Monday, December 29, 2014

Clothing Review: Caroline's Meet and Meet Accessories

Meet Caroline Abbott:
One of the Two New Additions to the Family
So obviously Christmas has just passed. I hope everyone had a lovely holiday, whether that holiday was Christmas or Hanukah or something else entirely. While I am not super gung ho about it, I do identify as Christian (I actually used to pretty strongly identify as an atheist but then I went through an EXTREMELY tough time in my life and I HAD to believe in something, and Christianity was what I was used to-however I'll never push my beliefs on this blog) and so does my husband, so we celebrated. Since this was our first year together and I am currently unemployed from my move two months ago, it was a small Christmas but I did celebrate! Stockings, a tree with lights, etc. I used to belong to a family that didn't celebrate any holidays so I was super happy and I don't think I can stress enough how lucky I feel to have a husband who went to so much trouble to make my first real Christmas a special one.
Anyways, two of my presents were American Girl dolls. Caroline came from my mother, along with her meet accessories. My husband bought me Rebecca, her sideboard when it was on sale, and 5 other things (Kit's new reporter dress, the accessories that go with it, Kaya's winter accessories, Rebecca's movie dress, and Caroline's work dress). I made out like a bandit in my opinion! Don't feel bad for him-I saved for an Xbox One, along with a bunch of other stuff for his stocking.
Anyways, here is my review of Caroline and her meet stuff.

She is a beauty :)

My first impression of Caroline was that she was INCREDIBLY beautiful. I know people say she looks like a Barbie doll, and yeah, maybe a little. But I don't mind that-after all, I liked Barbies when I was a kid. Her hair is a very pretty color and looks very nice. I like pink too, so the pink isn't exactly going to push me away.
And then I touched her hair and I knew that she was going to be difficult. Worthwhile, but difficult.
You know, I was so afraid to buy Addy. After I bought her, I didn't take her hair out of the style for the longest time. As a white girl, black hair seems kind of mysterious. I've never been the kind of incredibly rude person that would dare to just reach out and touch a person's hair either, so I didn't know if it would be hard. Additionally, my hair is stick straight and I'm a wash and go and it looks good kind of gal. I didn't know how to do hair! But I needed Addy and soon, little pieces of hair came out of the roll, and I needed to do her hair.
And you know what? Sometimes I think her hair is really easy because it holds a style. The short haired dolls are easiest, followed, IMO, by Josefina, Kaya, Felicity, and Elizabeth. But Addy certainly isn't hard. No. Caroline is hard. Her hair looks nice now, but it's going to take worth. I DO NOT recommend this doll as a first doll for a child. I recommend Kit, Ivy, Nellie, or Emily.
Her eyes are very pretty though-they're a kind of sea blue/green that I find very attractive. She has the classic mold which is not my favorite (my favorite is the Josefina mold) but pretty enough.
They did well in choosing her colors too. Most of her clothes are in pretty pastel shades that I think fit her coloring. She's a pretty doll.
I won't even bother rating the doll because I love them all, but I have one caveat: not for children who do not have any practice with dolls.
115 for a doll, and they couldn't give me REAL embroidery? BOO....

Okay you saw her dress in the first picture-here is an up close detail of the sash. The dress is a very light pink cotton dress with ruffles on the sleeves. The material is very light weight-it seems kind of thin for Caroline's home. Yes, you could say it is a summer dress. But I've been to Maine during July (which is pretty close) and I wore jeans and a hoodie the entire time. This might be because I am from Florida, but I still think the dress is too lightweight, especially considering she was out on the water.

You can't see it on the image, but her dress has growth tucks on the bottom-basically, as Caroline grows taller, her dress can be let down, extending the usefulness of the dress. Because of that, you can see her pantallettes peaking out from the bottom. I wouldn't go so far as to say her dress is practical-it's hard for me to imagine Caroline sailing and working in the shipyard in this dress, but hey, whatevs. It's a pretty dress.

The waistband is attached and is embroidered with floral detailing. The green goes very nicely with the pink. I was kind of disappointed to see that the embroidery was just a screen print-it wasn't real embroidery, which kind of makes me sad, especially since Caroline's love of embroidery and needlework was emphasized in the story.  That takes away some of the niceness of it for me, but I can live with it.

The dress comes with matching pink flats-these are not embellished and I'm kind of glad-the outfit is already very girly and the addition of furbelows isn't going to enhance the outfit in my mind. I like the shoes, but it'll be hard to mix them with a bunch of different outfits. I'm kind of a fan of meet shoes being in a neutral color for this very reason. You can also see the pantalettes in the image. Interesting fact about pantalettes-the whole purpose is to be modest, but they were meant to be shown in young girls like Caroline. This is the case for some of the other girls-you can see Addy's for example. Josefina as well, when she is wearing European fashions for special occasions instead of her typical Mexican garb. Caroline's have some pretty lace detailing. If you pull them up, you can see her white stockings-simple and versatile. They're stockings, not much else to say.

Next you can see Caroline's straw bonnet-my personal favorite part of the outfit! I love hats and I wish they were still fashionable. And no, I don't mean fedoras. I mean the fancy hats that these characters got to wear. Man, I love my freedom and rights, but boy do I wish I could wear clothes like this every day!

The bonnet is straw with a pink and green ribbon that can tie under her chin. On one side, a cluster of fabric flowers adds a touch of fancy to the whole confection! I would wear this hat!

She also comes with a draw string purse and a top. The accessories have not changed with the BeForever launch. This is technically a reticule. Interesting fact-if you look at Felicity's gowns, they almost all have slits in the sides so she can have her "pocket," which would be worn under her clothes. Caroline is the next doll chronologically. By her period, pockets were out of fashion because empire waist dresses (called different things in different places-also known as a Regency dress, made particularly fashionable as an Empire dress because of Josephine, wife of Napoleon) had such slim lines that pockets like that could not be worn. Therefore, girls like Caroline carried a reticule since they didn't have pockets.

I find this trend continues today. We focus on having a slim silhouette and so pockets in female clothes are almost useless, much to my rage. The pockets add bulk. That is why we carry purses or wristlets.

Thre reticule has a draw string to close it. This is a historically accurate touch, which I would be happier with if everything wasn't screenprinted! Boo! I know how much this cost-I deserve a well made thing!

This also came with a wooden top for Caroline to play with. When Caroline is all dressed, I tuck the top into the reticule-it fits.

All in all, I love this outfit. The colors are delightful to me, and they look great on Caroline. I do associate different characters in the line with colors (Felicity is green, Rebecca is jewel tones, Caroline is pink, Addy is that lovely blue they tend to promote for her, etc.) These colors are very Caroline. I'm not sure how practical the outfit is, and I hate the screen print. Therefore, I only give the dress a 8/10-lots of points for beauty, less points for a lack of quality.

The accessories are harder. If I was judging just the hat, I'd give it a full 10/10. I also love the top. But the reticule? It makes me mad. I'm going to give it a 7/10.

I love my doll-she's a beauty. I don't think AG actually failed on this one, and I have a feeling Caroline is pretty popular. But they failed on maintaining the quality and I've noticed this with some of her other stuff-the embroidery on Caroline's birthday outfit is also just printed.

Anyways, next I'll probably review Rebecca, but I do have a backlog of things-I want to introduce all the family and their meet outfits, so that's probably where this will go.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Kaya and Why Tokenism Sucks

In Case You Didn't Already Know

A lot of the time, I feel like I'm just begging American Girl to do something-to release a Black Girl of the Year, to release a Muslim GOTY, to create at least one fully fledged Asian historical character (what happened with Ivy fills me with rage!). I am begging them for tokenism. The representation, in my mind, is so bad, that I would be willing to settle for tokenism as a starting point in the GOTY line and the historical line. After all, don't we have to start somewhere?

But of course that is an extremely low standard and I won't be happy with it for long. Eventually there needs to be more than one black character, more than one Asian character, etc.

Tokenism, by the way, is when you have a person be the only individual of a group present, made comedic by South Park. So, if I only have one black character as the side kick in my movie, then I am guilty of having a token black character. I probably have this token black character to make myself seem less racist (in the way white people will claim they are not racist because they have a single black friend). By the way, tokenism can be applied to more than just race. For example, you can have the token woman, the token gay character, the token disabled character, etc.

Tokenism is bad because a single person cannot carry the entire burden of their demographic on their shoulders. Your single black character cannot possibly represent the myriad different walks of life that black people have participated in. It isn't fair, and it promotes stereotyping. For example, if your one black character in the show is a criminal, people who otherwise have no contact with African Americans (foreigners for example, who may meet black people but perhaps not African Americans) will assume that all African Americans are gang members. After all, why wouldn't they trust the Almighty Media?

However, the token character might be great, in the case of Addy (who arguably had the best personality in the line) or Tiana from Disney. It doesn't matter. No matter how great of a character the token character is, they still cannot bear the entire burden of their group. The stereotypes might seem more innocuous, but they will still be present. Maybe that non-American I discussed above will think all African American women work as waitresses instead of as doctors or lawyers perhaps, if they see Princess and the Frog.

I love Tiana but she is a prime example-a single black person in a line that currently includes at least 11 official princesses, not including Anna and Elsa who I am SURE will soon be included because they are selling so well, does not mean that a company is representing black people. They are presenting a token black person to APPEAR to represent black people so that people will think Disney is inclusive. Before the bashing starts, I love Disney but that doesn't mean I don't feel the need to state what I think can be improved.

So, when I am so desperate for an Asian character, that TOKENISM is what I am begging for, you know there is a serious problem. You know that Asian representation in the line is so bad that a single Asian character would be a huge improvement.

This is me, in my mind:

Liz: Please give me a bunch of different Asian characters! Please!

Mattel: No.

Liz: (in a whisper, scared now, as I always am after confrontation): Okay...ummm...can I have ONE Asian character then? Please?

Mattel: (after a long pause): We'll think about it.

But that is settling for tokenism and that is SO BAD. 

Currently, in the historical line, we have the token Jew, the token black girl since CeCe was retired, the token Hispanic girl who only represents Mexican history by the way, and the token American Indian character. We don't even have an Asian character. I love them all, but I think there is certainly room in the line (and in the GOTY line-I'm just a historical doll person, but that doesn't mean I don't NOTICE the lack of color in that product line) for more than just tokenism.

This particularly bothers me with Kaya. Now, I would talk about Ivy, but I don't feel I have to spoon feed you-anyone with any intelligence and empathy at all can see the issue of not having any Asian historical characters. If you can't see the problem with that, there is something seriously wrong with you. That is basically saying Asians have not done anything important or interesting in American history. How about the building of the railroads, the internment camps, the service in WWII, the issue with the segregation of schools that led to the Gentleman's Agreement with Japan, the amount of influence the Chinese had in San Fransisco? There are many more: feel free to add more in the comments, I went with these examples off the top of my head. There is currently a group on Tumblr that is pushing for an Asian historical doll character.

My issue with Kaya is more nuanced so I'll go with that for now.

 Writing from mom's house cause I went home for part of December and I don't have a non-catalogue photo of her-she's a recent purchase, as is Ivy so the same applies below.

Now I want to be clear before I write this: I am white. I consider myself white. But, not everyone in my family always has. I had family that was alive when I was a child who probably would not have considered themselves white-they would have considered themselves Cherokee. I say this because sometimes I honestly think some people don't realize that American Indians still exist. And no, they're not running around wearing braids and buckskin daily, hunting with a bow and arrow and living in a teepee.(Also, by the way, it is incredibly offensive to assume that all American Indians tribes lived in teepees-many did not, yet there are reservation schools with American Indian mascots with murals of the Indians living in teepees. The issue? THE RESERVATION INDIANS THERE NEVER LIVED IN TEEPEES!!! I won't discuss the issues surrounding the use of Indian mascots because I'm not going to honor that with a discussion.)

Once I was on a date with an Indian man from India (to avoid confusion). I made a joke that my grandfather was Indian too, and then explained what I meant. He then told me that he thought all the American Indian people were dead, that there were no more living. 

American Indians have become stuck in history-they are seen by many because of movies and books as a people absolutely decimated by white encroachment. That is somewhat true-entire tribes were lost. But this idea of American Indians is hurting them because people don't realize that there is an issue anymore. 

The amount of problems faced by American Indians who live on reservations today is astounding. I don't want to depress you but here are some stats that I learned in college. I believe they are still accurate but feel free to correct. Links are at the bottom so I could fine tune the figures. I believe these apply to all people identifying as American Indian by the way-the stats for just reservation residing Indians would probably be worse.

-1 in 3 American Indian women will be raped, the highest for any ethnic group in the USA. And 39% will be the victims of domestic violence. This is also the highest rate for any ethnic group in the US.
-American Indians experience more violence from people of a different race (so not American Indian) than black or white people.Many of these crimes could probably be classified as hate crimes.
-The drop out rate for American Indians is 7% by the lowest figure I saw, compared to 3% for all students and 2% for white students using the same measurement. The college education rate is much smaller for American Indians as well.
-The majority of reservation Indians suffer from abject poverty, despite the obnoxious and racist stereotype about the casinos. The average income is a bit higher than $30,000 compared to $50,000 for the entire nation.

I'm not listing these figure to get you to pity American Indians. I am also not trying by any means to minimize the issues faced by other minority groups in the United States. However, sometimes I feel like American Indians are the forgotten minority-they are seen as noble, sure, by many, but they are forgotten. Their issues are not discussed anymore by most people, especially here on the East Coast where I live.. And this is why I have so many mixed reactions to Kaya.

Objectively, there is nothing wrong with Kaya. I often bash American Girl but they put in a lot of effort and research to create a good product. I was happy with them, and to a certain extent I still am. I own Kaya, I love Kaya. I love her unique face mold, I love how her hair reaches down to her knees when I take it out of the braids and is straight and black and shiny, I love her clothes and how soft they are. I sound like an obsessed teenage girl.

But because Kaya is the only continental USA character who is American Indian (one could argue that Kanani is half Hawaiian), and she lived a long time ago, this reinforces for so many people that the treatment of American Indians is no longer a concern. Very depressing but not happening anymore. American Indians remain a romanticized "noble savage," a group that couldn't function and survive in the modern world. And that is so untrue and so detrimental, in my opinion, to the quality of life and political clout of the tribes.

Kaya would be absolutely fine if there was another, modern American Indian GOTY character. And no, the subject matter is NOT too harsh for children. It could be simplified for a child. After all, Kaya and her people are part of American History and they deserve recognition for their contributions as the original Americans. However, modern Indians also deserve their share of attention and recognition for the roles they play in American society. With only a token representation, society can't understand that.

This can all be said of many of the characters. Addy for example. Not all black people in American history have been slaves (shocking, I know, try to contain your level of shock). With the retirement of CeCe, Addy becomes the token black person. Josefina has always been the token Hispanic person, though at least there was a Hispanic GOTY (Marisol, who is awesome and is second on my GOTY list after Kanani). Rebecca at least had Lindsey, though her Jewish heritage wasn't a HUGE part of Lindsey's story line.
 You know, she could have been the main 1974 character. I love Julie but did we REALLY need another blonde doll? I mean, from purely aesthetic reasoning, the line is getting kind of boring.

Of course, poor Ivy has been retired. A foreigner looking at the current American Girl line would think that there were no Asian people in the US. (And yes, that's exactly what they think-I have a friend from the Middle East who thought all Americans were white with blonde hair and blue eyes because, she said, that was all she ever saw in American media.)

 For a while, Addy was the token person of color, not just the token African American. For a long time, it was just her with four white girls.

Let's move beyond tokenism (or a complete lack of representation for Asian girls) American Girl. I want to be proud to support this company.

Monday, December 15, 2014

American Girl Place and Experience Retail

The Magic of Going Broke

 Kit, why do you hate my wallet so much? I know you were poor during the Depression, but why does that mean I have to be?

I don't really live near an American Girl store. I currently live near Camp Lejeune in NC (also known as BFE. but honestly a lovely place to live) and I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. I lived there until I married my Marine, and then I moved to live near the base. The closest American Girl stores were in Miami and Atlanta, neither one of which is very close to Jacksonville.

Where I am now, the closest stores are in Charlotte, a good five hours away, and, again, Atlanta, two states away. We are at least two hours from civilization, and, therefore, a store like American Girl.

Therefore, an American Girl store trip is a real treat, not something that I get to do very often. I went to the Atlanta store once on the way to see my husband back when he was simply a fiance (or, as I like to say, to sound all fancy, a gentleman caller). When I heard that a new store was opening in Orlando, I was so happy. I still come to Jacksonville to see my family and now it wouldn't be that difficult to make a trip to the store. In fact, I went with my mom recently to buy my Christmas presents. I'm going to share some of my thoughts about the American Store shopping experience.

 Maybe you can't tell from my crappy photography, but this picture contains a clue as to what my Xmas present from my mom will be. Don't hurt your brain.

When I was growing up, there were no American Girl stores-you could buy from the catalogue or, later, you could buy from the website. Most of my shopping, assuming (and this is a big assumption) that I am buying brand new directly from the company, is done on the website. However, it is always more fun to buy from the store.

American Girl has become very skilled at what I call experience retail. You're not JUST shopping. Oh, no. No, you're having an experience, one that is an event. Shopping used to be an event that you got dressed up for. It was something to be excited about. Now, I am all for modern things like rights, but I sometimes wish that doing stuff like going to a restaurant or to the movies was still considered an event.

Julie in her pimp clothes. Just so you know, I love Julie but I hate all of her clothes by and large. It's not AG's fault-I hate the 70s style. Sorry.

At American Girl, you get that experience. You can have a personal shopper-I had one at Atlanta, though I choose not to use one at the Orlando store. You can eat in the restaurant with your purchase (aka the doll), you have plenty of photo opportunities like the elaborate Christmas tree in the store, and the products are displayed very nicely and intricately. It really is an event. The Lego stores and Build-a-Bear, from what I have seen, are also very good at creating an experience in addition to the product. I think this will probably protect these companies from losing buisness. After all, 18 inch dolls can be bought at Toys R Us, Target, and the United States of Walmart. However, none of those stores offer the same shopping experience that American Girl does. The same can be said of teddy bears.

I think this also adds to the aura of prestige the company hopes will surround the brand. Samantha costs about 4 times as much as a Target doll. Yes, she is better quality, but I have a hard time saying that she is worth 4 other dolls. People see American Girl as a luxury brand that they want to provide for their children. It's the same as a designer bag. That adds to the sense of occasion when someone makes a trek to the American Girl store.

The real girl trying to steal my money-Ms. Moneybags herself. What was I thinking, blaming Kit?

Now when I went to Atlanta, I had a great personal shopper and the place was empty. I had plenty of time to savor the experience of looking at the displays.  This time? It was in December, right before the holiday season. It was slammed. So crowded that my mom had a panic attack and had to walk out while I finished up my purchases.

 Isabelle was the girl of the hour. I believe she's back-ordered on the website so parents are running down to the store to buy her before Christmas and before she goes back into the vaults in all her boring glory and they release yet ANOTHER white doll. I better disgress on that before I lose my train-I'll talk about that in January.

 A sea of whiteness-the whiteness never ends. Like in a horror movie. About dolls. That's real UNIQUE.

 So what all was bought? Well, my husband gave me money to spend there as part of my Christmas present and I know he bought me Rebecca for Christmas. So I bought Kit's new reporter outfit, her reporter accessories, Rebecca's movie dress, Caroline's work dress, and Kaya's winter accessories.

Anyways, it'll probably be a while before I go back to any American Girl store since I return to North Carolina before Christmas and I have no idea when I'll be back. Here's some of the other pictures I took at the store.

I love this outfit with the bright, peppy colors! This is what I love most about the new BeForever collection.

 I tried not to look too much-after all, why get attached to something I'll probably never be able to afford? I failed.

Rebecca-the other doll that'll be under the tree. The tweed material is so nice-I had to touch lol. I love jewel tones on Rebecca.

Don't forget my girls Josefina and Addy-I wasn't really focusing on either this trip since I have SO much of their collections at this point.

Monday, December 8, 2014

American Girl Dolls and the Lessons They Teach Us

American Girl Dolls and The Lessons They Teach

So the Huffington Post recently (and by recently, I mean in September-I was too caught up in other news things to pay attention) came out with an article explaining that the American Girl dolls taught us lessons about feminism when we were children. The link to this article will be at the bottom of this post so you can see it for yourself. Yes, I know how to do formal citations but screw that-I graduated college, I'm never doing that again unless I go to grad school. So done with citations.

Some sources have stated that the AG dolls were radical. I kind of disagree. The causes that the dolls support (suffrage for women and the end of child labor, independence for the USA, the end of slavery and segregation, etc.) are causes that today have widespread support. Very few people seriously argue that slavery should still exist. Therefore, the Addy story isn't really radical.

But they didn't really need to be. You can still learn important lessons about race and feminism from something that isn't radical. The article covered Felicity, who taught us to defy gender roles; Addy, who taught us not to let anything get in the way of our dreams; Kirsten, who taught us to try new things even if they are scary; Samantha, who taught us to stand up for what we believe in; and Molly who taught us to have grit.

So here are my list of lessons that the other dolls taught us.

Kaya: Change is Inevitable and You MUST Adapt

Kaya's Story was all about change-Lone Wolf left, her sister moved out for a good part of the year, and her mentor died. More frighteningly, her grandmother kept making statements that the way of life Kaya and the rest of her tribe was used to was coming to an end-marked by the coming of horses and smallpox. When you really sit and think about the historical implications of what the grandmother is saying, and what all the change in Kaya's life symbolizes, it is utterly heartbreaking. The world as she knows it, both in the small stage of her individual life and in the large stage of the life of native peoples in America, is going to change so drastically that it makes your head spin.

Change is  terrifying, and would be fatal for many of the people around Kaya. But Kaya learned to adapt and accept each change, coming out a stronger and better person after each shift. Yes, she has not faced the ultimate change for her people (and I don't necessarily think she will in her lifetime). But, assuming she survives smallpox, I would place my money on Kaya adapting to the changes and finding a way around them. Kaya taught girls to accept changes and to work around them if possible.

Caroline: Women Have Always Done "Male" Jobs

I read the Caroline series as an adult so I didn't take the same lessons as I might have if I was a kid. Here's what I did take from it, and I can confirm it as a history major-women have ALWAYS done traditionally male jobs.

Caroline's father is captured by the British during the War of 1812. What does her mother do? Sit down and cry, letting her family's shipyard close? No! She buckles down and does what society would certainly have considered a "male" job. Don't let society tell you what is and what is not traditional. Women have been fighting in wars for centuries. They've done everything a man has ever done-they just weren't recognized for it. Here's our chance to recognize them and give them the credit they needed. None of the American wars could have been won without the sacrifices of American women-and not necessarily just female soldiers. Women did many jobs that were essential to every war effort.

Josefina: Being Shy Does Not Mean You Won't Get Where You Want to Go (Also, Grief is Normal and Okay)

Most of the main AG characters are not shy. Sometimes, as is the case with Felicity and Elizabeth, the best friend character is shy and timid. I think this is an effort to show girls that they need to get out of their shell and be a leader.

But here's the problem with that-it takes all kinds. There will always be shy girls. And that's okay. When I was an elementary school student, I was very shy. I grew out of it, but I have friends that didn't. That doesn't mean that they aren't leading full lives and reaching their goals. They have just learned to be bold when they need to be, like Josefina was at Christmas time when she played Mary and when she asked her father to get her aunt to stay with them. Shyness is not necessarily a character flaw any more than boldness is-too much shyness or too much boldness can cause problems.

Also, grieving? That's normal. Josefina grieved for her mother and she had a lot of complicated feelings about their way of life changing because her mom was gone. And you know what? That's completely okay. People need to grieve at their own pace. Moving on from your grief is also normal and okay-it doesn't mean you didn't love them or that you don't miss them. The person you have lost would want you to move on and be happy.

My grandmother died recently and frankly, I was floored. It was right before my wedding. But I've moved on-I still love her, I wish she was here. But she wouldn't want me to grieve forever. Moving on and going forward is not a betrayal-it's a natural part of an existence which includes death and loss.

Marie-Grace and Cecile Rey: The Narrative of History is Not as Straightforward as it May Seem

For those of you who follow me on Tumblr, you know how I feel about people criticizing Addy simply because AG made a former slave character. I might redo that post and expand it for this. However, I still think MG and CeCe teach us something very important about history in general.

All of us have been taught a particular historical narrative about different things. This is our narrative for the status of black people in the USA.

"White people captured the black people from Africa and forced them to be slaves. (If you're in the South, something will be added here about how some slaves were happy to be slaves-gross.) That nice man Abe Lincoln freed the slaves (Southerns-He took away state rights though so boo). The slaves were dirt poor until MLK gave them rights. Ever since then we have all been equal and now we have an African American man as president. And they all lived happily ever after. The end."

However, that isn't really all true. Maybe there's some truth in the gist of it but it's way too simplified. There were African Americans who had drastically different experiences, like Cecile who was rich and free before the Civil War. In places like New Orleans, segregation wasn't nearly as drastic, making a friendship between a CeCe and MG possible. There are other diversions from the narrative we are taught. These narratives need to be more nuanced, especially in light of recent events.

Dolls like these challenge the popular narrative that inform our social senses of race and gender, just like the story of Caroline challenges the ideas we have about the history of women.

Rebecca: You Will Always be Pulled in Two Directions. You Must Chart Your Own Path. There May be Consequences.

Rebecca is Jewish in an America that wants to take other cultures and assimilate them into the melting pot. Her family is hanging on to their traditions against the onslaught of mainstream American Christian culture with tooth and nail. But what is wrong with a Christmas wreath? And, ultimately, what is wrong with defying the wishes of the older generation to pursue a different career path (Rebecca wants to be an actress while her family wants her to be a teacher)?

This is the story of immigrants. They come to the US and try to maintain their culture, terrified that it will be lost forever. It won't. Not in that generation. But eventually, in most cases, their children or grandchildren will assimilate somewhat into the mainstream culture. This changes the home culture and American culture at large.

That is very sad, but Rebecca is caught in the middle. She wants to pursue a goal that her traditional family does not approve of, and eventually, she decides that this is what she really wants to do. She is sympathetic to her parent's concerns, as she should be. But, she rightly realizes that it is her own life and that she must do with it as she sees fit. In the end, she confesses to her father that she does not want to be a teacher.

There will always be parents and grandparents who disagree with what the younger ones do. This could be as simple a situation as disliking the music of today to as drastic as disowning their children because they are gay. Being yourself can come at a great cost, but Rebecca shows that that is the only way to be. There is no choice-you have to be yourself or you will not make it out a happy, well adjusted person. I will not write off what your family says with the pat, "Well, if they don't accept you, who needs them?" That's too simplistic-everyone wants to be accepted by their family, and it is okay to grieve, even for family that treat you badly.

But it isn't worth denying who you are, and Rebecca, in a child friendly way, expresses this.

Kit-The Real Problems in Life will Come Out of Left Field-Also, Try to Keep Friends

I remember listening to that corny "Wear Sunscreen" graduation speech-it's kind of silly but one thing struck me. I have an anxiety issue and I am always stressed out about things that might happen. But, worrying is silly, because often, the problems that will come at you in life will be things you never expected. I'm sure that Mr. and Mrs. Kittredge never expected the Great Depression to hit. I'm sure they never thought they'd be in danger of losing their home. The best a person can do in life is try and roll with the punches. I say this, but I still keep worrying. The Kittredge family also does their best to close ranks during their troubles instead of tearing each other apart from the stress.

Also, at one point Kit and Ruthie, her best friend, argue. I would say that Ruthie is actually the problem but Kit is the one who makes it up. Why? Because it isn't about winning the fight, it's about maintaining the relationship, which is something I didn't learn until I got married. If a person is more focused on winning a fight than mending the relationship, they should do some soul searching. There are cases where this isn't true-some wounds are deep enough that no relationship is worth it. But, in the majority of cases, that is not true. Try to maintain your family bonds, friendships, and relationships in spite of your differences.

Julie Albright-Stand Up for Yourself and What You Believe In

Honestly, I feel like Julie is an updated Samantha. A lot of the message in the Samantha books was that women are capable-for example, Cornelia is a suffragist. Eventually, Samantha, despite her grandmother's disagreement with the cause, comes to agree with her. Sam always stands up for causes she believes in, including the vote.

I'm not sure what kind of person Samantha would have become if she had been a real person-Sam is a very smart girl, but I don't know what kind of opportunities she'll meet with. The sad truth is that she probably didn't go on to have her own career.

Julie's stories promote the same message-stand up for what you believe in. Additionally, she clearly shows that women are capable. Her mother gets a divorce and supports herself. Julie disobeys her coach to become the only girl on the boy's basketball team. Julie and Samantha concern themselves with very similar causes.

However, Julie has so much more potential. Not because Sam wasn't just as smart and just as strong-she was, perhaps even more so. But Sam lived during a time when there were very clear expectations for women. Julie lived in a very exciting time. Women still faced discrimination (and still do today, by the way) but the amount of change going on makes a person almost believe that Julie will be president, just like she hoped at the end of her series. She stood up for herself, for a cause she believed in through gathering signatures and participating in the political process, and she won. Who knows what other things she might win? The future is so open for her. I think it is that sense of hope, of the possibility of change for the better, that I most want to imbue my own children with when I have them. There will always be problems in society. But we as a species will always progress as long as there are people willing to work to make a change. That sense of hope is very important for any social cause.


The dolls and their stories have so much potential when it comes to teaching lessons to children-and to adults who, like me, sometimes need a remedial course in life. Not all of the lessons I went over are necessarily feminist lessons, but they are all valuable and worthwhile for anyone to learn. I won't pretend that the dolls or the company is perfect, but something doesn't need to be perfect for us to learn from it. These, along with the lessons for Samantha, Addy, Kirsten, Felicity, and Molly talked about in the HuffPo article, are what I learned from the American Girl books.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

An American Girl Journey

An American Girl Journey
(Or, Liz finds a new way to spend all of her money)
So how did I become an American Girl enthusiast? How did I, a woman in her twenties, decide that I needed a new hobby and that my hobby was going to be AG dolls, of all things?
Well, that's a long and sordid tale....kidding. It's really not that sordid.
So, like many young girls, I began reading the American Girl books in elementary school. I read Meet Josefina at the school library and then my mom helpfully sent in the request form at the back. See, this was before the age of widespread internet usage. No, I got a beautiful, glossy catalogue with so many beautiful pictures of dolls, clothes, and accessories . American Girl knew how to make me want their products...and I wanted them. Bad.

A book that would strike fear into the heart of my mom every time I pulled it out.

And there was my girl-Josefina! Sure, there were others dolls that seemed cool. Kirsten kind of looked like me, Samantha seemed cool with all her girly-frilly clothes (I'm a secret girly girl), Addy had the most exciting story by far...but, for some reason, despite the fact that she was not by any means my "look alike doll" I wanted Josefina, my "act alike" doll. A white blonde girl wanted a Hispanic doll (le gasp!). She was my internal twin you see.
And boy, my mom wanted to buy her. After all, history! Education! Learning about a culture that I would probably have very little access to otherwise! 
But...way too expensive.
Not in the sense that my mom thought she wasn't worth it. I have a lot of rage when I hear about parents saying it's too much to spend that on a doll but will buy video game systems for their kids (just bought a system for my husband with one game and one controller-$450 gone). That crap is expensive! "Dolls don't do anything!" That's the beauty of it, you idiot! Imagination! (Yes, I drew the word out and made a rainbow with my hands like Sponge Bob Square Pants). I also believe that this has a hint of sexism in it. Not that girls can't or don't play video games. However, the target audience is usually boys. So parents will spend all of that money on their sons, but won't buy an expensive doll for their daughter? But then, as soon as the girl hits puberty, for some reason parents are falling all over themselves to buy expensive clothes and make-up. Not always, but enough for me to see it as a trend. Basically, the message is that girls need to grow up as fast as possible.
Okay, rant over. Need to watch that blood pressure Liz...
As a single mom, she just couldn't afford one. I quickly learned to stop asking since I knew she felt bad (see? Like Josefina, I was quiet but very emotionally mature). Yet I kept reading her stories and all the rest-Addy, Samantha, Kit, Kirsten, Kaya, Felicity, all of them. And growing up in a place where the teachers sometimes called the Civil War the War of Northern Aggression in history class, I got a lot out of them.
Fast forward to junior year of college. I'm bored and surfing the web, my favorite activity when I'm postponing life. I randomly decide to look at the American Girl website.

The first thing I feel is utter shock.
Whaaa....? Samantha is gone! And Felicity and Kirsten! Hey! Where'd they go? But there's Josefina, Molly, and Addy. Look at their new stuff! Who are these strangers? Who is this? Julie? Caroline? Asian doll! A Jewish doll!
What is this? Girl of the Year? My American Girl? What madness is this?
But despite all the new bells and whistles, I kept going back to look at my girl Josefina. I wanted her.
But wait...I'm too old for toys....
I make my own money! I can buy what I want!
CC information was entered (albeit into ebay-I was not paying retail!) and she was on her way.
And she was beautiful...I couldn't stop looking at her. I was in love...

My idea of excellent photography back then...unfortunately my skills haven't improved all that much.

Before you knew it, Molly, Emily, and Saige had all arrived at my home. Before you knew it, I had 14 dolls, with various clothes and accessories. The dolls had better clothes than I did.
My husband was torn between distress at the money being spent and joy that present buying would now be so easy for him.
That is how an obsession was born.
P.S. To those who still insist that it was the War of Northern Aggression, I have this message: You lost. Sorry, not sorry, Suck it up, buttercup. Worst things have happened. Like, you know, slavery.

Monday, December 1, 2014

About Me and FAQ


1. Who are you?

I'm Liz, an American Girl obsessed lady in her twenties. I'm also a college graduate and a professional- though I won't disclose my profession since it might be connected back to this blog. I'm a military wife and mother of two cats. Alas, my husband and cats have no interest in my dolls, which is why I blog about them. I enjoy history, creative writing, and reading.

2. Will you get political on this blog?

Possibly. While I am a white straight female, I will always point out discrimination to people of color and to people who are not cis straight people. Obviously I will also stick up for women. A lot of that actually pertains to these dolls since I believe that toys encapsulate a lot of the ideas we have about race and gender. After all, toys embody what we communicate to our children about the world. There have been studies showing that toys do have an impact on children, though why anyone would need research to prove that is beyond me.

I probably won't have much political or social commentary unless it somehow pertains to the dolls however. I am not a news blog, and you can get very accurate and up to date information elsewhere on the internets.

3. I disagree with you...

Cool.  I actually love when people disagree with me-it what makes the world so interesting. There is very little I feel strongly enough about to be angry that someone disagrees with me. Feel free to tell me, but don't be disrespectful to the protected classes on my page. If your comment is racist, homophobic, sexist, victim blaming, or otherwise disrespectful I will delete it to protect any members of other groups who honor me by visiting my blog. If you are under 13 I will automatically delete your comments because of COPPA.

4. Which dolls do you have?

I currently as of this writing have Kaya, Felicity, Elizabeth, Josefina, Kirsten, Marie Grace, Addy, Samantha, Nellie, Kit, Molly, Emily, Ivy, and Riley ( a renamed Saige doll).

5. Do you collect anything else?

Yep! Barbie dolls, beanie babies, Disney Animator's Collection toddler dolls, Gone with the Wind stuff, disney pins, and some other stuff. I also have a book collection that I am extremely proud of.