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So what if boys play with dolls

Erita Mann
Erita Mann

Mom of two children. Born and grew up in Jakarta, and moved to Los Angeles in 2003.

Los Angeles  /  Tue, March 29, 2016  /  05:05 pm
So what if boys play with dolls

Gender identification by color began in the early 20th century in the Western world. (Shutterstock/-)

I was reading an article about Adele strolling through Disneyland with her son recently, which caught my attention because her son was dressed as Anna from Frozen.

I am impressed by Adele. When my son was younger I never would have let him wear a dress. I wouldn't even let him like the color pink. How ignorant was I? I used to tell him that pink was not for boys.

Little did I know that pink actually used to be the color for boys and blue used to be the color for girls.

Gender identification by color began in the early 20th century in the Western world. Before this, pink and blue did not hold any firm gender­ specific connotations.

Pink was deemed by some guides to be more appropriate for boys and blue more appropriate for girls, although this idea wasn’t remotely as widespread as the pink ­for­ girls, blue­ for­ boys association that exists today; many people completely ignored the gender recommendation all together.

For reasons unknown, this all started to change around the 1940s when clothing manufacturers decided on pink for girls and blue for boys. I am sure you are also well aware that during the Roman era men wore skirts, tunics, long dresses and strappy sandals. Middle Eastern men, among others, to this day still wear long dresses.

At an earlier age, my son loved playing with Thomas the Tank Engine and my daughter loved Barbies and princesses. Sometimes she would ask her brother to play along with her and her dolls. I saw them playing together with Barbie, Cinderella, Snow White, Belle and other dolls.

I was concerned about this. I was worried that he’d end up liking dolls more than the boys’ toys. I was worried about his gender identity and sexual orientation.

I spoke with my husband about it but he did not have any concern whatsoever. I was disappointed; mostly upset. How could he not worry about it?

His comment was so simple, “He is just a 4­ year-old kid. He will change. Today he likes playing dolls with his sister, tomorrow he will play Mario Brothers."

"Gender identification by color began in the early 20th century in the Western world. Before this, pink and blue did not hold any firm gender­ specific connotations."

I did some research about boys who liked to play with dolls. What I read comforted me. Several articles mentioned that it was normal for boys to play with dolls, and that doing so did not suggest feminine tendencies. He was just curious about the opposite gender and girl’s dolls. It was an indication that he is nurturing, and a good big brother. He’ll make a good father someday, just like his own dad.

Looking back, I feel embarrassed about my attitude. My son is now 9 years old. He’s been over playing with dolls or liking the color pink since he was 6 years old. He does not care about colors or dolls anymore. He wears white, black, blue, yellow, pink, red, purple, brown or any other color. He likes Taekwondo and playing Minecraft.

Although once in a while, to please his little sister, he sits in her room to play Barbie with her, but only because she asked him to, and because he wants to be a good big brother. He knows if he refuses, it will make his sister sad. I can always tell he’s bored but he sucks it up. My heart melts every time I see it.

My daughter now understands that her brother does not like to play with dolls anymore, that he’d rather play with Minecraft, building something and fighting those Creepers.

I read so many negative comments about what Adele’s son was wearing. Why can’t we just accept the fact that Adele simply allowed something that makes her son happy because he loves Anna from Frozen? It does not necessary mean she’s trying to change or confuse him about his gender identity. On other occasions, I’ve seen pictures of her son wearing normal boy clothes and even a Spiderman costume.

Society continues to see masculinity in girls as a strength and femininity in boys as a weakness. We tell little girls that they can be anything they want to be: doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, astronauts or the president. But we shy away from giving little boys the same courtesy of unlimited opportunity.

How often do we tell boys that they would make a wonderful stay-at­-home parent, elementary school teacher, hairstylist, fashion designer, dancer, nurse or spouse of the president? Why is it okay for a girl to play with cars and trucks or to dress up as Spiderman, Superman or Batman, but we feel uncomfortable when a boy plays with dolls?

Double standard, isn't it?

Kids will be kids. They evolve every single day. If there is a kid who believes he is Kermit the Frog, does that mean he is going to be a frog?

I played with my brother's cars, trucks and all the other boy stuff. Dolls and princesses never attracted me. I screamed “Bloody hell!” when my mother put a dress or a skirt on me. I lived in T­-shirts, shorts and pants. I used to wish I was a boy because boys were strong.

But look who I turned out to be. Just because I loved boy’s toys and I didn’t wear skirts, I did not turn out to be a boy. My sexual orientation did not change and my gender identity remains the same. Now I love wearing dresses and skirts and I feel sexiest when I do.


Erita Mann is a proud mom of two children. She was born and grew up in Jakarta, and moved to Los Angeles in 2003. She worked for ten years at a health insurance company in Los Angeles, then in 2014 she decided to spend more time with her children and became a stay at home mom. In her spare time while her children are at school, she enjoys sewing and she has a clothing store at Etsy. Other than sewing she also loves cooking, reading, writing and occasionally discussing politics on Facebook political group with her American friends.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.