s before them, but come the late 80s it almost feels like a strain occurred. This strangulation on what I like to call social freedom continues today and I believe it has gotten progressively worse. I was born in 1980, so I had the unique opportunity to experience the entire decade. I remember from around 1983 onward. I especially remember the toys of the 80s.
Like most little kids back then, I had a Cabbage Patch Kid. We held a contest on our website, LI Kids, offering Cabbage Patch Kids for their 25th anniversary. I can’t tell you how many people left a comment about how their sons, grandsons or brothers had Cabbage Patch Kids. I didn’t know they were so popular with boys. One thing I also learned from this contest was that Xavier Roberts, the creator of the Cabbage Patch Kids, doesn’t like them being called dolls. They aren’t dolls, they’re kids. In fact, they were originally called Little People. Perhaps he thought they’d appeal to all kids regardless of gender whereas most boys don’t like to play with what they perceive to be dolls.
Another popular option when I was a kid, though I was a little too old for this, was the My Buddy doll. My younger cousin had a My Buddy. These dolls were specifically designed for boys. They were advertised as being rough and tumble dolls who could go anywhere little boys went. I always thought My Buddy was a little silly, but always took my Cabbage Patch Doll, Daniel, wherever I went. Perhaps it was My Buddy’s funny design? Whatever it was, I know many little boys who had My Buddy Dolls and it was quite acceptable to have one in the 80s.
Nowadays, some parents scoff at the idea of their male child playing with dolls. What a silly notion. Why would a boy want to play with dolls? Our culture has ingrained these children with gender-specific thoughts. I’ve heard both my son and my nephew say things like “Ew, dolls! Those are girl toys!”
Since the time toys such as dolls were invented, they have normally been perceived as girl toys, but what about the little boys who do want Barbies? What about the little boys who do want to play with little dollies? Could this be part of why men have become so disenchanted with caring for their own children, because a doll is almost like a pretend child. I know many men who leave all the “child-rearing” to their wives. That’s women’s work after all, isn’t it?
Regardless of whether a boy wants to play with a doll or not, those boys who do play with dolls should never be teased about it. My 13 year old son who has a form of autism, has a bigger Care Bear collection than any kid I’ve ever met. Most kids his age are far past the Care Bear collecting phase. He could seriously get teased unmercifully if kids found out he had such a collection. Why? What is the point in denigrating a child if they find comfort in such things?
Care Bears make my son happy. Why should I deny him such a simple pleasure and worse yet, why should the outside world have an opinion in what he owns or not?
I think this all comes down to the idea of gender? Can anyone give me a definitive definition of gender? The world has been designed as though there are two genders; male and female, but it isn’t as cut and dry as that. Gender isn’t black or white. There are gray areas. Gender can be fluid. A little boy may want to play with a doll, but might also want a truck, too. Every person is different and every person’s gender is different.
That’s why some girls are what we like to call “more girly” while others are tomboys. Gender isn’t static so why apply these rules to children, whose minds are being molded and shaped in these early stages, by forcing them to maintain a gender role that might not even suit them?
What’s your thought on boys playing with dolls? Would you let your son play with a doll if he really wanted to? Also, why do you believe that boys playing with dolls has become somewhat taboo in the last 20 years?
[tags]My Buddy, Cabbage Patch Kids, boys, dolls, gender, gender specific, kids, toys[/tags]