My son wants a new doll, he has given his other one’s to his younger siblings. Now, he would like a more “grown up” one. One that is a bit more like him.
I find an Internet store selling nice dolls and they even have a “eco-friendly” box you can tick to select one you like from that range. However, I am not quite clear what they mean by “eco-friendly” and decide to ring them. The conversation goes as follows:
Me: Oh hello, I would like to find out what the criteria for your “eco -friendly” dolls are? I assume they are all phthalate-free?
Shop-owner: Oh yes, they are all phthalate-free. The dolls in the eco-friendly section have all been made in Europe, but they are all made of the same materials, more or less.
Me: Ah, great. Good to know. Then we could choose one from that range…
Shop-owner (interrupts me… wanting to help me choose): How old is the girl you would like to buy a doll for?
Me: Ah, ehm, my son is seven.
Shop-owner: Oh. (Pause) That’s good you are buying a doll for your son.
Me: Eh… yes. He has outgrown his other one’s and would like a new one and I thought I try and buy one that’s as eco-friendly as possible.
Shop-owner: Yes, we have very nice boy dolls. Have you seen our pirate boy doll on the website?
Me: Yes, he doesn’t like that one. He doesn’t really like pirates and dolls with short hair.
Shop-owner: Oh, but that brand has other boy dolls, I could order some in for you.
Me: Hm… he would like the doll to sort of look similar to him and he has long hair and all the boy dolls have short hair.
Shop-owner: Oh. Well, you could also buy boy clothes…
Me: But, he likes their beautiful dresses. And seeing that he likes wearing dresses too…. and anyhow, I guess the dolls you are selling, well most of them, could really be boy or girl as they don’t have body parts anyway, have they?
Shop-owner: No, that’s true. Hm… you have quite a character there *laughs*
Me: Eh!? Yeah…
Then she proceeded to explain more about the different brands and that some of their dolls are made in China and how some are shipped from China to America, then to Europe and which one’s she liked best. Bla, bla, bla.
In the end it left me feeling a bit odd. My son had also listened to the conversation (being so excited about finally getting his doll…) and I felt sad he had to listen to his dad AGAIN having to explain to others that really boys can like dresses and long hair and dolls, too. Does he feel he is not normal, that his dad has to explain his choices to others? How different would the conversation have been had I said the doll is for my daughter?
Why don’t toy shops sell dolls? Just dolls. Rather than boy or girl dolls? Why have some dolls “make up” on, i.e. red painted lips and dark eyelashes, very rosy cheeks etc.? Yes, can you hear me Mattel? It’s not good enough to have a boy in your ads, the actual problem lies in the doll itself. Barbie doesn’t look very natural to me.
Apparently, children at the age of my son, want dolls as an identification figure. But the only dolls I can find that, sort of, look like him (meaning having long hair) are “girls”. Well, I try and pretend they aren’t but they all have a female name and many very gendered clothing.
However, maybe the more we speak to toy shop owners directly, the more they will think: it’s not just the odd one out. The one weird child… there must be others, like my son! Well, I don’t care if not, he is definitely wonderfully unique, and just right the way he is!