I really thought that I shouldn’t need to write about this. I believed that’s not a topic of the 21st century. And, oh gosh, I was wrong.
I’m talking about the big gender nonsense in our society. It all starts by how we treat our children, putting them into categories of gender: this is what boys do and that’s what girls do, this is what boys wear, this is what girls wear...
When working with families I came across this a lot: Mum thinks it’s a good idea to buy their sons (and daughters of course) a doll to play with. Then dad joins in and says: My son playing with a dolly? No way, he will get a new football, that’s what boys play with!
A quick look into the next best toy shop will just confirm this view. Toys are being categorised – again, girls toys (then they come in pink) and boys toys (blue of course). Girls play with dolls, prams, skipping ropes and pink balls – boys will play with cars, toy guns, pirate outfits and blue balls.
'He would go with dolly everywhere'
But what would happen if there are no such stereotypes anymore? What would our children choose if media, marketing and shops ignore colour coding and artificial preferences?
My boys are going through different phases of playing with dolls. When my eldest was about 1 1⁄2 we gave him a doll. He took the doll, looked at it and then kissed it. This was followed of a period of time where he would go with dolly everywhere.
After about six months he suddenly lost interest in playing with his doll. We didn’t do anything about it and that’s how it is until now. He’s now nearly six and pays more attention to his soft toy rabbit (well, now he wants a real baby to cuddle and look after, well, I guess he has honed his fathering skills on dolly, now we can move to the next level...). His younger brother has taken over the care for dolly. He is looking after her like a father would care for his child. And that’s exactly what playing with dolls is all about: Caring for someone; social, emotional and communication skills. It’s incredible what children explore and develop when they play with dolls: The list is long.
To check out all benefits on playing with dolls, have a read at MamaOT’s post here. (Just the headline in that post would look so much better without the reference to boys. All kids already includes boys)
What if there were no 'gendered' toys?
And it’s interesting to see, how kids can respond to the artificial advertising of gender roles. When we went out for a small lunch the other day, to a seaside café, there were little flags in the Panini with crossbones and a skull on it. My son asked why and well, what’s the answer to that? So, I just went with the best answer I could think of: adults think children like pirates and so like the café. His response was, “I don’t like pirates”. Yes, why would you?
Sometimes explaining the adult world to children, especially the world adults create for children to enjoy, is extremely difficult.
So what if we didn’t have any “gendered” toys? I believe our kids would just continue playing. They don’t care about gender fake (they will go for the colours THEY like) or appropriate toys. With no interfering from our side they’ll figure out themselves which toy is fun and which isn’t. Some will go through colour phases of liking one and then another.
So, next time I hear a father (or a mother) say that their son(s) shouldn’t play with dolls, I’ll just pick up one, sit on the floor and pretend to feed it. Then I will wait for the boys to join in the game. Kids play with dolls – let them enjoy it!
By Torsten Klaus
Torsten is an Author, Parenting Coach and Stay-at-home Father. He runs the internet platform Dads Talk and you can connect with him on www.facebook.com/DadsTalk or on Twitter @EmpathicFathers
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