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Why Boys Don't Play With Dolls - Sociology Research Papers

Sociology research papers that investigate why boys don't play with dolls provide insight into social norms and mores. Paper Masters' writers will custom write sociology research using todays most recent studies and research in the area of gender studies.

In American society, and despite major advances toward the achievement of equality for women, stereotypes are still obviously and purposefully perpetuated through the messages adults send to children about gender roles.  In the media adults create as well as the advertisements, specific messages about acceptable behaviors and aspirations for boys and girls are delivered.

Whether we explain boys’ preference for trucks and girls’ preference for dolls as a socially or hormonally mediated mechanism, that preference is clearly observed in the behaviors of generations of individuals from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.  Passed down from one generation to the next, mothers and fathers teach their daughters and sons about what is expected of them in terms of their preferences for forms of play, dress, and other characteristics.

As Katha Pollit describes, “Women’s looks matter terribly in this society, and so Barbie, however ambivalently, must be passed along”.  Long an established icon in the lives of many generations of women who were once children, the Barbie doll repeatedly makes its appearance as a fixture in the play lives of little girls. 

Conveniently, Barbie serves as a contextual perspective from which to view the phenomenon of doll play as a specifically girlish convention.  Her measurements unrealistic and her beauty difficult to imitate in reality, she is nonetheless an important and even dominant form of playful expression in the activities of young girls.


Why Boys Don't Play With Dolls

In some ways, it may seem only natural and therefore easily taken for granted that girls prefer to play with dolls and boys prefer to play with trucks.  Girls are frequently affiliated with fancy clothes, playing dress-up, and paying attention to such things as hair and experimentation with cosmetics.  However, the origin of these arbitrary affiliations may be more obscured from view than the ways in which they manifest in child’s play.

According to Katha Pollitt, “Kids aren’t born religious, or polite, or kind, or able to remember where they put their sneakers”.  Instead, these behaviors and their supporting values are inculcated via parents and society, and “we don’t have a choice, really, about whether we should give our children messages about what it means to be male and female—they’re bombarded with them day and night” (Pollitt 46).  Regardless of a parent’s intentions to counteract the messages of gender specific play and roles, the overwhelming presence of other methods of communicating such messages makes an impression on youth as readers, viewers, and consumers.

Parents deliver messages of what encompasses gender-appropriate play behavior not only through the purchase of specific toys for boys and girls but also through the choice of reading materials they encourage children to read.  Through purchasing items that espouse gender stereotypes for their children’s use, parents silently agree and conform to society’s stereotypical views of sex roles.

Until recently, a distinct absence of children’s literature that wasn’t espousing of gender stereotypical information could be observed.  Thorne describes that “in the history of U.S. children’s literature there have been few males who parallel the stock figure of the tomboy, who affirm their right to engage in ‘feminine’ pursuits and who thereby question dominant notions of masculinity”.

Notably, a unique example of an early book that did question the issues of gender stereotypes is 1970s William’s Doll, in which a boy begs his parents for a doll much to his father’s dismay.  William’s is called a sissy by his brother, and his father gives him a basketball and a train instead of the toy he really wants.  In the end, his grandmother finally buys him the doll and argues “that it will help him ‘practice being a father”.

The media also sends messages to children and their parents about what constitutes gender-appropriate play.  With many aspects of gender specificity to communicate, the media tells of “physical appearance, toys, childhood role behaviors and activities, and adult roles to which children might aspire”.  In these and many other categories, films, books, magazines, and various forms of media deliver messages about the appropriate behavior and activities for children according to their gender.  For example, in their study of gender-related messages delivered through cartoons, Thompson and Zerbinos found that “children do notice differences in the presentation of male and female characters […] and that noticing such differences appears to be related to reporting more stereotypical job preferences”.

Advertising in the form of television commercials, print, and radio also informs a child’s understanding of appropriate gender roles and norms for play and behavior.  Frequently espousing and perpetuating stereotypical ideas about the division of boys and girls, advertising provides a gender-appropriate consumeristic longing for children, in that dolls are made to be seen as exciting for girls, and lego’s are most frequently advertised in ways that are particularly appealing to boys.

Outlining A Research Paper on Why Boys Don't Play With Dolls

Thesis Statement on Why Boys Don't Play With Dolls:   

In our society, despite major advances in the achievement of equality for women, stereotypes are still obviously and purposefully perpetuated through the messages adults send to children about gender roles.

  1. Doll-play is a phenomenon associated with girls and not with boys, and Barbie dolls are one of the most common dolls for girls to play with.
    1. It’s easy to take for granted that boys like trucks and girls like dolls.
    2. The question of where these gender-elated messages come from is complex
      1. Parents deliver gender-role messages
      2. Society and media deliver gender-role messages
      3. Advertising encourages stereotypical gender-roles
  2. Encouraging girls to play with dolls and boys to play with trucks is convenient for parents and society at-large.
    1. Political implications for encouraging gender neutrality in play
    2. In a contradictory manifestation, even women who consider themselves feminists are perpetuating gender-specific play with dolls
  3. It is challenging but worthwhile to encourage children to reject the dominant messages of media and society.
    1. Maintaining an open dialogue with children about the stereotypes observed in popular culture will allow them to explore and experiment with their own identity.


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