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.

The world isn’t sexist?

Even Today people like to say that “the world isn’t sexist”. There are woman doctors, engineers, firefighters, construction workers, and so many more careers. That doesn’t mean anything though. In “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective” Donna Haraway discusses feminism in a more open-minded way. She takes a bold approach in order to hold others accountable.

            Haraway discusses various terms such as situated knowledge. Situated knowledge can be explained as information that reflects a background and comes from a specific viewpoint. She uses this term in order to further explain her views on feminist science. Situated knowledges can also be thought as in more simpler terms as how we see different things. Hawaway states “These are lessons that I have learned in part walking with my dogs and wondering how the world looks without a fovea and very few retinal cells for color vision but with a huge neural processing and sensory area for smells”(583). This is an interesting way at looking at the idea of situated knowledges. Dogs don’t have the ability to look at different theories such as situated knowledges in a more analytical way like humans can. They are more neutral, and therefore not judgmental compared to people who might be judgmental towards careers women pursue, or subjects that they choose to study. Haraway is using that example to create a more accepting environment for not just woman, but all people.

            Today women are in various different fields that in the past were mostly male dominated. Even in 2019 careers such as firefighting, engineering, mechanical work, and even working as a doctor are still majorly male dominated. Most commonly in male dominated fields women are treated unfairly in these types of fields, and most of the time are discouraged by others when going into these male dominated fields. Harroway explains “We unmasked the doctrines of objectivity because they threatened our budding sense of collective historical subjectivity and agency and our “embodied” accounts of the truth, and we ended up with one more excuse for not learning any post-Newtonian physics and one more reason to drop the old feminist self-help practices of repairing our own cars. They’re just texts anyway, so let the boys have them back”(578). Society makes woman feel like they can’t do something as simple as change a flat tire, or change their cars oil when it is needed. Society ultimately makes women feel like they aren’t capable of doing hard work, but they are only capable of cooking, cleaning, or answering phones.

            Haraway makes great efforts in encouraging women to go into these male dominated fields. She starts to make an impact in making it possible for woman to have the confidence to go into these work environments and do well in them. She states “Some of us tried to stay sane in these disassembled and dissembling times by holding out for feminist version of objectivity. Here, motivated by many of the same political desires, is the other seductive end of the objectivity problem” (578). Women have to try and stay sane in environments where they aren’t treated fairly, aren’t valued the same way as men, and are maybe given the easier jobs because they are not seen as being capable. This is a major issue in a lot of workplaces, and even some collage classes. Women shouldn’t go into fields such as engineering because there is a need to make that field more diverse. Women should go into these fields because they want to. Today there is a major push for girls to be coders, engineers, mechanics, or firefighters, but that is not the solution. Men to realize that having a more diverse environment can help. A diverse work environment creates many viewpoints which can help people see things in a different way, and do a more effective job. Hawaway makes the point that we need to hold people in power accountable in order for change to happen. She states “Here is where science, science fantasy and science fiction coverage in objectivity question in feminism. Perhaps our hopes for accountability, for politics, for ecofeminism, turn on revisioning the world as coding trickster with whom we must learn to converse”(596). This really proves that all people need to look at things such as who holds what jobs with a new look. This is ultimately how we can start at creating more diverse environments. If we start here eventually our world will be more diverse. It isn’t up to just women though; it is up to everyone to make it happen.

Discussion Questions

1. This text was rather dense and full of a lot of different terms. As a reader I found it easier to understand by relating it to my own life. What are some examples from your own life that you saw in the text?

2. What are some ways that you think we could affectively start as a society to make positive environments for woman, but also all people?

Work Cited

Haraway, D. (1988). Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies, 14(3), 575–599.

Hi, My name is Katie

I am a senior Majoring in English. I’m from Syracuse, NY, but I live in the town of Cicero. I’m excited for this year especially since it is my last year of college.

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