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September 25, 2009

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Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD

This makes me so sad and sooooooo angry! I'll be writing my letter this afternoon. And I'll encourage my 12y/o dd to read it and do the same. Our family has just been talking lots abt the economy and homelessness and having compassion/being proactive to help. Thanks for this post! Kudos to you!

Joe Kelly

well said...of course, the dds of Mattel getting a conscience are slim, but our letters may act rightly in spite of themselves!

Jennifer

At least donate the money you get from selling the doll to causes that help homeless people!

Karen from Canada

But, think of the other side. If American Girl only told the stories of average and well-to-do girls, then they would be giving girls a distorted view of modern reality. If they sold the Gwen doll cheaper than all their other dolls that are made the same way, what would that be saying about the value of homeless people? They put Gwen in about the simplest outfit possible, without going overboard and giving her tatters. Her hairstyle is nothing--it just takes one little elastic. American Girl has told stories in the past of Kit who lived through the Great Depression and, while she wasn't homeless, certainly became poor. And they have told the story of Addy, who escaped from slavery. Her family was homeless until they landed on their feet in a new city, and were still extremely poor for much of the story. We applaud Mattel when they tell the stories of poor girls of the past. But when they tell the story of a poor girl of the present, we rail them.

Interestingly, Gwen is the only AG doll, I believe, for whom there are no extra accessories (although the other girls' outfits will fit her.) Now, does that reflect reality, or does it discriminate against their homeless character?

I think if you check, American Girl does have quite a large charitable foundation that assists children in need, although it may not be specifically tied to homelessness.

I am not pro-American Girl or Mattel. I just think we need to given this a little more considered analysis.

twitter.com/tardisgrl

I am currently reading Packaging Girlhood and have found it to be a real eyeopener. I also have an 8 year old daughter with three AG dolls (I am mentioning that in case I sound like an AG apologist employee. I'm not! Just some one who has invested heavily in their products.) While I see the point you are making about AG's depiction of homeless children, I think the original NY Post article which you link to has really twisted the situation. AG is not marketing a homeless doll as such (as in, "Hey! Let's corner the homeless market!";) Gwen is a character in the series of books released to coincide with the launch of Chrissa, which is this year's American Girl. The story as it focuses around Chrissa is that she is in a new school and being bullied. Gwen is the only other visible outcast at the school, and as Chrissa tries to befriend her, she learns that Gwen is homeless. There is a lot going on in the Chrissa books, of which Gwen's story is only a part. I like your suggestion that AG donate money from the sale of the Gwen dolls to programs or shelter who help homeless family, but I find it difficult to condemn them for the cost of their doll--it's in keeping with the rest of what they do. Not a defense, but I wanted to speak up on AG's behalf because I felt the original article was so scathing, and that the tone of your post took its cue from the original source.

Lyn Mikel Brown

Thanks for the last two posts. I do think we fairly acknowledge what's positive about AG--even though we were very disappointed the company was sold to Mattel a few years back.

That said, we think it is quite different to raise the issue of present day homelessness, especially in the current economic environment, than to tell stories of poor or struggling girls who lived in the past. Mattel can do something for girls now. If they don't, they are simply making money on the commodification of homelesness. It's just wrong.

We can talk about how cute and simply dressed the doll is, the good storyline, even the importance of educating girls about this issue. But which girls? The storyline will reach only those girls who can afford the dolls. Girls whose lives Gwen represents, who might find comfort in the story or identify with the experiences, are again left out in the cold.

We stand by our view that Mattel should do the right thing and give a percentage of sales to homeless shelters. For us it's the only way to justify the high price of this doll.

Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD

Lyn,

Exactly my sentiment! Most of us were not around to assist with the problems of the Great Depression, or to lend a hand in abolishing slavery...although I would hope that at least some of us would have done something towards that end.

It is one thing to bring history to life, for children to understand the past and the struggles inherent therein. It is quite another to shed light on a CURRENT social problem, market the problem under the guise of helping girls understand said social issue...and make a pretty penny for themselves while doing it.

To capitalize on someone else's current plight is what seems calculating and irresponsible. Perhaps Mattel didn't think this one out to well prior to its launch...or then again...maybe they did.

I'll be posting about this soon myself...and its psychological implications. No matter that this doll debuted nearly 10 mos. ago...better late than never.

Lyn Mikel Brown

Thanks Wendy! Love Kidlutions and follow you on Twitter! I'll look for your post.

Multiverse

While I do believe that the American Girl concept is at least preferable over the typical doll concept, I think it's regrettable that it's so focused on consumerism with all the accessories, the assorted books and outfits etc, which are all quite high-priced, and which in turn means they are only aimed at a certain share of the market. I do believe that one could have used a different design on this doll that would have been more true to the image of a homeless person, or done something to help them as others suggested, and therefore I think that American Girl missed a chance to make up for some of the avid consumerism they promote with their products. Of course they need to make money too - but I doubt that this is the only way to do it.

Jennifer

I hate the stereotype of a woman not being strong if she embraces her femininity. It's like, you're only strong, smart, and equal to men if you act like one, you can't be that acting like an actual woman. Maybe Dora can be smart and pretty. (I know this isn't the Dora board, but I get no answer from the Dora board.)

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I think that it is a very great toy for young girl and this doll is really very pretty and beautiful and teen age and young girls will definitely fall in love with it....

Good Luck !!!!

wrapping supplies

It is definitely a nice and sweet looking doll and it will be the top of doll products and plastic manufacturers.....


Good Luck!!!!!!

Jennifer

Do you guys like my movie idea? It's really cool and girl power-ish.0-:)

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Yeah I really like your movie idea Jennifer. It really great idea tole by you. Thank you for sharing information.

Jennifer

YEAH!! Here's more plot:

One girl has a tough relationship with her brother, so he asks their parents if they could go to amusement parks, where he is nice to her. But she never thinks that he is truly nice to her.

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Interesting plot. And I like the idea of donating to homeless real girls rather than buying a doll that will only make greedy companies richer. A quite an inspiring post. More power to you.

Jennifer

There is also a boy spy

WARNING! STEREOTYPES AHEAD:

This is the worst part of the movie. The boy's sidekick only appears once, and is a ditzy girly girl who is obsessed with Britney (the boy doesn't like that.) However, she is also smart and typically saves the day. She also invents a lot of stuff (like Violet in Unfortunate Events.)

Jennifer

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Rebecca

Great perspective -- keep writing! Have you explored iTwixie.com? We share your point-of-view and have tried to create a world where girls can just, well, bond with other girls all over the world!

Jennifer

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A yorkie? Or a Maltese? I like them both but I know...? I am going to get a guirl one... Not any time soon just planning ahead and I know it might change but whatever! Thanks!

Jennifer

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