by Britta Schmitz
NEW YORK / UNITED NATIONS, 18 February 2017 – The company Boy Story from Florida
developed a boy doll that is aimed at both girls and boys to transform the way children engage in
imaginative pretend play. In cooperation with UN Women’s HeForShe movement, the company
created boy dolls in order to help boys boost their emotional intelligence and work towards gender
equality from an early childhood stage.
“Emotional intelligence is a very important skill that many parents are focused on right now,
because we’ve seen that especially boys when they grow up are lacking in those skills,“ Kristen
Jarvis Johnson, founder of Boy Story, told Europa Newswire.
In the past, most doll makers only offered girl lines. Boy Story fills in a gap and strives to remove
the gender stigma which is attached to the doll play. The benefits of imaginative pretend play which
comes along with playing with dolls should be available to boys and girls alike.
“Our dolls are called Action Dolls,“ said Johnson. “It is a kind of a hybrid of a traditional 18-inch- doll
like the American girl dolls and an action figure which has joints. And so we added the joints to
emphasize the movement aspect of the dolls.“
Kristen Jarvis Johnson, a lawyer and mother of two boys, had the idea to develop a boy doll that
would bring children more diversity when it comes to toys. Together with her sister Katie Johnson,
she launched Boy Story LLC in 2016. They successfully raised money with help of the platform
Kickstarter and developed an Equality Line, a special edition of dolls co-created in partnership with
UN Women, to support HeForShe projects on gender equality.
“I actually started as a lawyer, I did a lot of human rights work and women’s rights work and I’ve
been aware of and followed HeForShe since they started,“ said Johnson. “And then I circled back
around to them when I started Boys Story because I realized that our missions were very closely
Thirty-five percent of the proceeds from the Equality Line will fund UN Women’s HeForShe projects
to progress gender equality for women and girls. HeForShe was launched in 2014, when British
actress Emma Watson gave an emotional speech at the UN Headquarters, urging boys and men
to support gender equality.
“We’re trying to specifically appeal to boys and get them to feel much more comfortable with
playing with dolls than they have in the past,“ said Johnson.
Boy Story’s aim is to ensure diversity and offer more choice in play, giving children a new toy that
they did not have access to in the past. In her classroom studies, Johnson found that children do
not care as much about boundaries such as gender as adults do.
“In a way, we’re moving the gender from the play by giving children dolls that are both boy and girl
dolls,“ said Johnson. “It’s fine for anyone to play with a doll, it’s just a type of play and just
encouraging them to play without having the gender stigma attached to that play.“
Boy Story believes that toys and play prepare children for the future. While in the United States a
rising number of dads spend time playing with their children, the boy dolls might help them educate
their kids through playing with dolls.
In a 2012 issue of Psychology Today, American psychologist Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman describes
“imaginative play as a vital component to the normal development of a child“.
According to various studies cited by Kaufman, pretend play enhances the development of language usage, the
awareness of others and expression of emotions.
Johnson also referred to The Representation Project’s documentary The Mask You Live In. This
documentary unveils a society of hyper-masculinity, where boys lack emotional intelligence and
cannot properly express their feelings.
“There is so much pressure [on boys] to be this hyper-masculine figure,“ said Johnson. “What we
hope that it will do is that it will continue to give boys an opportunity to engage in imaginative
pretend play … and so what we’re trying to do is help normalize doll play for boys.“
“We’re emphasizing the play and the learning behind that activity, which is using your imagination,
relational skills and emotional intelligence building.“
Boy Story presents its Action Dolls at the New York Toy Fair 2017. The fair is held at the Javits
Convention Center from 18 to 21 February. The dolls are available from 99 dollars on upwards.