Katha Pollitt's "Why Boys Don't Play with Dolls" is an article that examines traditional gender roles within American society, specifically when it comes to families and children. It seeks to understand why boys and girls have different toy preferences and connects these findings with the feminist and gender equality movements.
Pollitt begins her essay by presenting research and scientific experiments that suggest boys and girls inherently favor certain toys over others while growing up. For example, a case study of male children in a room of various toys found that most boys avoided the dolls and play cooking sets in favor of more traditionally masculine toys, such as model cars and sporting goods. Pollitt questions whether these preferences are in fact genetic dispositions or something else entirely, such as behavior learned through culture, societal norms or even the influence of the media.
She goes on to examine whether this behavior could be encouraged and increased by parents, noting that just as scientists believe homosexuality is genetic, there are also a number of parents who become concerned that their children are flawed inherently if they stray from the typical gender roles and behaviors assigned to them. Pollitt concludes by suggesting that until American families truly accept gender equality and neutrality, the entire feminist ideal has failed.