An Open Letter to American Girl: An Update
Just over a month ago I posted an open letter to American Girl following the company’s decision to retire several of their historical dolls, including Cecile, one of two African – American dolls, and Ivy, the only Asian doll. My letter was seen by thousands of people and I received numerous comments across all social media platforms. Most of the comments were very supportive and even those of you that disagreed with me did so respectfully (for the most part) and I thank you for that. A lot of you asked me to provide an update should I actually hear from American Girl (“AG”). Well, I have heard from AG and I have some thoughts.
American Girl reached out to me personally to discuss my concerns about the inclusion/marketing of ethnic dolls within their product offerings and I sincerely appreciate their efforts. Clearly they do understand how important it is to respond to their customers; keeping in mind that thousands of their current and potential shoppers read the letter. Was there anything revealed that made me see things differently? No. Was there anything in our discussions that made me feel better about the situation? Not really. Ultimately, AG defended the diversity of their dolls across all products lines and assured me that with the release of the new historical line this fall, there would be a more ethnically balanced representation of different eras in our country’s history.
In regard to the Girl of the Year doll, I’m not sure that the company understands the importance of getting this right. While I was not told “no,” they would not ever produce another Girl of the Year of color; I was also not told “yes,” that they would. While I understand that they can’t accommodate every customer by producing a doll in every ethnicity, I also understand that this is a process. You have to start somewhere. Everyone knows that Girl of the Year is the face of American Girl and their most buzzed about product. Sure, they offer ethnic dolls in other lines, but to not offer an ethnically diverse line of Girl of the Year dolls is kind of like saying “Yes, you can come to my party and I will accommodate you, but I’m not going to actually invite you.” AG has to let brown girls be the star of the show sometimes if it wants to maintain and grow its customer base.
Probably, the best result of this whole thing is that the company is using my letter to start internal conversations about the issue of diversity. This, to me, is major because absolutely nothing can ever be accomplished without constructive dialogue. Obviously, I want that dialogue to lead somewhere and the only way to judge if there has been any progress is to see movement on the part of the company. Therefore, I will still be keeping my eye on AG, but this time with my credit card held firmly in my pocket. No more teas, excursions or shopping sprees. At least for now. I am using this opportunity to teach my girls how to be smart consumers. I want them to understand that they don’t need these dolls. They are a luxury that they can definitely do without. Children are never too young to learn about their spending power and that companies really only pay attention to one thing…money.
Thank you all, again for reading, sharing and commenting (including those of you who disagreed with me – a healthy, respectful debate is a good thing). Also, thank you again American Girl for taking the time to respond. Hopefully, I will be able to dine in that pink, black and silver dining room on Michigan Avenue again in the future. I really want you to do right by all of these beautiful, brown American girls.