MANILA, Philippines – Toys are toys.
Both girls and boys can play with dolls.
In Caloocan, I met Rowena and Angelo. This mother and son duo is challenging misconceptions among Filipino families – that boys should act this way, and girls that way.
Angelo loves to play with Barbie dolls. He also collects stickers of Disney characters, like Elsa of Frozen.
In the Philippines, some adults frown upon children like Angelo. They view Angelo’s hobbies as too “feminine”, hence should not be done by boys.
But not Rowena. She sees nothing wrong with Angelo playing with dolls.
“Me and his dad, we don’t disapprove of whatever our son’s gender may be,” Rowena said in Filipino. “What’s important is we guide him through proper education.”
Aside from dolls, Angelo is fascinated with art.
He saves his allowance to buy dolls and art materials. Using his savings, Angelo also bought a pet fish and an aquarium.
Rowena loves to share this anecdote whenever someone asks about Angelo’s passion for the arts: One day, Rowena was looking for the little boy. She figured her son was at the newly opened internet shop, so she went to pick him up.
“I thought Angelo was playing computer games,” Rowena said. “But when I arrived at the internet shop, I saw that he wasn’t playing shooting games like the other kids.”
“He was painting using a computer program,” Rowena said, smiling.
Judging children for the way they look or act is unfair.
Such way of thinking is a form of gender-based discrimination, which limits children’s choices, actions, and opportunities.
Gender-based discrimination stops children from freely expressing themselves.
Children should have the freedom to choose what kinds of toys they want, what colors to wear, and the like.
Instead of forcing children to act “like a girl” or “like a boy,” parents should love and accept children for who they are.
Aside from drawing, Angelo spends his afterschool hours reading.
He loves to read, so he can one day become a doctor. “He’s always on top of his classes,” Rowena said.
“But we don’t pressure him at school,” the proud mom added. “We’re proud of him, whatever he achieves.”
The day was about to end and Angelo was just wrapping up his reading.
He clutched a small Winnie the Pooh doll as he closed his book. Now he has to feed his pet fish, while his mom prepares their vegetable dinner.
Let’s hope that the Philippines will have more loving families like Rowena’s and Angelo’s.
All children deserve love and acceptance, no ifs and buts. Love and acceptance begin at home. – Rappler.com
Fritzie Rodriguez is a development worker. She was a former journalist who covered stories on LGBT rights, children, and women.
Video produced by Fritzie Rodriguez; Video & graphic design by Roman Esguerra. They work at Save the Children, an international child rights organization providing health, education, and protection services to children. You can support its programs here.