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Friends 2B Made... Yikes.

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http://www.friends2bmade.com

Have you ever walked into a store and felt like you wanted to vomit immediately because you were so inundated with a store marketing “girliness?? If you want to experience this, go to ‘Friends 2B Made,’ a store next to ‘Build-a-Bear’ in the Mall of America. You can see the pink glow as soon as you round the corner. This glow is the first thing you notice as you approach and it keeps you in a state of shock for a little while after you enter, but don’t worry they offset the pink with some bright purple and a whole lot of sparkle. Not only are the colors all pumped up, but the music pumping the speakers is a combination of pop and techno (Christina Aguilera and Kelly Clarkson among the “hip? tunes played).

The dolls themselves are lined up along the right side of the store, each on their own pedestal, starting with the minority dolls, then continuing down the ling they seem pretty randomly placed. There is a wide variety to choose from: light skin, dark skin, blue, brown or green eyes, brown hair, black hair, yellow/blonde hair, even pink, blue and orange (or as they are named “Pinky Pizzazz,? “Bella Blue,? and “Orange Spice?). All the dolls have yarn for hair so it is pretty hard to distinguish between textures and styles of the different races. However, each doll has a face adorned with a full, pouting, bright red or pink smile and glittery eye shadow, must haves for any little girl, right? After the girls pick out what doll they want, they head over to stuff the dolls and add a voice if they want to, then comes the primping. A cute little salon set-up follows step 2 of this doll building process, where the girls can pretend to blow dry the dolls’ hair, even “curl? it if they want to.

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If a little girl could walk away happy with this, a naked doll all primped and polished, well it wouldn’t break a parents bank and almost anyone could afford this custom gift, after all, it’s only $12! How reasonable! Unfortunately, in this day and age it’s just unacceptable to buy a naked doll for your daughter (or golly maybe even your son! But I’ll cover that in a little bit.). So obviously the next step is to accessorize, and what are the vast options? Pink, purple, sparkly or if you’re really lucky pink, purple and sparkly. I’m only kidding, they actually offer a blue cheerleading get-up and a few dresses in various colors. After you pick out a dress, skirt, jeans with rhinestone hearts and a ‘Lucky 2B a Girl’ shirt, pajamas, two pairs of shoes, a purse, hair clips, a dog, dog house, a dog food dish, a dog carrying case, and a matching bracelet set for you and your dolls, you should be set! And that reasonable priced, naked doll? Don’t worry it’s still affordable at only $90. Now maybe I’ve exaggerated a little, maybe the dog doesn’t need a house or a carrying case, but the point is, this place is full of things that seem so necessary and fun that it’s easy to see how a little girl could get carried away with wanting all of it.

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I’ve been a little biased, I keep saying “little girls,? and it is completely possible that maybe a little boy would want one of these personalized dolls. In fact, they even cover that base by offering three male dolls (one blonde haired, blued eyed; one medium toned skin, brown hair, brown eyes; and African American doll) because of course no parent would want to buy a girl doll for their male son. One of my biggest frustrations came when I read the names of the dolls, and reading the girls’ names was annoying enough, but then it became extremely irksome when I got to the male dolls. The girls’ were “Fun Girl,? “Glitter Girl,? “Sunshine Girl,? “Radiant Girl,? “Sparkle Girl,? and “Cheer Girl? among a few others. Then the boys “Brave Guy,? “Adventure Guy,? and “Star Guy.? It seemed to me that they were attributing certain traits to each gender. Why wasn’t there a “Brave Girl?? Maybe even an “Ambitious Girl.? And whatever happened to that ever-popular phrase “Girl Power?? Apparently its been reduced to putting on a happy face and accessorizing, or at least that seems to be the message Friends 2B Made seems to give. It completely reinforces a materialistic mindset. Even at the cash register they aren’t done, no, you can pick up a guide on how to “party in style!? or learn how “2B fabulous,? in their mini magazine. It just makes me sad that kids can’t just be kids anymore. Dolls aren’t just dolls, they are maps of what material things are important, not what kind of person it is important to be, although it is important for every woman to have a personality that “Sparkles.? Right…

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Comments

This is a very interesting take on this store. It seems as though you must have done a lot of in depth research and spent a lot of time in the store and clearly are an expert on the topic of little girls. Knowing this I am shocked that many things are not mentioned in your article. For example you seem to have missed the 4 foot sign by the cash register that expresses that no matter what you wear the "best accessory is a friend". After all this is Friends 2B Made and is as much about having fun dressing up as it is being a friend; it is not named "dress 2b cool". I am also surprised that you seem to have missed the "create a heart" station. This station is centered on giving your doll/ new friend attributes. And no, despite what you may think these attributes are not materialistic things like a belly button ring or butterfly tattoo, but instead actual personality traits like being courageous, brave, and loyal all things extremely important to being a good person on the inside. This station is used to start the conversation with young girls about what is important in a friend and how what is in the inside matters more than what is on the outside.
You also mentioned the naked dolls on the wall… maybe I am confused but are they not wearing robes? Does not having them lined up on the wall in robes encourage young girls to make decisions? Furthermore, the rest of the store teaches the importance of decision making and being confident in that decision. Is this not a valuable life lesson for young girls? Of course maybe the power of choice isn’t important and definitely not something they should ever be taught; however I do not feel you believe that, you obviously chose to write this article.
Personally, I feel you yourself are giving the term “girl? a negative connotation. You mentioned the old term “Girl Power? as if it was this revolutionary idea that girls could be strong an independent. Yet in every experience I have had with this store I never seen anything even remotely cutting to girls that encourages them not to be who they are or enjoy what they enjoy to do (even if it is dressing up like a princess). The “lucky 2B a Girl? shirt that you mentioned completely embodies this. Girls should feel that they are “lucky 2B a Girl? not because girls wear pretty clothes, but because being a girl is great and by being a “Girl? you are strong, independent, decisive, and imaginative all things that will get you very far in life. After all this store was developed by that exact type of girl; do your research. In mentioning the “2b Fabulous magazine? you uttered that it teaches girls 2b Fabulous is this necessarily a bad thing. Being fabulous is not different than being incredible, are you honestly saying that girls should not be incredible?? And Friends 2B Made is the one lowering the value of girls to sparkles and glitter??? Fabulous is not in any means a fashion term and has no tie into clothing or materialistic goods. Many times this magazine teaches girls how to be a good host or how to through a good birthday party for a friend etc. I have also scene scouting mentioned in this magazine; I never realized being a girl scout and a good host were terrible things; I mean that is what you are saying isn’t it?
Lastly, I am a little confused. Can you please explain to me how dressing up like a princess and making your own special doll is preventing “kids [from being] kids?? I am stumped on this one.

I imagine so. Very good post, I agree totally.

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