After more than three decades in business, the makers of the American Girl doll have released an American Boy doll. Logan Everett wears plaid, plays the drums and — you read that right — is a boy doll. There may be many nuanced reasons for this new doll — after all, girls might want to play with boy dolls a la Ken and Barbie. Or, heck, since American Girls, the dolls, and books are so popular, why shouldn’t boys join in on the fun? But given the timing of this announcement and our culture’s obsession with eradicating traditional gender roles, this is another progressive ploy, a “Holy, gender-stereotypes-are-so-2005,” sidekick sentiment, like Robin is to Batman.
Eradicating gender is sometimes okay
Given the explosion of gender-neutral clothing lines and the call for gender-neutral toys, I’m actually surprised American Girl headed in this direction. In 2015, Target removed their gender-specific labels from children’s toys and bedding. It’s hard to keep track of when gender matters and when it doesn’t. (I also hope Logan doesn’t get confused and end up wanting to be a girl? In 2020 Logan might be “Laura!”) Of course, girls will want to play with the boy — he’s a novelty after all — and I’m sure some boys will too. Especially young ones. This mom said her little boy wanted an American Boy doll so much, last year she made him one herself by hacking off an American Girl doll’s hair and the like.
Very young children aren’t always as gung-ho for or against gender-specific toys as one might think. For example, my five year-old girl has put a play dress on my three year-old boy for giggles and he’s clueless. If you must know, I gently explain dresses are for girls and we remove it, throw a do-rag on his head, and hand him a sword. (I know! I’m so antiquated!)
But does this mean boys should be as drawn to “girl” toys as “boy” toys? Does it even matter?
Boys will be boys
I think it does matter. Here’s why: Whether intentionally or not, American Girl is forcing political correctness and a discussion of gender stereotypes onto an age and gender that doesn’t want it. When boys are young, especially boys who don’t struggle with dysphoria at all — which is a very real issue — they seem generally and naturally drawn to what adults would call “boy” toys.
As a mother of two boys and two girls we have plenty of boy, girl, and gender-neutral toys.
Still, when you throw it all into the playroom and let the heathens at it, one of my girls gravitates towards really girly things like dolls; the other plays with both (but mostly her older brother).
The two boys, however, embrace their masculinity like Peter Pan embraced Neverland. Since they could talk they have gravitated towards boy toys, have made boy sounds for everything, and have chewed things into the shapes of boy toys. Once at a science museum, my son and his friends were playing in the “colonial” frontier area which had a cabin, fake firewood, and fake food. Ten minutes later they were playing Army and were shooting each other with fake bananas. Bananas.
This is actually okay. For a mother of boys, “boys will be boys” isn’t just a slogan we utter when they get toothpaste all over the counter or create a fort in the backyard out of branches and duct tape. It is — at least for me — a way to celebrate masculinity. Boys generally will be boys and why shouldn’t they be? Why shouldn’t we as a society, instead of commanding they give up their innate boy traits and be just like girls who want to play with dolls, celebrate this instead of criticizing? The joy of a boy lay in his grubby hands and loud nature and ferocious, curious spirit. From those things we see traits that carry into manhood: Men who love to fix, build, problem-solve, create, command, lead, and protect. What would we be as a society without these?
Do boys grow up to be violent criminals more than girls? Yes. Is it because they turn bananas into guns at the science museum? I doubt it. Should I encourage them to play with dolls more? I could certainly try, but when I showed my nine year-old son the picture of Logan he scrunched up his freckled face and said, “Why would they do that?”
As a mom, I’ve actually found all my children play best with toys that are basically gender-neutral and can be played with repeatedly in a myriad of ways: Think Legos versus a Nerf gun. On the other hand, Legos, blocks, Moon Sand, Play-Doh, Lincoln Logs, board games and Dominoes have all been well-loved.
Research even supports this concept. These professors found, through various studies and watching children play with very gender-specific toys, gender-neutral toys, and anything in between that range, “[S]trongly gender-typed toys appear to be less supportive of optimal development than neutral or moderately gender-typed toys.” This 2015 op-ed in the New York Times made a whole case for gender-neutral toys saying gender-specific toys can actually “negatively impact a child’s development.”
Get your facts straight
So if that’s the case, why the sudden push for an American Boy doll for girls and boys alike? Sure, more money, more variety — it’ll make some people very happy. But it looks like progressive marketers and liberal media needs to have a pow-wow to really figure out: Does gender matter? If not does it only matter when it’s traditional — girls are doing girl stuff and boys are doing boy stuff — then there’s a monumental effort to criticize and flip it around to be more progressive?
It’s bogus for the commercial industry at-large to succumb to reversing stereotypes especially on a segment of society — young boys — who are completely comfortable being male and whom we should encourage thusly: Make bananas into guns, not boys into dolls. It plays into male psyche to provide and protect as it plays into the female psyche (in general) to nurture and comfort. Of course girls can be soldiers and guys can cook in the kitchen, but this isn’t really about that is it? Deep down, everybody knows many people fall very naturally into gender-specific roles and are just fine with it, celebrating when it’s convenient, decrying it when it’s a matter of political correctness. That needs to stop. (For more from the author of “My Son’s Response to American Girl’s New Doll Tells Me Everything I Need to Know” please click HERE)