Fotolia

Dear People Who Insist On Buying My Daughter Baby Dolls, Here's The Issue With That

Ad failed to load

If I look around my daughter's room, it's impossible for my eyes to drift in any direction without seeing pink. Her comforter has pink flowers on it. Her wardrobe is full of pink clothes. Even her stuffed bunnies and bears are a rosy hue — not true to life in the least. Most of her possessions have been gifts; gifts that I am wholly grateful for. Sometimes, however, it all feels a little bit too much. I start to fear that I'm already boxing her in. I'm already teaching her what it means to be a girl. The feeling is never more pressing than when people insist on buying my daughter baby dolls.

I understand that no one is likely giving my 8-month-old a doll and thinking, "This thing will teach Luna her place in this world." Few have probably dissected the gender binary enough to contemplate why we keep dressing little boys in blue and little girls in pink. Few are likely cognizant of how the smallest of things can make the biggest of differences on the road to learning about and understanding our own gender identities. And anyway, my daughter and I are lucky that so many people in our lives want to care for her and give her presents.

Even so, I cannot help but resent how ingrained our sociocultural ideas of gender are. Why do we give boys trucks and light-up faux laptops, when we give girls kitchen sets and Barbies? Why do we give an 8-month-old her own baby to take care of, when she cannot even take care of herself? Like, not even a little bit.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina

Something about seeing infants and toddlers with their own baby dolls has long rubbed me the wrong way, in no small part because it's usually female infants who carry around such toys. I cannot shake the feeling that, through these gifts, we teach our daughter, sisters, or cousins (from an incredibly young age) that this is what girls do. We look after babies. We are mothers, givers, and caretakers. We always have to be responsible for others, and never just for ourselves. We change diapers, and we play dress-up, and we sing our babies to sleep at night. We are selfless always and selfish never.

A baby doll isn't just a baby doll because we don't live in a vacuum. We don't yet live in a world where gender is recognized to be as complex, diverse, and non-binaristic as it actually is. We don't yet live in a world where little boys and little girls are, across the board, treated equally.
Ad failed to load

I'd take less issue with baby dolls if they were gifted to little boys just as often, but we cannot pretend that toys aren't unnecessarily gendered. To give a boy a baby doll would usually be to put him at risk of being teased. His masculinity would be questioned before he even knew the word. He'd be outcasted before ever knowing why.

I get it. I get the instinct to protect our kids. It's all I've wanted to do since having my own. Still, I cannot help but ask myself whether we can ever, as a culture, dismantle gender norms if we continue to play into them out of fear. Can we ever teach our boys that they are entitled to their feelings — can we ever teach our girls that they are entitled to be whatever they want to be — if we allow coded gender messaging into their lives before they can even speak? Will our boys truly believe that they can be dancers, or designers, or nurses — will our girls ever truly believe that they can be executives, or long-distance truck drivers, or athletes — if we do not expose them to all of these ideas equally from a young age?

I believe toys serve the role of introducing our kids to such ideas if we allow them to. Yet we so rarely seem to allow them to.

Ad failed to load

My daughter is still young, so I have plenty of time to introduce the aforementioned trucks and light-up faux laptops. I have plenty of time to buy her more blue, gray, green, or black clothing. This isn't to say that I don't want her to have the baby doll, or the pink teddy bear, or the lavender and rose bedsheets, nor is to say that I won't appreciate when she's gifted any of those things. I just don't want her to have only those things.

My partner and I are trying to raise Luna in such a way that she grows up knowing her womanhood and femininity are her own to define or reject as she sees fit. We want her to know that however traditionally masculine her interests may be, we will try to support her endeavors and goals no matter what. If she ends up exploring androgyny, we want to be supportive of that, too. We want to start all of this now. We want her to look back at photos of herself as a baby, toddler, and little girl, and never feel as though we tried to funnel her into an identity of our choosing.

Ad failed to load

A baby doll isn't just a baby doll because we don't live in a vacuum. We don't yet live in a world where gender is recognized to be as complex, diverse, and non-binaristic as it actually is. We don't yet live in a world where little boys and little girls are, across the board, treated equally.

So while I'm not going to take Luna's baby dolls away from her, I am going to make sure she has more variety of toys in her toy box. I'm going to kick my old soccer ball around with her once she's old enough. I'm going to let my dad teach her about the myriad different types of trucks he knows about. I'm going to reiterate that not all little girls have to grow up to be mommies and caretakers. I guess I'm just going to keep reiterating that she has choices. That's what this all comes down to, anyway.

Watch Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Ad failed to load

Check out the entire Romper’s Doula Diaries and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Umm, Toys "R" Us Has A BOGO 50 Percent Off Deal So You Better Stock Up

After the holidays, you were probably hoping that your kid's massive toy collection would keep him entertained for a little while, at least. But that was wishful thinking, wasn't it? Because now that a couple of months have passed, all those must-hav…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

A Hot Mess Mom's Guide To Surviving Winter

As I sit here at my home office in Connecticut, it's cold. Damn cold. Winter is a rough season in New England and it's even worse when you're a parent and have to manage cooped up, restless children. It's even worse when you're a hot mess as it is, u…
By Jamie Kenney

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

8 Reasons I Let My Toddler Play Outside Unsupervised

I'm not a helicopter mom, but I'm not exactly a free-range parent either. I like to think of myself as safely ensconced somewhere in the middle. I insist on certain safety measures, like car seats and helmets. I prefer to keep my 2-year-old in my sig…
By Kimmie Fink

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack