“Why Boys Don’t Play with Dolls” by Katha Pollitt Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jul 12th, 2020


Pollitt is an award winning poet whose writing revolves around women’s entitlement to full human rights. This is evident in her essay titled “Why boys don’t play with dolls”. In her essay, which was first published in the New York Times, she argues that sex roles are determined by the culture in our own society. Pollitt tries to show why boys take up the role of being macho while girls prefer to take up the role of beauty and gentleness. She also looks at what causes this difference in preference. She argues that social conditioning is what shapes male and female behaviors and personalities.

She emphasizes that the male and female genes are physically different but have their roles already been structured for them by society? She claims that these roles have been put there by society. The fact that boys prefer to play with trucks while girls play with dolls is just a social conditioning. The female revolution is seemingly unfinished. We tend to use our children to prove that the differences between boys and girls are innate; a natural occurrence that none of us can control or change. How we raise our kids is a good indicator of the unfinished female revolution.

Problem analysis

The stereotypes in our society that dictate what men and women should do have been discussed in this essay. Pollitt talks about how since the founding of the National Organization for Women (WOW), girls are still expected to play with dolls and boys with trucks. She talks about how these differences can be attributed to hormonal influences, brain chemistry and genes. Feminism has thus reached its limits because the difference between girls and boys is in their genetic make-up.

This however is not to say that feminist movements have done nothing for women. Some women have benefited from these movements. America has not yet reached a point where free sex roles can easily be exercised. Women have to meet the ideal image in order to be able to fit into the society. Pollitt gives the example of the Barbie doll. She displays the Barbie doll as being the ideal type of image. What is considered to be beautiful is being thin, sexy and stylish. The most attractive of women have suffered some kind of notion that they do not meet the ideal. Women have always struggled to change their looks and appearance in order to fit into society.

On the other hand, women, more so feminists hardly try to change the way their sons or husbands play their sex roles. Most women will complain of how their husbands ruined the weekend by being so much into sports or how their sons hardly spend their time at home because they are away playing sports. Women still view these activities as being “manly”. Additionally, they would find it disturbing if they found their sons or husbands cuddled up in bed writing a diary or baking. It would be considered to be too gay or too antisocial.

Pollitt touches on how society has led us to believe that the theory of genes being the sole reason for stereotyping of men and women to be okay. She gives an example of how a mother would find it easier to clean up after her own son’s mess than to make him do it. Parents also buy their sons sexist junk and let them watch sexist commercials without feeling guilty about it.

She contends that theses stereotyped sex roles are slowly fading away. She gives the example of how a three year old may grow up knowing that the doctor is supposed to be male and the nurse is supposed to be female. However, times are changing and medical classes are now filling up with female student and nursing schools are slowly filling up with male students. Sex roles are not a permanent thing especially in this day and age. That is why if one child grows up to fit into a certain stereotype, another will be working hard at breaking it.

Essay review

David Brooks in his article talks about the lack of diversity in our culture. He talks about how America claims to be an extremely diverse society but in real sense it hardly is. He shows us many examples that support his point of view. He shows how the American society has segregated itself in terms of class, habit and other categories.

For instance, Blacks live in neighborhoods that are characterized by certain societal classes such as low income neighborhoods or middle class neighborhoods. People with certain habits such as bike riding will move into areas that are known for bike riding while those from a certain race will move into areas that are populated with their race. He concludes that such trends and habits make America look less diversified.

Brooks argues that even professionals are less diversified. For instance he mentions that sociology lecturers are known to be democrats and only democrats will be hired to fit into vacant positions. This eliminates any type of diversity in the work place because republicans aren’t considered to fill the vacant positions. On the other hand, he says that marketing firms have taken advantage of this non diversity and have studied various groups, their habits and tendencies. Therefore, they have been able to predict what these groups may like or may like to do.

Brooks may have a point that indeed America is a diverse society but diversity does bring development to a nation. Many races such as Hispanics and Indians bring their own cultures, tradition and food some of which are adopted and integrated into the society. This creates a ground for learning new things that might be helpful to our society.

He asserts that it is human nature to want to be around people that are more like us. He compares diversity to equality; impossible to achieve. Both these two ideologies are undermined daily. He gives the example of how it is rare to hear that a guardian or sponsor has pulled their student out of an elite school or college because it is bad for equality. He finds the situations to be appalling because Americans are simply narrow minded and find it hard to accept an opinion that is different from that of their own.

Brooks emphasizes that there should however be limits to diversity. It should not be imposed on societal institutions but on individuals. Institutions should offer different experiences to individuals but they should be homogenous in nature. He points out that individuals should be obligated to join the national Youth service as a rite of passage. This is because it will give them an opportunity to be exposed to various diverse cultures that are different from that of their own.

In order to have diversity, Brooks says that individuals have to break out of their own familiar individual circles. We should start finding areas that are culturally diverse in terms of culture and ethnicity. He suggests that we should break the norms and do what we are not used to. This includes doing something that is not expected of your race or culture. Individuals should embrace other cultures as well as adopt a few things from them that could be potentially useful for development.

Brooks has been accused of viewing the diversity issue from one side. Americans are free and can move from one place to another. He is accused of generalizing his facts. For instance, there are some Blacks that live in neighborhoods where they are the only Blacks. Blacks are believed to be democrats but powerful people such as Connie Rice are republicans.

In conclusion, people are diverse in all areas but may share a few common things here and there.

This essay on “Why Boys Don’t Play with Dolls” by Katha Pollitt was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

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