During the quiet time before the blanket of sleep envelopes my little girls, I gaze through the semi-darkness at the dolls on the shelves opposite the bed. The dolls are lined up after a day of play, a beautiful, tangible testimony to the innocence of girlhood.
They are American Girl dolls and they are an integral part of feminine childhood in our home. Some of the dolls were acquired on trips with Daddy to American Girl Place in New York and Chicago. Some were the single gift left under the tree for a little girl on Christmas morning. The dolls have afforded my girls hours of imaginative play alone, together and with friends. The beauty and the richness of the accessories inspire girls to play with dolls long after one would expect them to have moved on to more “mature” playthings. Usually, I look at those dolls and think about all that’s right with my daughters’ lives.
On this night though, the same dolls bring tears to my eyes. I’m contemplating American Girl’s new partnership. American Girl has launched a new campaign, with a popular rubber bracelet just for girls. Called the “I Can Bracelet,” it is sold on the American Girl website with an ad and the assurance that “American Girl will give 70 cents for every dollar of “I CAN” band sales, plus a $50,000 donation, to Girls Inc.®, a national organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.” The problem is that Girls Inc. threatens both the innocence and the morality of our daughters.
With regard to reproductive freedom for girls, part of the expressed mission statement of Girls, Inc. is
To make responsible decisions about sexuality, pregnancy and parenthood, girls need and have a right to sensitive, truthful sexuality education; convenient access to safe, effective methods of contraception and protection from disease; and referral to comprehensive information, counseling, clinical and other services that support their responsible decisions….
We recognize the right of all women to choose whether, when, and under what circumstances to bear children. Reproductive freedom and responsibility are essential to other rights and opportunities, including pursuit of education, employment, financial security and a stable and fulfilling family life. Restrictions of reproductive choice are especially burdensome for young women and poor women. Girls Incorporated supports a woman’s freedom of choice, a constitutional right established by the US. Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe vs. Wade.
Continuing along the mission page, there are links to resources to aid a girl in the exploration of sexual orientation and they state that “The emergence of a lesbian identity is an ongoing process, rather than an event.”
So much for spending time online with my daughter at Americangirl.com, planning tea parties and compiling Christmas wish-lists. The page of innocence is no more. Any web-savvy eight-year-old can find her way from the American Girl page to girlsinc.com, though our blocking software won’t allow her there alone. Ironically, the content of girlsinc.com isn’t suitable for girls.
My little girls settled into sleep, I step from the bed and stumble over a Bitty Baby. The first American Girl doll we ever had, this is “Baby Jimmy,” given to Mary Beth when she was two by our friend, Jim. Baby Jimmy, along with several other Bitty Babies, has been tenderly loved in our home. Just a few days ago, my three-year-old held Baby Jimmy on her lap, with one each of the Bitty Twins in a toy high chair and a rocking infant seat. As she rocked the seat with her foot, she pretended to nurse Baby Jimmy. She was just a little girl in a pro-life home, practicing for the day when she will embrace the culture of life. And it was a tender moment. The baby dolls are as beautiful as the eighteen-inch dolls. The curve of a cheek, the purse of the lips, and attention to detail make them sweet babies for little girls to love. Apparently, though, American Girl is only nurturing a love of plastic dolls. The company does not encourage a love of real babies, nor do they concern themselves with the rights of unborn girls to life, the rights of little girls to innocence or the rights of us all to hold on to a toy that is “good, desirable and of good report.”
Please join the many, many parents who are expressing their outrage and disappointment to American Girl. Call American Girl at 1-800-360-1861 or email from here. Maybe, together, we can all reclaim a little bit of joy and innocence in the lives of our little girls.
Elizabeth Foss is a freelance writer from northern Virginia. Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss can be purchased at www.4reallearning.com.