Boys and dolls- challenging presuppositions.

Don’t know what a presupposition is? Have no fear!
presupposition
ˌpriːsʌpəˈzɪʃ(ə)n/
noun
A thing tacitly assumed beforehand at the beginning of a line of argument or course of action.

A few months ago a friend made a Facebook post of her boy riding his bike with his doll. At first glance I was like “Cool! White people buying their children black dolls!”. Then I was like “Hang on, that’s a boy playing with AND OWNING a DOLL!”.

The boy, who’s name incidentally translates to “light” is about the same age as my youngest son.

I must confess that the idea of boys and dolls troubled me. I had grown up with a notion that boys do not and should not play with “girly” toys. I am not sure where and when this idea came to be and how it had turned into a belief. But there it was. It had revieled itself.

And so, as I read the comments on the post and discovered that there were many other parents out there allowing their boys to play with dolls, I started talking with the voices (in my head).

My oldest child is a girl, and though she is very girly (loves dresses, make-up, frills and pink bows), she also has very “tomboyish” tendencies. Yet, somehow I never thought twice about letting her play with “boys’ toys”. In fact, I had personally bought her cars etc.

So, what was it that I had against boys and dolls? It isn’t simply that there was a hatred for dolls that has been nurtered from young and may have caused me to beat up and pretend to hang my sister’s doll when we were young. Was I deceived in thinking that I was not homophobic? Then again what makes me think that a boy will “learn” to be feminine or homosexual if they play with dolls but girls will not be masculine or homosexual when they play with cars? Was that not a double-standard. Why and how did I have this duality? How did it manage to remain so inconspicious for so long?

Unfortunatley, there was a hypocritical presupposition that this exposed in me. Things that I unintentionally and covertly believed but were very evident by my behavior. As it turned out, I was negatively discriminating between my own children.

Here are some of the comments on that post that challenged me most:

“I think it’s important for all little people (male and female) to have dollies to take care of, show affection and learn how to interact.”

“We haven’t forced either on him but given him equal access to “male” and “female” toys. So it’s lovely to see his natural inclination for both.”

“My 4 year old son used to love pushing a doll in a pram, bathing and changing it. As much as he loved playing rough with his cars. Now he has a baby brother with whom he is extremely caring and affectionate. I think it just makes children more balanced. Also I did not object when he wanted to try mommy’s shoes on.”

“I know – there is silly thing (patriarchy!) that we are going to make boys “soft” or “sissies” or *gasp* encourage homosexual tendencies by letting them play with dolls. But that’s hogwash. And I think (apart from the fact that empathy is value in both men and women), the imaginative play is so good for a child’s development, for their creativity and learning about socializing…”

 

Needless to say, I have had to do some soul-searching. I have had to address my ugly and face up to it.

One of the most profound (and difficult) thoughts that loitered my thoughts, unwelcome, for many weeks thereafter, was that I noticed that the same presuppositions related to race and racism. The duality of thought when it came to racism (in other people and myself) on was as clear to me as daylight, but I was blinded to the same thing at work in me in this area.

I still battle with the decision of where to draw the line. If one follwos my track of thought to the extreme, it means I may have to let my kids decide how to identify, to “pick” their gender etc etc. Though I do not think that this extreme is one that I could and would ever venture towards…the idea of taking on a more liberal view does not necessary equate to a move towards an extremist view. But liberate we must.

In retrospect, I am grateful for those ladies who helped me see the light. It was mentally uncomfortable process but I believe I that it has produced a better parent in me. A better man.

The problem was not the boy and his doll- it was my perspective that was I held, wich was slightly off.

As we live and learn, I hope you (who reads this) and I may learn to look at the speck in our own eyes first and practice the skill of plucking it from our own eyes. I hope that we find greater spaces where we get let our liberal selves run the vast planes of diversity that life has offer.

Hopefully, as we go on, we contribute to an environment that is run according to the rule of love.

Still freaked out about the idea of boys doing dolls…here is some more freaky reading for you. Enjoy!

Photocred: PHOTOGRAPHED BY SANDRA AJANAKU

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