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American Girl gone wild?

November 13, 2005|Mona Gable | Mona Gable is a Los Angeles writer.

A FEW WEEKS AGO, the new American Girl catalog arrived in the mail. After a quick trip down memory lane with Molly and Addy and their historically correct sisters, I tossed the catalog on the recycling pile and forgot about it.

My daughter used to love American Girl dolls. When she was 7 she adored Kit, a girl growing up in Cincinnati during the Depression. Despite her reduced circumstances, Kit had a lovely wardrobe and bedroom set, a historical quirk of fate that always puzzled me. Fortunately, my daughter came to her senses and soon traded Kit for a soccer ball.

I never much liked American Girl dolls. They're hugely expensive and covet an endless supply of riding outfits and tea sets, so you're constantly on the hook. But my biggest objection with the realistic-looking dolls -- beyond the fact that they reminded me of the sadistic Chuckie -- was their "stories," all of which lacked narrative ambiguity. Perhaps that's why Christian conservatives seemed to deem the dolls sacred. But now, in a bizarre turn of events, two Christian groups have declared war on American Girl, and I find myself on the side of Kit and her embattled sisters.

The Mississippi-based American Family Assn. is urging its members to boycott the popular toymaker. A Chicago-based group, the Pro-Life Action League, is rallying its troops to write letters to American Girl venting their outrage.

What are the company's sins? Is it launching a '60s-era Heather doll, whose bra-burning mother wanted to abort her? No, some Christian conservatives are attacking American Girl because of its affiliation with Girls Inc., a national organization whose mission is "inspiring girls to be strong, smart and bold." The group serves thousands of poor girls with programs aimed at such problems as reducing drug abuse and increasing girls' understanding of economics. Girls Inc. also believes that girls and women should be sexually informed. It supports not only abstinence but the right to choose birth control or even abortion. It also supports lesbian rights.

American Girl has been raising money for Girls Inc. through sales of "I CAN" bracelets on its website. You'd think the money was going to pay for Planned Parenthood fliers or to enroll girls in Wiccan classes. Nah, the money goes to programs to build math, science and athletic skills and develop leadership ability. Pretty sick stuff.

And still, irate activists have called Girls Inc. -- whose corporate sponsors, it should be noted, include such fringe companies as Coca-Cola and CBS -- everything from "apologists for homosexuality" to "boosters of abortion."

I think I know what's going on here. Some of you Christian mothers most upset with American Girl have been collecting the patriotic dolls since your daughters were toddlers. You feel betrayed. But what are you afraid of?

I think you're afraid of your daughters being exposed to other points of view. I think you're afraid of your daughters growing up.

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