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FIRST-PERSON: Standing up to American Girl

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–American Girl ranks right up there with motherhood and apple pie, and yet the company is reportedly being assaulted by “conservative activists” for their support of an organization that endorses liberal causes. This outcry, however, is not limited to “conservative activists.” It extends to parents and grandparents and to all Americans who want not only to protect Judeo-Christian values but also to see these values implanted in the lives of their children.

American Girl has responded to its accusers with indignation. They do affirm that the profits from a wristband emblazoned with “I Can” are directed to Girls Inc, a national non-profit organization, “inspiring girls to be strong, smart, and bold” in the choices they make (see www.girlsinc.org). What are these “strong, smart, and bold” girls to do?

Girls Inc. encourages young girls to seek personal rights or empowerment to achieve their own dreams — a dangerous pursuit, especially for young and vulnerable girls who have not been grounded in values of character and principles of virtue. The promotion of “self-esteem” is not necessarily innocent or beneficial, especially with modern influences. Should “self-image” be subject to and bound by the “God-image” received at creation?

Do parents or society have the responsibility to equip girls with a value system for making their choices helpful and rewarding to them personally? Should girls be encouraged to make their choices in view of responsibility to society and even to the Creator God who graciously bestows life and ultimately controls the world and all within it? Should the choices of young girls include the offer of lesbianism, or contraceptive devices for promiscuous behavior, or abortion because of an unwanted pregnancy (options that are noted in a carefully worded document on the Girls Inc. website)?

Despite their claims to altruism, Girls Inc. has a clearly defined political agenda. Endorsement of an organization by every definition of integrity should rest on agreement with clearly stated objectives of what it supports. Companies like American Girl spend their money as they choose, but consumers who make that possible are free to examine how those profits are spent. Responsible parents and grandparents would be foolish to give their daughters and granddaughters products from a company supporting what they abhor and believe dangerous for their children.

Ultimately the issue is not an “I Can” bracelet; the real issue is integrity. I have purchased many products from American Girl, including matching Christmas dresses for my granddaughters and their American Girl dolls. They use American Girl roller bags with their dolls strapped in on our trips. Yes, my granddaughters are big fans of American Girl products. This is precisely the reason I must remove these products from their vulnerable lives and replace them with something wholesome and pure IF the corporate team at American Girl decides their targeted constituency is something other than people who want Judeo-Christian values to be encouraged and not attacked.

This hill is one on which I am willing to die. This cause is one for which I intend to fight. I believe other mothers and grandmothers will join me in digging in their heels and voicing a resounding “no” to any product, however innocent on first glance, with the potential to undermine what we spend time and energy and resources to build up in the lives of our children.

Is there a solution? Yes, indeed!

— Give the people at American Girl a chance to step up to the plate. Write them, call them or email them with your concerns. If they genuinely are interested in providing products invested with values, let them consider our concerns and respond appropriately.

— If they ignore the concerns, convictions must direct our pocketbooks. Return unused products; refuse to support what has any potential to harm our girls.

— Choose another product to build character, teach history and bring delight to our girls. Two alternatives — The Beautiful Girlhood Collection (www.visionforum.com/beautifulgirlhood/) and A Life of Faith (www.alifeoffaith.com) — include exquisite dolls with clothing, books and other accessories.

The privilege of rearing and nurturing precious girls is awesome indeed and worthy of our finest efforts. I am delighted to make whatever sacrifice is necessary to purchase products that build up and edify my granddaughters. But I refuse to be patronized and risk any deception that might prove devastating to my girls.
Dorothy Kelley Patterson is professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

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  • Dorothy Kelley Patterson