Nashville native Logan Everett is in a band and loves to play the drums, but his real claim to fame is being American Girl’s first 18-inch-tall boy doll in its 31-year history.
The Middleton, Wis.–based doll company, owned by Mattel
, creates dolls with detailed stories against the backdrop of historical events, books as well as movies. The doll maker already makes a male infant doll as part of its Bitty Baby line, but never had a boy version of the 18-inch dolls that the company is best known for.
The introduction of the toy had many fans cheering, and a Mattel spokeswoman told the New York Times that customers had been asking for one for years — not just for their sons but for their daughters as well.
“People are becoming increasingly accepting of the idea where toys shouldn’t be assigned a gender,” said Rebecca Hains, an associate professor of advertising and media studies at Salem State University and author of “The Princess Problem.” “Children should be able to play with any toys around them.”
The toy market has been lacking boy dolls for decades despite demand, sparking creativity among crafty moms and doll-making startups alike. Gina DeMillo Wagner, a writer and photographer, wrote on her blog that when her then-6-year-old son wanted a male American Girl doll, she made her own by cutting a doll’s hair, removing its makeup with acetone and finding boy doll clothes on Etsy. She gives most of the credit to boy doll manufacturing to startups like Boy Story and Wonder Crew, two companies that proved before Mattel jumped on board that there was a demand for boy dolls, she said.
The American Girl Doll company is making its first ever boy doll… That is everything childhood me ever wanted.
— isabelle (@IsabelleNaeve) February 15, 2017
Doll play is beneficial for girls and boys, because it stimulates developmental skills, including care giving and nurturing, Hains said. As more dads take on care-giving roles, and some stay at home full time, boys can imitate their actions through playing with their dolls. Having dolls that look like them also allows them to connect with the toys, rather than action figures of characters who are older and have “restrictive” body images, such as the stereotypical muscular superhero, she said.
But not everyone agrees boy dolls are necessary, and in some circles boys may be discouraged from playing with such toys, experts said. This isn’t always best for the child, though. Toys attached to strong gender stereotypes were less developmentally beneficial for children, and could focus the children’s attention to traits parents may not want for them, such as prioritizing attractiveness for girls or emphasizing violence for boys, Judith Elaine Blakemore, a professor of psychology and associate dean of arts and sciences for faculty development at Indiana University–Purdue University, told the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a membership organization for children’s learning.
Parents should communicate with their sons about the stigma surrounding playing with boy dolls, so that they are not ashamed if they come across a family member or neighbor who discourages it, Hains said. “As long as your child understands that there could be some people who have negative judgments and negative beliefs, they’ll be fine,” she said.