This past week an episode of Sesame Street set off a firestorm of debate over whether a boy muppet named Telly should be ashamed that his muppet friends caught him playing with dolls.
In one corner "traditionalists" who called out the episode as gender and sex confused. In the other "modern feminists" who were offended by almost everything the traditionalists said and believe.
In light of these op-eds and arguments I decided to do a bit of personal surveying for myself.
I popped the question to my bride and her best friend as the two couples were headed to Gramercy (in Manhattan) for dinner on Friday night.
"What do you think about boys playing with dolls?" I asked.
"If the dolls are laying around (belong to another child), then it's unlikely to bother me," one of them replied. "If they happen to pick it up, if they are at friend's homes that are girls then it's almost unavoidable."
"But would you ever buy a doll for your young son?" I followed up.
"NEVER!!!" came the reply.
The fervor with which they answered the second question intrigued me. In essence it boiled down to the reality that boys are boys, they are designed to do boy things, and grow from boys into men. Throwing feminine play into the mix delays, interrupts, or intrudes on the development of masculine identity.
In one article Caryn Rivadeneira, writing for Christianity Today, in her even more boldly titled piece, "God Made Boys To Play With Dolls," she argues that: "When we say baby dolls are for girls, that only girls should cuddle and coo dolls, we claim that babies are women's domains, that only mothers should rock and coo and play with their children."
Even though I disagree with her premise, I also disagree with her comparison, and the implied conclusion.
She is arguing that boys should play with dolls because men should become the primary or equal caregivers for newborns? Really?
In a world where abject fatherlessness already exists. In a world where that fatherlessness has single-handidly created the largest welfare state in American economic history. In a world where discernment and wisdom about appropriate sexual behavior is threatening the very well being of our children's future...
Do we really need to question whether or not women are--by nature--designed to be--better at nurturing children?