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“American “I-doll?- not for Every Girl

We all got a sneak peak into the “American Girl? website (http://americangirl.com/) in class, so I am not surprise so many of us chose to write about this site. From the little I saw of other people’s impression of other websites and stores, “American Girl? is as ethnically diverse as it is going to get. As for class-if you (or your parents, assume the site aims at 3-8+ year old girls) do not have at least $42 for the simplest (“Bitty Baby?) doll, this is defiantly not the site for you. Assuming you have a computer access (whether it is at home, in the public library or in school) you can start looking for the dolls of your dreams-and dive into one of the most “American? experiences you can get in a mouse-click.
From the pink, red and other light-colored front page I dove into the “shop? link, to get to business (my computer at home is just way too slow for watching movies or playing sophisticated games online). All the girls in the front of the “shop? page where white (including the dolls) and most had light hair-blond or brown. The whole appearance is not very welcoming to Americans of non-European (or actually, non-Northern European) descent, but since the site is looking for the people with expandable income, that not seem to be a problem (in their minds’ eye). “Bitty Baby? is marketed for girls at age 3+, and offer five skin, eye and hair color combinations. I think that this is not bad in comparison with the “Barbie? or “Bratz? websites, but maybe it is just because I became too “American?.

Continuing my “shopping? I looked at the “Bitty Twins?, all of which would have made white eugenicists very happy: apparently only white women can afford having twins, and the boys are always blond, with price tag which begins in $87 for pair of twins. The “girl of the year? was also white and blue eyed. I would not see the first current doll (not part of the historic dolls) until I reached the “just like you? section, which has the first (and last) picture of an Asian-looking girl to promote the dolls. “Just like? come only in long, smooth hair that looks the same for the dolls of all “ethnicities?. Now the “just like you? dolls are for girls over 8 years old-it is just wrong for you to know that there are so many different “ethnicities? before you are at this age.
The historic doll section was the most refreshing, and also showed some ethnic diversity (3 out of 8 historic dolls were “non-white?-37.5%), but the histories that were chosen were “problem free? mainstream accounts. Kaya the Indian girl lived in the 1760’s with her people. There was seemingly accurate description of some of the tribe’s customs, but in the 1760’s it ended; no mention of where they are today, any interaction with other (non-native) people, and of course- nothing of knowledge, culture or spirituality, just facts on they way they lived and generated food.
Addy, the Afro-American doll, lived in Philadelphia after the civil war. No mention where she, or her family, before the war. Addy is the only girl who does not have grandparents, and have only one sister and one brother. If you can read between the lines you may understand she supposedly came from a background of slavery and from Africa before that, but Addy does not have a culture, or a country she came from. She is just planted in 1864, and like Kaya (the Native-American doll) she does not have past or future.
The “American Doll? products and website are primarily for white girls (and doll-collectors) but I actually thought it was somewhat positive that the dolls were not sexualized (like Barbie, or the Bratz), and that they had some characters that were not white. This site is, as mentioned in the Ethnically Correct Dolls article, for “minority children only as long as these children could buy their products? (152). There is a long way to go before any of the “mainstream? or big corporate websites will show real wide and ever changing diversity of class, sexuality and gender, but it seems as if some of the toys manufacturers are slowly moving in the right direction- as long as they can make money out of dolls from diverse ethnicities.
I was not shocked to see the same patriarchal, racist and classist messages that one can see on television being reflected in toys, but I hope at least in my own life (or more accurately, those of my future children) I will be able to at least reduce the damages created by such “eugenic? dolls. Maybe in the future somebody should make GLABTQQ American dolls, as well as Irish, Somali and Hmong ones (and others), but right now I will still think that “American Doll? conveys better messages (to children and parents who can afford it) then those messages that were conveyed by “Barbie? or the Bratz (especially in the body image and sexuality departments).

Comments

you make an important point: for the historical characters, their people's history just stops at some point long ago. it's like you can put their "goods" in the Smithsonian put don't discuss that Native girls still live today. it seems a continuation of the colonial project - to objectify and place people in "cultural" categories, place their artifacts and history on display for privileged museum goers (or doll shoppers) to see. it makes certain histories seem farther from our own modern, and seemingly advanced consumer culture.

i hate it, not sorry

jeni shum te miraaa