Thursday, October 22, 2015

Boys + Barbies...

On the drive into work today, Patrick Madrid was blessing my eardrums with a very interesting question and discussion.

To paraphrase: Are there things that are "for girls" and "for boys," or are there just "things"?

Being the father of three boys, I find this topic very interesting.

And instead of getting into a discussion about if I would let my boys play with Barbie dolls, I wanted to point out two ideas related to this topic that I really like to sit back and ponder, and then to get your thoughts.

1. I find it absolutely fascinating to think about our "progressive" culture and the stance that it takes on gender roles/expression in comparison to how they actually want things to play out.

Our culture is trying to push the idea that gender is a social construct, and tells us that there is actually no such thing as gender, as it has traditionally been known. "It's a spectrum," they'll say. "People can fit anywhere on the spectrum, or outside of it" (whatever that means).

And yet, at the same time, they are quick to fit people into those exact social constructs that they pretend to be against.

Does your boy like playing with Barbies? Maybe he's actually a girl who was simply assigned a male gender at birth.

Does your girl stop and stare at the Tonka Trucks when you stroll through Target? Maybe she's actually a three year old boy, upset that her body doesn't match her gender identity.

Does your teenage girl like wearing pants? Maybe her preferred gender expression is actually male.

This fascinates me!

I have never understood why the "progressive" movement in our culture has this reaction. Wouldn't the more progressive stance on gender say that your boy can still be a boy and play with girl things? Wouldn't the progress stance on gender say that people shouldn't need to switch their gender simply because of how they feel? If gender is just a social construct, why does Bruce Jenner need to attempt to switch his gender to female? If we're all on a spectrum, why can't he just be who he is with the feelings he has inside and have that be okay?

How can they push the idea that gender is a made-up construct and that people need to change to the gender they feel on the inside at the same time?

It seems completely illogical, and it fascinates me to think about it.

2. I also like to sit and think about the fact that we have arrived at a point where we are happy to cast aside our natural instincts as parents (and people, in general) in order to conform to the prevailing thoughts and feelings of society.

Patrick made the point today that if he saw his sons playing with Barbie dolls, that wouldn't feel right to him, and he would lead them in a different direction.

I agree with this. I have to admit that when I have seen my sons playing with "girl" toys, I definitely have some kind of alarm go off in my head.

Our natural instincts are there for a reason. They are supposed to tip us off in how we should act and view the world.

And yet, our culture has gotten to the point where people ignore those natural instincts and consider them "wrong," and cast them aside as some bizarre leftover feelings from the caveman days that we should suppress in favor of what everyone else is thinking at any given moment.

The fascinating thing about this is that our culture puts so much credence in the fact that "if you feel something, it must be true." Unless, of course, you feel something that doesn't conform to the prevailing cultural thought, in that case, it must be wrong.

I'm not trying to push one argument or another, but simply saying that I can't help but enjoy leaning back in my chair and pondering these things.

And to think, all of this came up on the Feast of St. John Paul II, who had more than a couple of ideas about gender...

What do you all think?


  1. As mother of 4 boys, I think I agree with you. I don't mind letting them explore different toys or games, but it irks me when people intentionally give them feminine toys. (A flower bracelet for a 4 year old boy -- really?) We are raising our sons to become men and we want them to have strong male role models and to play games that let them practice heroic virtues like courage, fortitude, self-sacrifice, and charity. We welcome games where our mini knights and ninjas and superheroes fight to preserve the common good and protect the vulnerable.

  2. I think that there is a big difference between raising virtuous children and letting children play with dolls if they want to, or not. Growing up involves a lot of self discovery, and there are a lot worse ways for them to do it than with bracelets.

  3. That being said, I've never thought about the interplay between gender being a social construct and being transgender, which you're right is fascinating. Thanks for the food for thought!

  4. This reminds me of the time my son wanted an Easy Bake Oven, but it was pink so he decided against it. He was maybe 4 or 5 yrs old. He is now a chef, but not a great baker; maybe if the ovens had come in real oven colors... I would never give boys "girl" toys as gifts. Now, if there are boys and girls in the family and the boys play Barbies or have tea party with their sisters, okay.