Boys can play with Barbies, too


Art by Riley Martin

Abby Kempf

art by Riley Martin
Ever since I was a little kid, tottering around in pink overalls and my favorite purple baseball cap, I have hated my mother’s comments about what boys and girls should do differently.
She enrolled me in dance classes at Columbia Performing Arts Center, better known as CPAC.
While I loved the experience and enjoyed getting all dolled up in swishy ballet skirts and putting on red lipstick at the ripe age of four, I wanted to do other things, too.
My mother allowed me to play sports; she wasn’t that old-fashioned. I played tee-ball, softball, soccer and basketball. I loved playing sports, even though my limited athletic abilities rendered me one of the worst players on every team.
My parents enrolled my little brother in baseball. When he was young, he had fun competing with his classmates, but as he got older he wanted to do other things. Like me, sports were not his knack. However, my parents, specifically my mom, wanted him to continue participating in sports “because boys should be athletic.”
My brother has always been highly intelligent. He aces every test without studying. He has the ability to debate his way out of any situation with superior logic and without getting worked up. He can solve a math problem before most people understand how to begin to work it. But what mattered to my mom was his involvement in sports, something that did not play to his strengths.
In American culture we are progressive.
Women are permitted to work any job men can, wear what they want, and hold public office. But that is not to say we are completely equal yet.
Men make more money working at the same job as women. Women are called derogatory names for wearing the clothes they may want to wear. Women are still less prevalent in government than men.
Women are expected to do one thing, and men another. A man who doesn’t assert himself as powerful is feminine and a woman who desires to manage others is bossy and rude.
We divide boys and girls into two separate categories as soon as they begin to crawl. Girls play with Barbie dolls, glitter and baby dolls. Boys play with army men, trucks and toy cars.
There has been a surge of parents lately who believe their children will grow up to be homosexual if they desire to play with toys that are most often associated with the opposite gender. These worried parents forbid their children to play with dolls, confining them to the rugged toys that society deems normal for males to enjoy. Some parents even go to doctors and physiotherapists, begging them to keep their children from becoming gay.
This notion is completely ridiculous. I know plenty of boys who, as children, preferred Barbie dolls to tanks. They didn’t all grow up to be gay. When a child reaches for a toy, it has nothing to do with his/her future sexual orientation or their manliness or femininity.
Biologically, of course women and men are different. But why does that have to mean that we act as if we come from different species? We can still connect as human beings, and we can participate in the same activities without this being a source of worry for parents or friends.
Whenever I talk about gender roles with some of my male friends, they dismiss my comments as silly feminism. They say feminists have been retaliating against men for years of unfairness that were in the past and irrelevant to modern society.
I don’t want to “get back” at men. I’m not even saying men are the root of this problem, because just as many women perpetuate the problem of gender roles as men; take my mother for example.
Just a couple nights ago my dad told me he would teach me how to change a tire on my car, and my mom dismissed him saying, “You’re a girl; you don’t need to learn how to do that. That is a man’s job.”
It’s sad that daily chores are socially limited to one gender or the other. We all live on the same planet and, even if we do not realize it, many of us have the same goals. It would be a lot easier to reach these goals if we worked as a unit, not two completely separate entities.
By Abby Kempf
Have you felt that you were being treated unfairly because of your gender? Do you see the effect of gender stereotypes in your life?