More about boys playing with their dolls

Dear Diary,

I love this photo!

Jesse:  The arrival of Hans has triggered a deluge of childhood memories inside my head and has got me thinking overtime about the entire 'boys playing with dolls' debate.  I just celebrated (in a big way!) my 65th birthday which, if you count backwards, will tell you that I was brought up in the toxic 1950s and early 1960s.  I can find nothing nostalgic about those times; re-naming them "mid-last century" doesn't make anything about them attractive.  I don't blame my parents for how they raised me; they, like us today, were victims of their times.  This video tells my story. It has been staged to look like the 1950s; I recognise the clothes, the truck and even the doll:

For years I worked to get over the scars of being different. Now, I capitalise on my age and I no longer care what anyone thinks. 

I wasn't as fortunate as some boys, like my friend Steve who, when he was a boy, was given a Sasha Gregor and encouraged to play with it (lucky lad!).  My situation was 100% opposite; while Steve was allowed to have a doll, I could only wish for the same. It wasn't until I was in my early 40's that I overrode my programming and started to collect and play with dolls. I am so glad that I did. Today, I'm having all the fun playing with dolls which I was denied as a child.

Using this humble blog as my medium, I do my own very tiny part to encourage men and boys to play openly with their dolls and for parents to discard gender-specific toys and play.  

The next video is from Stuff Mom Never Told You - How Stuff Works, the Ask Cristin file.  She's a bit loud but makes good points.

The next two videos are by Mikki Willis, a mult-award winning filmmaker.  Not long ago, he posted a video about his son playing with a Littlest Mermaid doll. The video went viral many times over and unleashed a storm of controversy.  


The debate, which aired on American national television, can be watched on YouTube if you're interested.

This video is an older and very cute animated cartoon with music and singing:

The final video is a short film titled Barbie Boy.  It excellently done and has a poignant message for those who know the violence of gender stereotypes.  Please watch it:

I hope that the messages in these videos have been received by my readers.  The number of reads of this diary have increased steadily over the past 18 months and I value all my readers, both men and women, young and old.  I hope that among the readers are men who find here the encouragement to go ahead and play with dolls. 


  1. Great post, I hope you get lots of viewers read this and watch the videos. The last one especially made me feel quite sad at the end, it really felt like that little lad lost a part of his precious childhood. What does that do to a child I wonder? Being made to feel that what they enjoy is not 'right' or important.

    I have more I want to say on this matter as one scene in particular really struck home with me, but it is late and I need to think a bit more on exactly what I want to write.

  2. Dear Jesse. I have been following this blog for a while, and have not yet commented, but I feel that this post deserves a response. I completely agree with you that boys should not suffer any stigma if they want to play with dolls. My parents set no such standards for me, my brother and sister. All types of toys were available to all of us, and no pressure from either my father or my mother on which ones to choose. While my brother was more often than not drawn to the "typical boy" toys, he did enjoy playing with dolls sometimes, and my sister and I were always glad to have him join us. He has grown into a well-rounded, well-adjusted and successful man, who is a wonderful father to his two sweet girls, and a willing playmate in their Barbie doll games. I can't help, but feel that the openness and freedom that he was allowed in non-gender specific play as a child, was a large contributor to how strong and healthy he is now. It is one of the main reasons that I love the Sasha dolls. They have boy dolls, and I am sorry, but an action figure is just no true substitute for a doll. An action figure is someone a boy can take on adventures, but is not necessarily a friend that he can talk to, when he needs an understanding companion who looks like another boy, just his age. Besides, he can take a doll on grand adventures too. My sister and I, and our friends, certainly had many interesting adventures with our dolls, and my brother was always thrilled to be able to join us when he felt like a little doll play himself, or just wanted to tuck himself away quietly with a portable friend and a book. Girls can play with trucks and cars, or go out for sports without people shaking their heads and worrying about them, but a boy picks up a doll, and so many parents and other friends and relatives will start getting all up in a bother, or teasing the boy for playing with a "girl toy." It is wrong and a real injustice to boys everywhere. I hope that this campaign of yours can bear fruit, not only for your own satisfaction, but also for boys everywhere who might just want to play with a doll now and again. Thank you for being a strong voice for an all too often ignored community. Elisabeth, Greg, and all the Boy (and Girl) Dolls of Fern Forest

  3. Thank you Jesse! This was a very touching and inspiring message. I'm glad you shared it with us. The videos were great. I remember watching the "Free to Be... You and Me" program in grade school. It was so empathetic and affirming. Always remember and be proud that although you may have been forced into taking the more difficult path, in the end you got where you wanted to be.

  4. I think, the problem isn't really a problem anymore. My sons (1981/1993) GOT dolls, but never really played with. In the early eighties it was somewhat progressive/modern giving dolls and prams to boys!
    - The todays problem is different, I think. It is thought boys HAVE TO play with dolls and they are not only encouraged, but FORCED to! I don't like the forcing!

    There are some reasons for that; one is the idea men and women are alike -or have to be. They are of the same VALUE and have to have equal rights; no question!
    But they are two different expressions of nature and have different tasks. Consequently denying that is not helpful for their development. - We are part of an evolution and we are NOT the end of it.
    Talking about gender as it's only a social-culturel construction means thinking way to short, but is political correct today.
    It's sure, that there's any thinkable variation in that biology program!
    But on the other side it is not helpful throwing the baby out with the water.

    Sorry for trying to explain this difficult points using my poor english
    - I'm happy you're lucky playing with your dollies finally!

  5. Another great post, Jesse. I always wanted a G.I. Joe doll as a kid, but never got one. I think it was the war/violence aspect that my mother objected to rather than the idea of her son playing with a doll. I did have a Ken doll, though (it was a 'Malibu' Ken and he came with a little beach towel--which I promptly tied around his neck like a cape. I was really into superheroes & comics at the time).

    I'm with you, boys as well as girls should play with whatever dolls (or other toys--I also always wanted an Easy Bake Oven) they take a fancy to.

    Thanks for the post! John

  6. Hi, I saw this post when you first put it on but did not have time to watch all the video's attached until now.
    It is sad that there is still prejudice about who can play with what ! What is and what is not acceptable for a boy to play with. Girls have always been given more leeway than boys because they say Boys have to be masculine ! I found the video's very interesting.
    When you were young people were less enlightened and even today there are still many who would look at a boy or man playing with dolls with disgust , seeing it as 'wrong' but at least now more are beginning not to bring their children up with stereotypical attitudes.
    But I also think that men have also , like yourself, come out to be seen and therefore allowing other males to follow suit or if they do not yet have the courage to be able to see that what they want to play with is not strange or unnatural but should be normal.
    In fact 'playing' with dolls is seen as stupid or childish even for woman to do , there appears to be an unwritten rule that at a certain age a girl should but away her dolls and never look at them again unless she has a daughter to hand them over to!
    I have found this, my colleagues at work know I collect and 'play' with dolls and once I wanted to have a couple of pieces of sponge that a tech person had a computer part he was replacing in and I asked him in front of my manager if I could have them once he'd finished with them, the man said yes if I told him what I wanted them for... my manager a female.. sat smirking at this, so I said that I collect dolls and I wanted them for some seat cushions for some benches they sat on...her face was a picture when the man replied " I knew it would be for something like that , I collect star wars figures and items " we then discussed he's collection which almost filled his house. My manager had sat there waiting for ? his amazement, laughter? who knows.. almost the first words out of her mouth when anyone new comes to the branch ( it's a bank) is to tell them Dee collect's dollies! I think it makes her look sad , I only correct her in saying I collect Dolls not dollies, so it happens to most but is much harder for boys or men to have the freedom to play with whatever they wish at whatever age they wish, I've always said to anyone who gives me the look about my dolls, that grown men play with train sets and lego or whatever playing with dolls should be no different.
    Thanks for a very interesting post and keep on playing , who knows how many others you have given courage to be themselves in whatever way they needed to


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