The price point and consumerism aside, what was magical about American Girl dolls and books was that the brand gave our daughters a sense of their place in history. It showed them that girls have always been present and doing amazing, brave, and daring things. You can’t be what you can’t see.
As my friend Soraya Chemaly pointed out in a post last week, when we consider public life in the United States alone there are 5,193 public, outdoor statues. Guess how many of those are of men? 4,799. That means 394 of 5, 193 statues are women. We have no women on our everyday currency, no public holidays marking any significant effort made by any woman in this country.
American Girls used to tell a girl’s place in fighting child labor, slavery, taming the West, treatment of Native Americans, war time hardships…. American Girl tells a much different story now. Because Mattel.
Two great posts here….
“Organic gardening and school art supplies are perfectly acceptable issues for young girls to tackle, but contrasted with Samantha taking on the entire practice of child labor (as opposed to just rescuing her one friend from factory exploitation), these plotlines keep good works close to home, focusing only on issues that affect their own backyards and school days. Problems that mainly affect people who, echoing the My American Girl dolls appeal, look “just like me.” After the entry-level critiques of capitalism (Samantha), Native American persecution (Kirsten), and traditional domestic roles for women (Felicity), perhaps the time has come for a doll who takes her fourth-grade class on a field trip to Occupy Wall Street.
With a greater focus on appearance, increasingly mild character development, and innocuous political topics, a former character-building toy has become more like a stylish accessory. Radford says, “I was really focused on the historical and fictional stories of the dolls. My [younger] cousins seem to view their dolls as one more item they need to be cool. They seem focused on having more outfits than their friends as opposed to connecting to the stories.” American Girl once provided a point of entry for girls who have matured into thoughtful, critical, empowered citizens. Now the company’s identity feels as smooth, unthreatening and empty as the dolls on their shelves.” – Amy Schiller
“The image is embarrassing — privileged, comfortable, with idiotic-sounding names and few problems that a bake sale wouldn’t solve. Life comes to them in manageable, small bites, pre-chewed. No big adventures. No high stakes. All the rough edges are sanded off and the Real Dangers excluded. It’s about as much fun as walking around in a life vest.” – Alexandra Petri