The devastating decline of American Girl

Photo by Elliott Brockelbank

Kit, Molly, Samantha, Felicity, Josephina and Kirsten. These names are something near and dear to, not just my heart, but the hearts of thousands of twenty some year old women across the nation. These are, or should I say were, the names of the American Girl dolls. Mattel, the company who now owns American Girl, has decided to discontinue my beloved, historic heroes in place of more contemporary but not at all heroic, 18 inch tall Barbie dolls.

I am devastated for my future daughter and the thousands of other daughters who will never choose their own  American Girl doll and understand that they are next in the long line of strong, capable women who created this country.

In school, I learned that the history of the United States is the history of its men. Its a long succession of wars and treaties, each resulting in more wars and treaties, all fought by and signed by men.

At home, though, I learned of a different history. When I met Addy, Kaya and all of the rest, I discovered that women did have a place in the history of my country. Most importantly, I did not just learn that women have a place in US history, I learned that I have a place in it too.

Through those books, movies, tea sets and magazines, I learned how to be loyal like Felicity, strong like Josephina, and caring like Samantha. Those examples of girls surviving slavery, civil wars, treks to the West and child labor, taught me that, because I am an American girl too, I am capable of surviving anything.

Why would we want to take that feeling, that knowledge, away from any of our daughters?

It is clear to me that, once again, man is underestimating us. Of Mattel’s eleven board members, only one is a woman. That means only one has any idea what it means to be an American girl.

Mattel has decided to only create contemporary dolls, who face the troubles today’s American girls supposedly face, such as getting their art class cut from the school curriculum or how to look stylish on a budget. According to the men at Mattel, being an American girl means being shallow and small minded. These new American Girl dolls just scream, “No, no, you should focus on fashion and crafts, not changing the world.”

American Girl dolls are an amazing tool for feminists. No one ever cared about the size of Felicity’s waist or the clearness of Samatha’s skin. American Girl dolls taught my generation that we have worth, no matter what our skin color, cup size or socioeconomic status. That is more than I can say for either Barbie or Nancy Drew.

My mother’s generation became the men their mother’s wanted them to marry, but my generation did even better, we became the female role models our mothers created for us.. But, if we let men choose who our future daughters should be, what will their generation become?