Tea at the “American Girl” Store

Today’s girls, our daughters, are falling down the ladder of self-awareness in their play. Now we are calling ourselves names. Younger and younger girls, nursery-school age girls, are playing with dolls called Bratz and styling themselves as these dolls who resemble hookers.

Why are mothers buying these? I fear we have lost the ability to see ourselves embedded in our culture. We have to help our girls remain inside their bodies, looking out. Not already the objects of a predatory sexual gaze.

I am a fan of the Groovy Girl dolls. Colorful, cheerful, not frightened or frozen in strange postures–these dolls reflect how it might FEEL to be a girl. A bit of this, a bit of that, and quite quite fun.

The expensive dolls out there, the American Girl dolls, are a strangely popular invention. The historical versions were the first of these dolls and they come with real samplers and canopy beds. Costly, yes, but Molly or Kit can provoke wonderful journeys in imagination.

But there now exists the popular American Girl Tea and Hair Salon. At the Natick Mall in Massachusetts, girls and mothers line up with friends for birthday parties. The popular dolls are the ‘look like me” dolls. Choose your hair, eye, skin color and voila—the AG store produces a doll who is you. Or, you are her? Hard to tell.

You can take your doll everywhere—you can wear her clothes. She now has her own restaurant where you take her to tea. (She cannot eat so perhaps you won’t either). After tea, you have your hair styled like your doll…or vice versa.

The arm of consumerism reaches too directly into identity. We are encouraging girls to pretend something particular.  The message is clear. You are a doll. We are dolls. Perhaps not Barbies. Maybe not Bratz. After all we can choose our hair color, eye color and clothes. Until we sit sadly on a shelf, abandoned for the newer model. The age for plastic surgery gets younger and younger, and the rate of cosmetic surgeries increases. We do not serve our daughters well. We need to talk with them and think out loud about our ages, professions and the choices we make. We need to live mindfully with them aware that they are children and we are adults.

Photo credit: Malingering.

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