c is for cat

Rules for Anchorites

Letters from Proxima Thule


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I guess I've only heard stories from adult women about how they used dolls (mainly to tell stories). I've never actually seen the child in my life playing with dolls, although seeing her play with My Little Ponies seems to match that description.

But I'm certainly willing to believe that adults encourage play with dolls in ways that is more work-like than how they encourage play with trucks.

I wouldn't count My Little Ponies, because they come with a world attached already. (I've been trying to find a way to articulate this, and I'm not sure I've succeeded, but I also think this is as good as it gets right now.)

When you pick up a My Little Pony, it has a name someone else gave it and an established character, and you can imagine adventures in its world. The Ponies (or the Care Bears, or Elmo, or what have you) aren't formless infants like a typical doll is. They have adventures in the world they come from, and you are a visitor; in the cartoons, the Ponies take care of visitors. A baby doll is an addition to your world, and you're supposed to look after it, and not the other way around.

We give boys toys that are meant to be playmates; things that almost always look either in the same age bracket as the boy we give it to, or older. (GI Joe, My Buddy). We don't usually give boys representations of very young boys or babies; when we do, almost certainly it's a girl's toy re-purposed. Because we don't really expect boys to stop in the middle of having adventures to take care of a wailing baby. And we often don't expect girls to do anything else.

I could not have said this better.

I wouldn't count My Little Ponies, because they come with a world attached already.

As it happens, that was not the case for this child, who had no idea of the established world -- not even the official names of the characters.

I take your point -- it's just that there's an additional cultural problem in which GI Joe's job is an "adventure", while a mother's job isn't. The actual military isn't particularly fun, any more than an actual baby is.

So true. I've never been in the military myself, but I grew up a policeman's daughter (he things like guard the US embassy in our country; it was more military a force than is common here) spent a fair amount of time as a security guard, and had three babies. The babies were far more fun, but they also involved far more pure drudgery. For awhile, I would go to work exhausted and glad to just be patrolling a corporate site, and come home still exhausted but glad to be away from grown people's officiousness and pettiness. I couldn't duck either of them, because I was both the sole breadwinner and the only adult with a womb and lactating mammary glands, but if I'd had a choice, I might just have found a nice cave somewhere and triggered a rockfall to hide the entrance...

Because we don't really expect boys to stop in the middle of having adventures to take care of a wailing baby. And we often don't expect girls to do anything else.


I agree with this, and would add that both are equally problematic to me.

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