Ah, Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. Or not. After all, while most of us like giving other people presents, it’s the act of buying said presents that often sucks worse than a moose attempting to ice skate (c’mon, can’t we all relate to Jingle All the Way? OK, maybe not the brawling with Sinbad in a Christmas parade and setting off bombs at a radio station bits, but the rest of it is pretty bloody relatable).
But let’s say you have a young boy, or someone who identifies as such, to buy a Christmas present for. You know what you should get them? A doll. Odds are, you already have before – possibly without even realising it.
“Boys don’t play with dolls, they play with action figures,” some folks would argue. Rubbish. You know what a Han Solo action figure really is? A doll. And this isn’t just one person’s view – “action figure” is actually a term created by the toy industry to sell dolls to boys, because they were afraid young men wouldn’t be interested in “girly” things. (there was actually a major US court case about this very thing. I’m not kidding.)
The truth is, we’re already buying dolls for boys. Why do we have to “masculinise” things by calling them “action figures?” What’s so scary about calling them dolls? As we’re aware, by shaming young kids by telling them they can’t play with something because it’s only “for girls” or “for boys,” we’re perpetuating a cycle of sexism, a warped view of women and women’s roles in society, and archaic gender “roles.”
It still has a long way to go, of course, but our society seems to be getting better with the idea of young girls playing with toy trucks or rugby balls. What’s so bad about letting boys play with dolls – whether that’s a Barbie, baby doll, or anything else?
Naturally, there’s precedent for doing just that. In Sweden, Top-Toy (one of the largest toy companies in northern Europe, and a licensee of Toys “R” Us), published a gender-neutral Christmas catalogue for the first time in 2012. Inside the catalogues were pictures of girls playing with toy cars and guns, and boys playing with dolls and kitchen sets.
The argument that children “naturally gravitate towards the toys that correspond with their biological gender” because of “science” is totally false for a couple of reasons: 1) gender is a social construct (as – surprise! – science tells us again and again), and that 2) toys are most definitely a social construct (since, you know, they’re literally made within the context of our culture).
Despite conservative commentators predictably blasting Sweden with the same tired (and laughably untrue) arguments of supposed “degeneracy,” it’s important to keep this in mind: when the gender-neutral Top-Toy catalogue was released, Sweden's top marketing watchdog received zero official complaints. As Swedish advertising ombudsperson Elisabeth Trotzig told German news outlet Deutsche Welle at the time: “In reality, children play with all kinds of toys.”
The “othering” of women starts at an early age, when we tell girls and boys they can’t play with the same things. This holiday season, let’s smash some gender stereotypes and give kids a range of different toys that allow them to learn different skills and engage in different types of play.
What’s the worst that could possibly happen? A boy who plays with a baby doll might grow up to be a dad?Support Villainesse