Or perhaps and I dearly hope, only takes a small nibble and backs off in revulsion, once the target customers for the item in question have their say. I speak of the American Girl book imbroglio. A book by an in-house writer with all the proper and up-to-the-moment proggie qualifications and sympathies – has been distributed as part of toy behemoth Mattel’s American Girl brand. The book, aimed at pre-teens and tweens, openly suggests changing gender by chemical and surgical means, should they not feel comfortable in their bodies as girls. By the term girls, I mean the pre-mature of the female sex. (Honestly, looking at the picture of the author, I am not surprised at her proggie leanings. Facial piercings – anything but a small hole in each earlobe for earrings – now constitutes a social warning for me.) Look, puberty as it is, remains a miserable and confusing enough experience for many teens. Encouraging and enabling girls to take powerful drugs to delay puberty and have their breasts surgically removed if they are a little unhappy with the form that their bodies have or are assuming … this is not helpful. Appearing to countenance keeping parents in the dark if they do not support this chemical and surgical mutilation … even more so not-good. This development with American Girl is horrifying, but, alas, not particularly surprising, given how just about every long-time and supposedly family-friendly mass establishment such as Disney has gone all-in woke for the latest social media fad. Those fond parents and grandparents who buy American Girl merch for their daughters and granddaughters are not the least bit happy about this development – not the least because it’s coming on to Christmas, where indulgent generosity is expected, not least by retail outlets hoping to make up for an otherwise bleak economic year.
American Girl dolls and their accessories, clothes, play-set furniture, and books have been around since the mid-1980s. They were created at least as much for educational purposes as they were as toys. I always regretted that, as high-quality as they were and therefore eye-bleeding expensive, I couldn’t afford one for my daughter when she was of the age to play with dolls. I thought that the American Girl characters presented a better, more realistic, and appropriate body image to girls than Barbie of the outrageously unrealistic proportions, and the clothes were so much easier to make. Besides – educational about history and the lives of girls in other times. Being the proud possessor of a couple of bales of fabric scraps, trim, and notions, and skilled with a sewing machine, I was more than happy enough to create American Girl dresses and costumes for the craft fairs, when my daughter suggested that I do so, several years ago.
There is a very strong market for those 18-inch girl dolls; whether American Girl, copy-cat 18-inch dolls and similar types, they remain enormously popular, even if the originator of American Girl sold the whole concept to Mattel later. Crafters and seamstresses created new patterns for home-made bespoke clothes, and collectors are only slightly less fanatical about their dolls than the little girls who are the target audience for them.
I had a first-hand experience of this unhappiness this last weekend, I had a spot for myself and my books at the New Braunfels Museum of Texas Handmade Furniture, which is run by the local Heritage Society. I had promised to have an educational item on display along with my books, and I thought to take Matilda, my knock-off American Girl doll, clad in her Victorian unmentionables, and explain to interested children what 19th Century women wore under their outfits, since not a few people have remarked on my own penchant for wearing 19th or early 20th century outfits on these occasions. Matilda was clad in a shift, bloomers, corset, hoopskirt, and petticoat, with an 1860s dress and pinny laid aside as an example of what she would have been wearing when she was fully dressed. I’ll have you know that the junior audience was hugely entertained to hear that women commonly didn’t wear underpants until the fashion of hoopskirts was established. Because it made it easier to use the bathroom, or whatever passed for a toilet facility in Ye Days of Olde. Also small boys also wore dresses (rather plainer than their sisters’) until they were potty-trained, as skirts made it easier to either pee or change diapers. And corsets are really not that uncomfortable at all.
Late in the afternoon, Matilda and I did attract the intense interest of a young girl who has an American Girl doll, and who loved the dress and pinny. I sold that set to her hovering parent, who confessed that he had heard about the current imbroglio, was exceedingly distressed by it, and would much rather put money into my hands for the dress-and-pinny set, as a small local crafter than enrich Mattel by so much as one thin dime. Will the American Girl brand, owned by Mattel, take the hit that the Disney brand has taken, over this holiday buying season, when retail outlets pick up the slack and make bank. One might hope. Although my daughter thinks that Mattel likely will have to take as many hits as Disney has – to the point of going broke, rather than give up the woke credentials. Comment as you wish.