Speaking of pseudo-multiculturalism and a girly shopaholic attitude. Check out Elizabeth Marshall’s excellent article on American Girl dolls in the magazine Rethinking Schools: “Marketing an American Girlhood.”
We couldn’t agree more with Marshall’s analysis of the historical fictions (they “encourage a limited independence and emphasize conventional “good girl” behaviors), of race (“this inclusion is superficial and represents the ways in which “difference”, like “girl power” has become a commodity that American Girl market to its consumers”), and the way AG products exemplify some of the worst marketing patterns (that is, “how corporations play on the feminist and/or educative aspirations of parents, teachers, girls, and young women and turn these toward consumption”).
We wrote about American Girl dolls in Packaging Girlhood (“A Series to Buy For’) as an example of the clever marketing of girl power. Because we made a factual error about which dolls were marketed first, our analysis was criticized by some. We have to wonder if people were actually angry because we called out a cultural icon. To many, American Girl promises something different, something akin to valuing the inner girl -- her strength, tenacity, and courage. Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult and disappointing to see how these qualities are tied closely to expensive products interwoven with tired themes about female restraint and accommodation. There’s more too. In the history books, pay attention to what mothers teach their daughters, to the representation of boys, and to who gets called “pretty” or “beautiful” over and over (hint: it’s not African American Addy). As psychologists studying and working with girls, perhaps what bothers us most is the way American Girl, by price alone, sets girls who have against girls who have-not. So much for the inner girl!