Thursday, December 20, 2012

American Girls are What Exactly?

For the last few years, my husband and I had a holiday tradition. We delayed shopping as long as we can and then we bite the bullet and run (literally) through a mall the week before Christmas. The primary gift recipients are the nephews and the niece. The 30 second GameStop® to get two Mario games for the boys went well, and then….. We braved American Girl®.  We walked past the cheerleader, the grocery cashier, and the housewife before finally looking at one-another flabbergasted and my husband commenting, “Man what a scam!”
I’m not sure how to describe the look on both my husband’s and my faces while we did the quick hunt around the store for the “phonograph” requested by my niece. Let’s just say that while I think American Girl® has a fantastic layout and brilliant marketing operation, it is literally terrifying to see the images that future women are experiencing. They are truly beginning to resemble a depiction from pre-19th Amendment ideals, through the 1950s myths and even the worst of 1970s sitcoms. The 1930’s themed washing machine, drying rack, iron and an ironing board and the pink cotton apron in one display began to back up the concern that future American women’s basic self-images are regressing very quickly.
When American Girl®s original line came out in 1986; it began with Samantha, Kirsten and World War II Molly.  Shortly after that, Felicity came, then Addy (an escaped slave), then post-Mexican independence Josefina, then Depression-era Kit, American Indian Kaya, Julie and Rebecca, a first-generation Jewish Russian American got a little deeper. Since American Girl®’s themes seem to model after history, could they mull over trying a new historic line of accessories and dolls? What about Clara (Barton) with a period nurse outfit of a long high neck dress? Could Amelia (Earhart) happen in bloomers, a leather jacket and some masculine boots? Perhaps Elizabeth (Blackwell) with a long, plain, dark dress down to the ankles and with a full length, plain white apron and a white cap on her head? Those are old enough references that the current stereotypical look of their other products won’t feel threatened. If they want to go all out, some of American Girl®s more creative product developers could potentially think outside the box. How about Sandra (Day O’Connor), in a business suit under a judge’s long robe? Would Sally (Ride) have enough astronaut accessories to make it worth the investment? How about something really far-reaching like dressing up in a business suit? Or a military uniform (officer or enlisted), or a doctor’s lab coat or scrubs with a stethoscope? 
I am sure that it is not a priority in the American consciousness overall. Still, the longer I see the images being projected all around, the more I believe we are experiencing a rapid degeneration transforming a woman into an unintelligent blow-up doll.  It really does wipe out a huge portion of the efforts of my grandmother’s generation and my mother’s.  To stay more in line with American Girl®’s historic theme, would it be feasible to consider successful contemporary women as models and ponder aspiring to be more akin to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Michelle Obama or even slip back to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis rather than Honey Boo Boo, Cinderella, Desperate Housewives, The Bachelorette, any female Kardashian on TV or Lindsay Lohan? I know that’s an impossibility, but for all of the mothers, grandmothers and aunts like me out there I have one small request: Can we possibly get a few potential gift options for our daughters and nieces that (even if they don’t use them as frequently as the ironing board and the kitchen accessories), can at least be a little less nauseous after granting the Christmas list requests of our newest living American girls?

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