This is "Barbie Boy" it is a very special work of art created by artist Mab Graves for a special Mattel show at Gallery1988: in LA in 2017. Mab painted this piece in hopes of breaking down social boundaries and gender roles in our society. It's hard for a little boy in our society to truly love what they love and not face ridicule. To me the entire idea of boy toys and girl toys is archaic. Ask my mom, I played with transformers, Mutant ninja turtles and I still have a healthy collection of Muscle Men. Toys are toys.
But, other kids......
My son is 9 and right on the edge, holding softly to his youth and beginning to care what the other kids say. This is the age when it all goes down. The peer judgement, the pressure to be toxic masculine, the judgement when he cries his heart out because his feelings are hurt ... He's feeling it all. I am the type of mom that truly lets him decide on a toy based on what resonates with him. I have taught him for 9 years that a toy choice is simply what you are drawn to at that moment. It doesn't matter though, because at his age, what his peers say holds more weight that mom words.
Mab decided to host a "Mab's Barbie boys" contest on Instagram for a chance at winning one of her prints. Her contest touched my little family in a big way. We deiced to participate and my son gathered his toys and I observed as he did so. He would touch the Barbies and Blythe and he actually verbalized how much he like the colors, but quietly sat them down and told me they were girl toys. We had a very heart felt conversation about when I was little and what I played with. I asked him if it was ok for me to play with those toys and he said yes....I asked him why it's not ok for him to play with dolls. He replied, other boys aren't like us mom. They pick on me if I like dolls. Oh my god! My eyes welled up with serious tears. I've tried so hard to raise a boy who is comfortable in his sensitivity but he's right on the prickly edges.
So, we sat together and looked at all of the entries. All of the boys and grown guys with the things that bring them joy, and in that moment he understood why Mab painted this painting. He said with a big simile, Mab does the hard work with her art. I said she sure does... So as he moves from boyhood to the next stage, he will do it with the knowledge of artists like Mab who push back against social boundaries.
If you go to Instagram and type #MabsBarbieBoy you will see some heartfelt love.