When I was younger, I used to get so excited every holiday season, knowing I was getting a new American Girl doll. I loved collecting all the books, reading them to find out what adventures my favorite girls would get into next. I never realized just how much impact these dolls had on me, until I got much older. Looking back now, I realize that the American Girl dolls and books were a huge part of my childhood. I loved being able to read the stories, while learning about what life was like in whatever era the girls were living in. On top of that, reading about the hands-on impact the girls made in their communities made me feel like I could do the same.
Recently American Girl announced that they would be releasing a new addition to their historical collection. Melody, the new doll, would live in Detroit, Michigan during the 1960s. Like other characters, Melody would have a series of books, as well as clothing and accessories to dress in. Melody’s first book in her collection has been released online but the actual doll will be out this year.
[bctt tweet=”As far as diversity goes, American Girl has been far from lacking in that area.”]
As far as diversity goes, American Girl has been far from lacking in that area. Some companies like Barbie choose to limit themselves to simply making just dolls that are white and black, but American Girl goes beyond doing just that. They featured dolls like Josefina, a Mexican girl living in New Mexico, during the 1820s, a few years after Mexican Independence, and Kaya, a Native American whose story takes place prior to the arrival of European settlers.
When young girls see themselves being represented, it makes them feel empowered. Many studies have shown that by seeing themselves represented in the media young boys and girls of color are much more likely to have high self esteem. Even if this representation is simply shown by having a wide range of characters in a children’s television show or with American Girl, a diverse group of dolls to choose from.
Ultimately, while American Girl has done well in some areas, the company has received some criticism. Some have said the brand is no longer “radically positive“ following its acquisition by Mattel, all in the name increasing sales in other departments – departments that don’t include historical dolls. Others have criticized the company for their removal of four historical characters. Two of the dolls removed were of color: Cecile, an African American girl, and Ivy Ling, an Asian American girl.
[bctt tweet=”Two of the dolls removed were of color: Cecile, an African American girl, and Ivy Ling, an Asian American girl.”]
Although no company is perfect, these criticism are important to keep in mind. Praising the the good is important – as well as acknowledging their problematic tendencies. Just because American Girl does better in representation than other companies like Barbie and Journey Girls, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to do better. Just because there are a handful of dolls of color, doesn’t mean that American Girl has necessarily made it. We need to see a wider range of dolls available to purchase.
As my 10-year-old self and I anticipate the release of Melody, the latest badass black girl to grace the covers of American Girl catalogues everywhere, I can’t help but think of all the little black girls who will be excited for their new dolls on Christmas Eve. It’s a development I hope also signals a re-alignment of the company into bringing back diverse historical dolls – a sign of progress for a company that has so much impact.