We’re currently living in a time where gender roles are being challenged more frequently than possibly ever before. Almost every week, you’re likely to read an article or watch something on the television about gender discrimination and ways it’s perceived to be damaging our society. Recently, a Swedish toy store had to change their Christmas catalogue after they had been accused of sexism in recent years. The catalogue now shows girls playing with guns and boys nursing dolls in an attempt to redeem themselves after the offense they’ve apparently been causing in the past. But if companies have been under pressure to stop portraying such definitive gender roles, is it time that you thought about stopping your daughter from playing with dolls?
Although many say there are negatives to allowing your daughter to play with dolls, search suggests there are also many benefits that they could be getting from the toys. Studies have shown that playing with dolls help young girls to bond with their mothers, as well as learn about themselves. An investigation which followed a group of chimpanzees in the wild noted something very interesting, the young chimpanzees all used sticks as toys, the male chimps played games where they would hit each other and use the sticks to balance with. The young female chimps on the other hand cradled the sticks and pretended to feed them, much like a human child would do with a baby doll. Scientists who made the observations thought this may be proof that we are hardwired to play particular games as children based on our gender. If that’s the case, dolls may be more nurturing to your daughter than you may have originally thought.
Something that has been extremely contentious issue in recent times is the number of fashion dolls that are marketed at very young girls despite claims that they are grossly inappropriate for small children. Many criticisms have been targeted at fashion dolls; many parents say that the clothes they are usually dressed in are inappropriate, some say that the dolls promote a negative body image whilst others believe that they encourage a consumerist attitude in children who are far too young to even understand the concept. Although it has never been proven by science, many parents also believe there is a link between ultra-skinny fashion dolls and the rise of eating disorders amongst young girls and women over the past few decades. Whether or not this is the case, fashion dolls have attracted a large amount of negative press recently, yet they still remain one of the most popular children’s toys available on the market.
At the end of it all, only you can decide what you allow your daughter to play with, but it would be worth taking her opinion into consideration when making your decisions. It’s likely that most girls would play with dolls and most boys with toy cars if they were given a choice between the two: that’s not portraying negative gender roles, it’s just nature. The best thing to do would be to allow your child to play with what they want; denying them the toys that they are interested in so you can prove a point is likely to damage their development more than letting them play with a doll.