Monday, October 17, 2005

Is American Girl Trying To Change American Girls?

In this day and age, parents know how swiftly childhood disappears. Before you know it your son or daughter is demonstrating decidedly un-childlike behavior. Young girls wear clothing designed to make them look far older. “Tweeners” (the popular name for the pre-teen group) sing provocative songs, learned from the popstar du jour. Kids trade in the dolls for makeup, and toys for belly rings and baggy trousers. Even if you think it’s bound to happen, you can likely recognize that it doesn’t have to happen quite as early as it now does.

There are few companies left whose goal has anything to do with helping kids remain kids (and frankly, not enough parents who care enough about the stolen moments of youth)…partnering with parents to preserve our children‘s innocence, so that they don’t have to grow up before their time. American Girl has long been seen as one such company. The motto found on its “About Our Company” page ( is: “American Girl is one of the nation’s top direct marketers, children’s publishers, and experiential retailers. American Girl’s mission is to celebrate girls. Our age-appropriate, beautifully made books and playthings foster girls individuality, intellectual curiosity, and imagination.” American Girl (AG) sells classic dolls and clothing and accessories to go along with them. They sell matching daughter-doll dresses, and have a magazine whose advice column includes things along the lines of “my brother is pestering me…what can I do to make him stop?”

Now, however, it seems that American Girl is partnered with an organization called Girls Inc. (which used to be Girls Clubs of America). The two are partnered in a fundraiser for AG‘s “I CAN” bracelets (think the Lance Armstrong Livestrong bracelets, with a large decorative star attached (See: or to see the bracelets). AG will be donating seventy cents for every dollar of sales of the bracelets, on top of a sizeable lump donation to Girls Inc.

At first glance, the organization looks generic and positive enough. If you dig deep enough into the “take action” and other sections of the website, though, it becomes evident, that this nice, generic “yay, girls” (The actual motto is “Inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold”) site is not quite so generic in its political and philosophical views, *or* particularly interested in preserving childhood innocence.

Here are some quotes from the Girls Inc. site:

Girls Incorporated encourages all girls to develop positive sexual identities and to function comfortably as responsible sexual beings. We recognize that the family is the primary source of information about sex and we help girls and young women communicate with their families about sexuality.
To make responsible decisions about sexuality, pregnancy and parenthood, girls need and have a right to sensitive, truthful sexuality education; convenient access to safe, effective methods of contraception and protection from disease; and referral to comprehensive information, counseling, clinical and other services that support their responsible decisions. We recognize that any sizable group of girls includes those who face issues related to their sexual orientation or that of a family member and who face discrimination based on this sexual orientation. Girls have a right to positive, supportive environments and linkages to community resources for dealing with issues of sexual orientation. “

“The emergence of lesbian identity is an ongoing process, rather than an event”


"Over the past decade, the Court has ruled on many cases with direct
influence on girls' health, education, and future opportunities.
Specifically, the Court has voted to increase protection against
sexual harassment in school, preserve reproductive choice, uphold
affirmative action, and affirm critical Title IX protections. The
Court has also ruled on cases involving violence against women,
male-only admissions policies, and the juvenile death penalty."

Rep. Istook sought to increase funding for "abstinence until marriage"
programs by $33 million, taking the money from the Centers for Disease
Control and the Child Care Development Block Grant. Abstinence funding
was already slated to increase by $20 million in FY 2002, which is $10
million more than the President requested. In a report released in
June, the U.S. Surgeon General found insufficient evidence that
"abstinence until marriage" works.

Girls Inc. opposed this amendment.

The amendment was defeated 106-311."

Girls Inc. also has connections with Planned Parenthood: (page six
and seven)


Here’s a quote from Yahoo! News

“American Girl, a subsidiary of Mattel Inc., said the "I Can" initiative supports three specific Girls Inc. programs — building girls' skills in science and math, developing leadership skills, and encouraging athletic skills and team spirit. All of these aims are appropriate to our 7- to 12-year-old American Girl fans," the company said. "The American Girl brand exemplifies the values of wholesomeness and responsibility that we would expect any organization to commend."“

How can you donate money to an organization, and ignore what the organization stands for? Now, absolutely, American Girl can donate wherever the company decides to donate. The company’s money doesn’t grow on trees though, and there’s an old saying about not biting the hand that feeds you….

One of my oldest daughter’s friends is a little girl named Claire. She asked her mom to ask all of her friends to write a letter to the company. Please consider doing so and asking them to sever their connection with Girls Inc. Here’s the contact information:

American Girl
P.O. Box 620497
Middleton, WI 53562-0497

Phone (for United States and Canada) 1-800-360-1861
Phone (outside U.S. and Canada) 608-831-5210

Email addresses (obtained from the site):

Mattel Chairman Bob Eckert -
American Girl President Ellen Brothers -
Public Relations Susan Jevens -