I am struggling to come to terms with the fact that at this day and age, with all the access to information in an upwardly mobile South Africa, people are still dead set on fostering perceptions and raising children that define their roles purely in terms of gender in our society instead of who they are as people.
My 4 year old son worships his big sister who is 10 years old as any younger sibling does, and a result he has pretty much grown up playing with dolls alongside his sister and her Barbie craze and it is not unusual to find him engrossed in a Barbie Movie. He is however by nature an outdoors child generally jumping running and doing those things that generally makes a moms heart stop, so quite frankly he is a pretty balanced type of child.
In December whilst visiting family though, as he was playing with his cousins and sister who happened to have dolls I overheard several times seemingly well-meaning people throwing ‘boys can’t play with dolls’ comments at him, and I saw his confusion and by the next day he was already affirming that ‘I am a boy I can’t play a doll’ story – he is only 4 after all.
Why can’t boys play with dolls? As context let me remind you that this is after all the year 2014. I suppose historically girls would have played with dolls emulating their moms as little girls do, wanting to be just like mom. Presumably this would be the 1st baby steps towards also learning to one day take care of their own child. Now that we are in 2014 where societal gender roles have already shifted, even just from my mom’s generation to mine, and these should continue to evolve significantly into the next generation, so it follows that if my son should chose to be a father someday, he would be 100% part of the childcare activities in his home (cause that’s the type of man I am going to raise). Why would my son therefore not also with to emulate me his mother or indeed his father who often feeds, baths and puts him to bed by doing so with his own little doll?
I am sure that the individuals making comments didn’t even take a minute to think through what they were projecting to my son, because we are a society and numbingly follow and foster the cultural norms without thinking through their origin or current relevance. I also cannot believe how many comments I pick up to this day of young men who want to get marries ‘so someone can cook and do their laundry for them’! Really?!
I know culture and norms build over centuries can’t dissipate overnight, but come on surely we can use our common sense enough not to continue to blindingly foster norms that no longer add any value or prepare our children to be the best partners/parents they can be. So as for me I am buying my boy his very own doll!