“William’s Doll” Every cliché in a book

William's Doll Cover

“William’s Doll” by Charlotte Zolotow is basically a book of cliches.

But that’s because it was written in 1972. In 1972 they weren’t cliches, they were a new kind of wisdom. Too bad it didn’t take.

The Pattycake Doll Company sells a lot of boy dolls, and dolls for boys. But not as many as we should, considering the population of boys in America. Too many people still believe the cliches:

If you give a boy a doll he’ll be a sissy. If he doesn’t become a sissy, he’ll be called a sissy (bullied).

Dolls are for girls. Not boys. Train sets and basketballs are for boys.

Boys don’t have the urge to protect and nurture.

Almost as much of a cliche in the book is that it’s ‘Fathers’ who don’t want their sons to play with dolls.

That’s still true. There are a lot of guys who worry about that stuff. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of Mommies  who worry about that stuff too.

At the end of the book William’s Dad – outraged that Grandmother has bought William a doll says: “He’s a boy!…He has a basketball and an electric train and a workbench to build things with. Why does he need a doll?”

William’s Grandmother answers with a smile: So that he can practice being a father.”

If you’re reading this blog, the odds are pretty good that I’m preaching to the choir. But the message hasn’t changed.

Should boys be allowed to play with dolls?

Of course!

It’s one way they can learn to become good fathers.

Anatomically Correct Dolls – 7 Good Reasons

1: So that prudes and reactionaries can have something to complain about.

Anatomically Correct Boy and Girl Dolls

Award Winning Anatomically Correct Soft Sculpt Dolls

2: So that social service agencies can help traumatized children deal with good touch – bad touch issues more comfortably, by moving them from the child to the doll.

Aquini Boy Doll on doll's potty

3: So that boys can be more easily be potty trained. (Try explaining to a two year old boy how to tinkle without one.)

4: So that parents can prepare a ‘new’ big sister for the difference, so that they don’t fixate on ‘that’ part when their new baby brother comes home.

A Princess Boy Doll

Our Jacob doll dressed as a girl

5: So that Princess Boys can have dolls that are just like them.

6: So that the blogosphere can have something to post about.

7: So that pregnant mothers can have an anatomically correct boy doll for their ‘Gender Reveal’ party.

The Pattycake Doll company sells thousands of Boy Dolls every year, and we have had anatomically correct boy dolls with a penis since 2003. Girl dolls with a vulva too. Soft Sculpt Cloth anatomically correct dolls, and molded plastic anatomically correct dolls. So far we have never had an anatomically correct doll come back because it was anatomically correct. Maybe it’s because we’ve always been up front on our product pages – with both the words and the pictures. It would be pretty hard to claim you didn’t know what you were buying.

So yes, this posting is a little tongue-in-cheek, because we were a little surprised that people were making a big deal about it. About five or six years ago we got a few ‘comments’ about our down syndrome dolls. That passed, and this  tempest in a teapot will too. And if not? Good! We always sell more dolls when people are talking about them!

Is playing with dolls gender based?

In the toy industry these days, one of the ‘industry trends’ popular in the trade press and under a lot of mommy-blogger discussion, is the topic of gender and toys. Toys – the argument goes – should not be gender specific, nor should the packaging, or the marketing or the store aisles themselves.

In England, Toys R Us and Harrod’s both did away with gender segmentation of the toy aisles. And many manufacturers are now making toys that used to be considered ‘boy’s toys,’ like building sets or engineering sets, for girls. ‘Lego Friends’ and ‘GoldieBlox’ are two examples.

So the trend seems to be… as an industry… that it’s been agreed that we shouldn’t make toys specifically for one gender or the other. But when it comes to dolls, I disagree.

The Pattycake Doll Company sells thousands of Boy’s Dolls and Boy Dolls every year. But we sell many more thousands of Girl’s Dolls and Dolls for Girls each year. And we sell thousands of gender neutral soft plush character dolls like Sesame Street, Disney and Dr Seuss to both boys and girls.

Baby Boy Doll

Baby Boy Doll

There is no question that boys play with dolls, and sleep with Teddy Bears. But Boys generally don’t play with the same dolls as girls. Most boys prefer boy or gender neutral dolls. Boys will play with their sister’s dolls if that’s all there is. But boys do not generally want or ask for a baby girl doll to play with. 

Bottom line? Industry trend or not, ‘playing with dolls’ is not gender based. Both sexes play with dolls. Period.

But I don’t think we’ll ever see Barbies marketed to boys. Because the two sexes definitely have their preferences of which kinds of dolls they prefer to play with, and those preferences are gender based.

Princess Boy’s Dolls

A Princess Boy Doll

Our Jacob doll dressed as a girl

We think it’s OK for little girls to be Tomboys, and little boys to be Princess Boys.

As the child of doll store owners my daughter had her choice of thousands of dolls to play with. But as the fates would have it, my daughter was a tomboy and never really played with dolls. She loved her ‘Cowbear’ to sleep with, but her idea of a good time was to roam the woods and turn over logs looking for salamanders, or swing from tree to tree like Tarzan on the wild grape vines hanging from our trees. Doll play bored her to tears. So our daughter wore suitable ‘boy’s clothes’ to roam the woods in. Jeans and shirts. No one ever said a word.

Dressing her in boy’s clothes and letting her be a tomboy did not make her a boy, nor gay. She is now happily married, quite feminine and pretty, and there’s nothing ‘tomboyish’ about her.

So I find it hard to believe that letting a Princess boy wear pink and sparkly girl’s clothes and play with dolls is any different.

I have a friend to whom God gave a man’s body with a woman’s mind and soul inside. I met him when he was Michael, and wore men’s clothes, and watched over several years as she became Jackie and wore women’s clothes. I can assure you, it wasn’t the clothes that changed Michael to Jackie!

We sell boy’s dolls and girl’s dolls at The Pattycake Doll Company, and boy doll clothing and girl doll clothing as well. So I guess you could say we not only sell dolls for boys and girls, we also sell dolls for Tomboys and dolls for Princess boys. Because just like clothes and doll play won’t change the child inside, neither will the gender or clothes of the doll.

Boy Dolls vs. Dolls for Boys

A Boy's Doll

Here is a non-gendered ‘Boy Doll,’ with short hair and dressed in a baseball uniform.

We get this asked a lot: “Why does The Pattycake Doll Company differentiate between Boy Dolls and Dolls for Boys?”

Like… “What’s the difference?”

The practical answer is: ” There is none.”

To clarify: there are definitely ‘Boy Dolls.’ There are non-gendered dolls that are dressed as boys, (non-gendered meaning that the body is basically a cloth bag with stuffing or smooth plastic) and there are anatomically correct dolls formed like boys.

But there is no such thing as ‘dolls for boys.’ All dolls can be ‘dolls for boys.’ Boys will nurture a non-gendered doll, a Teddy Bear, or a baby girl doll just as readily as they will nurture a ‘boy doll.’

So why do we do it?

Because it’s a ‘search term.’ It is the words that people have in their minds when they go looking on the internet for a doll for a boy.

Here’s an example: Little Johnny is three years old, and his mother and father have just brought home a new baby. Johnny is fascinated by that baby… he wants to help feed it and bathe it and touch it and watch it sleep. He loves his new baby with all of his heart. But Mommy and Daddy are not quite ready for his ‘help!’ So someone gets the idea to give Johnny his own baby to take care of. So they go to Google or Amazon or Walmart.com and they type in the words: “Dolls for Boys.”

As an e-commerce store, we need to help potential customers find our store’s selection, so we use that search term too.

Looking for ‘Boy Dolls?’ We have that. Looking for ‘Dolls for Boys?’ We have those too!