American Girls The Lack of representation

By: Katie

Did you have an American Girl doll growing up? Did you read the classic stories of the American Girls? I know personally that I did. The American Girls Podcast simply does that. It was founded in 2017. In late February 2019 this podcast started releasing episodes discussing the original American Girl Dolls. The information is organized in a podcast format, but the podcast also extends to other platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the podcasts official website. The American Girl Podcast is hosted by Allison Horrocks and Mary Mahoney. They are both historians, who are revisiting the American Girl series as adults with a more historical approach, and with the knowledge on pop culture. The targeted audience for this podcast is women in their mid-twenties to early, and even mid-thirties. They are primarily speaking to people who read, and grew up with the original American Girl stories. I felt that they were excluding some people from their audience. Personally I have read all the original American Girl Stories, but based on who the podcast is supposed to reach, I feel excluded from that group. Also they do encourage others such as women and men to listen to their podcast. Younger women and men are just not their targeted audience.

The ultimate goal of the podcast is to look at the American Girl stories in a more historical way, and to promote representation. Representation is more than race and sharing those stories. Representation is also about representation for people with disabilities. In their first episode the hosts briefly discussed the lack of representation based on the fact that their isn’t a doll with a disability such as Down Syndrome. They discussed this after hearing about a petition that a mother started after American Girl refused to make a doll that had Down Syndrome. American Girl said “there isn’t enough interest in it” American Girl has the option to customize the dolls to have hearing aids, insulin pumps, canes, wheelchairs, service dogs, be bald, and even the option to have a cleft lip. This made me think about more about why wouldn’t they make a Down Syndrome doll. This honestly angered me that American Girl won’t make dolls that have more physical disabilities. Overall, I think this project is eye-opening . I think it has the right balance of discussing history, pop-culture, and encouraging more representation with the dolls. I think this project can definitely help us start talking about expanding the American Girl Doll’s with disability in order to promote exclusivity.

5 Replies to “American Girls The Lack of representation”

  1. Hi Katie!
    Great post! Everything that you discussed here is really interesting, as it is something close to my heart as well. I grew up playing with an American Girl doll of my own and reading the books and movies. It always occurred to me that there was not a great deal of diversity with the dolls that they sold. The way you formatted your post is really insightful as it calls out both the exclusivity of the podcast itself and of the company being discussed.

  2. Hi Katie,
    I think your post is really important when looking at how many of these dolls young children are buying. Many of these dolls are white and it wasn’t until recently I began to see the emergence of dolls of color with different hairtypes and etc. Representation is crucial in this society and especially when it comes to young children and the different dolls and toys that they play with. I’m sure many of the popular dolls commonly bought were white, blonde, with blue eyes. I wonder why it would be an issue for American Girl Dolls to create a doll with down syndrome or any other disabilities. This kind of goes into the idea of inclusiveness and dolls like this continue this admiration created by society of being white.

  3. Hey Katie!
    Your blog post was extremely eye-opening as it also brings me back to my own childhood. The design of these dolls are definitely a controversial subject and as I grew up obsessing over these dolls, I never looked at it from this angle before. As a child, you don’t pay attention to these certain details of the doll, but now, I can see there is a real problem. As our world becomes more diverse, brands such as American Girl Doll and many others, have to learn to adapt to these changes as well. Excluding groups of people, especially those with disabilities is absolutely unacceptable. Being that children are their customers, American Girl Doll and other brands need to set good examples and include the large variety of differences that are apart of an individual, also in a doll. This is very important element to childhood, because it teaches the child to view every person, different or not, with respect and equality…Just like it should be.

  4. Hi Katie,
    I think you picked a great digital project to analyze and I really enjoyed reading your post! It is crucial that companies like American Girl Dolls incorporate diversity because these dolls make huge impacts on little children’s lives. I remember I got my one and only American Girl Doll for Christmas one year and I cried when I opened it. I received one of the historical dolls and her name was Rebecca. Rebecca become my best friend and I carried her everywhere I went for a good couple of months. My point being is that these dolls are more than a simple doll to children. They represent real people in their imaginations. It is difficult for children to understand that these dolls portray false images of real people. That is why American Girl Dolls need to become more inclusive and create dolls that are not necessarily what they considered to be perfect. They should come in different sizes, different heights, and include disabilities. It should not be abnormal or weird for a doll to be in a wheelchair or to have a hearing aid. Real people have disabilities and the American Girl Dolls company should be accepting of that.

  5. Hey Katie,

    Your post caught my eye instantly- both with your hook of an introduction and on the media used for your blog. Amazing job on drawing the connections between how this affected our generation of young women and the historical view on the American Girls dolls. At first glance, I would think that the dolls are diverse, but you made a great point on how the podcast shows to promote more than race representation. I have a beautiful little sister that has been diagnosed with Autism, and it burdens me that she is growing up playing with Barbies or American Girl dolls that put a limit on their representation of women/girls with disabilities. Although I do see the danger in a company making a doll based off a physical disability because down syndrome, or autism takes forms in many ways and one doll could not possibly encapsulate all that that disability may entail. This blog post is great because it gets the public thinking about how body dysmorphia and comparisons start in younger girls. Self-image development is pivotal with this age group. It is extremely important to have more than “one look” for a doll, or even just one way of representing women of multiple diverse traits.

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