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Boys and GI Joe Dolls
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Dear Dr. Horvat,
I am a Traditional Catholic mother of seven children (ages 4 - 16), and I have only recently been challenged by my younger boys on the use of GI Joe-type dolls. Something in my heart tells me it's wrong, but I am having trouble explaining to the boys why it's wrong, other than "Boys don't play with dolls." They see them as action figures, not dolls, and I have been told I am nuts (by my Catholic friends who let their boys play with dolls).
I have always admired your clear explanations of the social order (and today's disorder) of the family, and you have many times cleared for my poor brain the understanding of the instinctively protective actions I have taken towards the upbringing of my children.
Thank you for your past help, and for your help now.
Yours in Jesus In Mary,
Dr. Horvat responds:
Dear Mrs. C.,
Thank you for the kind words about my work. As with so many questions about day-to-day life, I can offer my opinion, not a doctrinal resolution to such problems. Like you, I have grave reservations based on a first instinctive rejection of the GI Joe-type "dolls" for boys.
First, I do not like the very notion of a "doll" for boys, yet this is what the GI Joe is called.
Second, its naked body and various costumes puts the emphasis on dressing and undressing the figure, something I do not think boys instinctively tend to do in their normal play, as girls do with their dolls.
Third, I do not think it encourages a good formation for boys. A good formation is stimulated with small soldiers (never called dolls) that boys can position for action games, use to exercise "strategy" in war maneuvers, etc. Such toys encourages abstract thinking and militancy, which is very healthy. The GI Joe seems to me a revolutionary toy for boys that deviates the healthy development of boys from playing with soldiers and collecting regiments, and moves it toward a more feminine and romantic direction (e.g. GI Joe dates Barbie, GI Joe is dressed and undressed in different "outfits," etc.).
In short, I support 100% girls playing with normal dolls, collecting outfits, dressing and undressing them, etc., but I think the Barbie-type doll is revolutionary, because it tends to destroy the innocence and maternal nature of girls. Actually, the Barbie doll does the exact opposite of what a "good" doll encourages in girls.
Likewise, I support boys playing with soldiers 100%, but I think the GI Joe-type doll is revolutionary, for similar reasons. Because it tends to destroy the innocence and masculine nature of boys, doing the exact opposite of what the soldier toys of old encouraged in boys.
I think it is good for parents to develop a sense of what is revolutionary (against the good order) and what is counter-revolutionary to use as criteria for making judgments in daily life. Also, I encourage concerned mothers to trust those first instincts, that "something in your heart," as you so aptly put it in your letter.
I hope this is of some help.
Marian Horvat, Ph.D.
Posted October 6, 2005
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