Everyday Life Parenting

He’s not allowed to play with a doll | Gender Specific World

boy play with doll

Despite it being 2016, we still live in a very gender specific world. Some countries are less so than others but on a whole, society and companies are very gender specific.

He’s not allowed to play with a doll. The ‘He’ is my son. The voice comes from my ex.

Why on earth do so many people (not always but in so many cases, men) hate the thought of boys doing anything that is supposedly for girls. I hate it.

My son is almost 5 years old. His favourite toys are diggers and dumpers, he loves to wrestle and play fight with our labrador. He is attracted to mud and water like a magnet and thinks that picking his nose and farting is hilarious. He has, from the get go, enjoyed playing with whatever toys are around and I have purposefully never told him that he can’t play with a certain toy, wear a certain colour or have his nails painted etc. When we’ve been at playgroups, he has played with pushchairs and prams. he’s enjoyed pushing the around and there aren’t many indoor alternatives that are ‘made for boys’. Other than the occasional wooden block trolley, or shopping trolley (are they more widely accepted for boys?) there’s not much for them to push around. Those with younger siblings will mostly see their Mum’s pushing pushchairs and they like to emulate adults. Boys are as caring as girls are and why the hell are we not all celebrating this? 

In a world where there are celebrity male (and heterosexual) hairdressers, where we all have barbers on our high streets, where there are daily adverts for male grooming products and a man going to a salon is no longer something out of the ordinary, is it not ok for a boy to play at brushing a dolls hair? How many Dad’s can’t do their daughters hair? Why can Mum’s? Because as girls, it’s acceptable for us to practice as kids but why not boys? 

Dressing dolls is a fabulous way for kids to increase their fine motor skills and dexterity and also learn life skills. Children need to start school with the ability to dress themselves. Practising on dolls can be easier and less stressful for children but boys are not supposed to have this practice. Why are ‘dolls’ that are targeted at boys always crime fighting, angry, physical characters? 


gender specific world


My son loves to have his nails painted. I occasionally do mine and whenever I do, from the beginning, I have painted his if he has wanted me to. As you can imagine, his Dad absolutely hates it. Why? What is wrong with it? My son see’s colour. He see’s individuality. He see’s being able to what Mummy does. 

That takes me to colour. There is a whole bloody rainbow out there. Why can boys only express themselves in primary colours and their darker, greyer hues? How may men wear pink shirts or ties? So many. It’s stylish and attractive. Why can’t boys accessorise with a pop of colour? Now that takes me to shoes. Lelly bloomin Kelly. They are some of the most coveted shoes for girls and what is the boy’s alternative? Hardly anything on the high street. I did recently find a brilliant barefoot shoe company that makes bright, fun shoes for boys and they can be personalised with different straps, just like Lelly Kelly but still. When my son was younger, he used to be drawn to those shoes like a magpie. And that’s exactly why. The colour, the sparkles, the glitter, they make the shoes look exciting and boys shoes are so boring. Oh wow, they have a grey dinosaur on the side or a motorbike. How fun. Yes, you can get light up shoes and thank god you can but the kids themselves can hardly see those lights. So, what did I do when my then 3 years old son was fed up that he had to get boring blue trainers? You bet your bottom dollar I sewed a couple of sequins on to the toe for him. I do not care what anyone thinks. You could hardly see them but so what if you could? He loved them. 


gender specific world


I hate the fact that it’s ok for girls to have short hair but little boys with long hair, past a certain age, can be frowned upon. Girls can wear trousers now when once, they were only for boys. Its equality for all! No it’s not. Boys who dress up in princess dresses are ridiculed and laughed at. 

We went Halloween costume shopping a couple of weeks ago. My son isn’t into scary, gory costumes. He instantly gravitated to the witchy, sparkly costumes. I tried to suggest others but those were the only ones he wanted. I knelt down and chatted to him. I said that he could wear whatever he wanted and if he wanted that costume then that was totally ok but that we might come across children that might say ‘that’s girl clothes’. His little face dropped and I instantly wanted to punch myself in the mouth. I tried to reassure him that anyone can wear whatever he wanted but that some boys and girls think that boys can’t wear dresses. I tried to make it silly and funny and that they thought that but he had lost his confidence. I just didn’t want anyone to say something and upset him on the night. Thankfully, I found a Darth Vader costume and as he has heard of Star Wars, he was really excited and felt grown up to have it as I won’t let him watch anything like that.

There has been a bit of a revolution recently, surrounding superheroes. Girls can be superheroes too. This is brilliant and important as strong women and girls need to be represented with toys and up until recently, it was really hard to buy anything other than Wonder Woman but I think the same needs to be available for boys in the opposite vein. Where are the baby wearing Ken dolls, or more of a choice of boy dolls in general? My son found a Barbie doll at our house that we couldn’t find the owner of. He loved it. He liked that it was a toy that he could take in the bath, wash her hair etc. He liked having her around. He likes girls. He’s being raised by a single Mum, his Auntie and Nanna. We are the people he spends the most time with. Thankfully he gets his rough and tumble time with his Dad and my Dad but he has seen that I can do anything a man can do. Flat packed furniture, fuses, car maintenance etc, not a problem. Anyway, I’ve digressed, but as much as he like his friends that are boys, he equally likes his friends that are girls. 


gender specific world


He took Barbie to Daddy’s house. It never came back. I asked his Dad to look for it but he couldn’t find it…..

So you know what, we went out and bought him a new one. He likes to change her clothes. She goes in the bath and she sometimes comes out with us. He plays with her no more than any other toy that he owns but so what if he did?

I think the big problem is homophobia. No matter how much people like to say that they are ok with the LGBT community, I think a lot of heterosexual men and homophobic women are afraid that their children might ‘turn out’ to be gay. Some people still think that sexuality can be learnt/imposed upon someone by their environment. It’s so bloody infuriating. 

The other thing that really annoys me is, so what if my son does grow up to be gay? Who cares. What if he is transgender?  I want him to be brought up knowing that he can be whoever he wants to be. That he will be loved, cherished and respected no matter what. That no matter who he is, he never has to hide himself from me. Me allowing him to do things that girls do will not make him gay just as letting girls wear trousers, play football and become plumbers has not made any woman a lesbian. 

I hope the world keeps on changing.


Hannah Spannah 2016


  1. I am sorry to hear about your ex’s protestations. I think boys should be allowed to play with babies and dolls, of course they should, just as girls should be allowed to play with diggers and cars. Cygnet has a baby doll and we wrap her up in a muslin and put her to sleep in a shoe box. He prefers the diggers and cars but I think the variety is important. The ex wouldn’t like that Cygnet has a doll. At the moment he doesn’t know and cygnet’s language isn’t good enough to tell him. Ihave all of your current challenges ahead of me! Pen x

  2. I definitely think it’s harder for boys to defy gender stereotypes than it is for girls. It’s hard enough then but it seems to be totally unacceptable for boys to like girls stuff. Because there’s still a belief that females are inferior, so why would boys lower themselves to that? And yes, I think homophobia plays a part too. Well done you for supporting your son exploring different toys!!

  3. I kept nodding along to this. I completely agree that it’s Homophobia and the fear of transgender. It is also men that seem to worry more, I would have thought by 2016 people would be over that but they aren’t. There are more important things to worry about than sexual preference or gender, like being a good person and being happy.

  4. This must be so hard! Luckily we are on the same page and my children’s Dad has always put make up on them, painted their nails, played hairdressers as much as I have.
    All of my children have their nails painted regularly and the girls go pretty much unnoticed, my son however will always receive comments. Even ‘Ooh I like your nails *giggle giggle*’, which on the face if it seem positive but to me, it needs no mention and it certainly doesn’t need ridicule. Great post lovely x

  5. You are right that little ones should be able to play with what they like. What would be more of a concern is if a child has an illness not who they love. #weekendblogshare

  6. Wonderful post. Couldn’t agree more! Being a gay dad this is a topic I often feel/face. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Mega agree with everything you’ve put here. I’m hugely against gender stereotyping to the point where I purposefully bought my son pink babygros, a pushchair and baby toy, etc etc. Nothing grinds my gears more than hearing people say to my son that such-and-such is a girl’s colour, or that they won’t kiss him because kissing is for girls. Thankfully he’s now learned to respond to these idiots with “WHAT’S WRONG WITH BEING A GIRL?!” Like your son, mine has been surrounded by females all of his life, and two of his best friends are girls, so I’m hoping that nothing these morons say penetrates too deeply. Definitely with you on hoping that everything keeps changing for the better.

  8. I agree with you. As a child I played with dolls and kitchen toys, but at the same time I had a few cars and a couple of toy-guns. Nobody thought it was strange for me to play with all these, but I’m sure it would have been different if I was a boy playing with a doll. I think you did what you could to save him from embarrassment regarding his Halloween outfit. You have to protect him and sometimes this means he might be upset. If you don’t mind, I would suggest having a theme next year, so it’s something he likes, wants to dress in “boy clothes” but without the hassle of having other kids making fun of his choices. It’s sad we are living in a civilized world and these things still happen, but at least it’s better than 20-50 years ago and in UK it’s better than in other countries and parts of the world.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. You are so right that despite the fact things are still not right, it is a lot better than it used to be x

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