Girls find fun, not politics in dolls

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

With their immaculate clothes and well-styled hair, American Girl dolls draw plenty of fans.

My daughters grew up with the dolls and their story-book characters.

A few years ago, we even stopped by the American Girl Place in Chicago, which is The Store for little girls and their parents who want to shop for the ultimate doll and accessories.

The department store of dolls, this place even has its own concierge. It has a restaurant where there's seating for the family and all of your daughters' American Girl dolls.

I never saw so many doll clothes in my life. The possibilities seemed endless. Of course, you could easily go broke with all this stuff.

To our family, the store demonstrated free enterprise at its stylish best.

But it seems that even dolls can be caught up in politics.

The company recently donated money to Girls Inc., which offers after-school programs to low-income girls. Some parents objected to the donation, saying that Girls Inc. endorsed abortion rights and homosexuals.

Several Catholic schools in the Midwest canceled American Girl fashion shows where their female students were planning to dress up like their dolls.

None of this controversy has spilled over into our home.

Our teenage daughter, Becca, is too old for American Girl dolls.

As for our 9-year-old, Bailey, she's happy with her American Girl dolls. But she also has plenty of stuffed animals to love.

She shares her bed with enough stuffed animals to outfit Noah's ark.

In our home, we ignore the politics of playtime.

For us, dolls are dolls.

They don't take a stand on political issues. As far as I know, dolls don't have the right to vote.

Maybe they should. They probably would cast more intelligent votes than most Americans.

Our daughters enjoyed their visit to the American Girl Place. They would never have imagined that American Girl dolls could engender any political outrage.

Of course, this isn't the first time that dolls have drawn criticism.

Barbie dolls have been singled out as unhealthy by those who feel they promote an unrealistic body shape.

My girls never focused on the hourglass figures of their dolls. They just wanted to dress them up and play with the Barbie cars and the Barbie swimming pool.

When I was growing up, I played cowboys and Indians. I had a ton of little plastic figures and the metal facade of a frontier town.

On television shows, the cowboys always won. I played out the make-believe frontier fights in my bedroom the same way.

I didn't realize I was being politically incorrect. In my world, it was just little-boy fun.

Thankfully, Becca and Bailey see dolls as childhood toys, not as political message boards.

As for American Girl dolls, I'm sure they'll continue to be a hit with the younger crowd.

After all, there are more than 11 million of the dolls hanging out in girls' bedrooms. That's a potent force, particularly when they're all dressed up.

Sooner or later, today's girls will outgrow their dolls. Then a new generation of girls will latch onto the joy of doll playtime.

And as my 13-year-old as taught me, dolls are cheap compared to the cost of outfitting a teenager.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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