Monday

An Open Letter to American Girl *UPDATE With Response*




12/7- Update with response:


Dear American Girl friend,

We appreciate your interest in a doll with very tightly curled hair. We
are sorry, we do not have a doll matching your daughter's description at
the present time.

We currently offer 40 different combinations of eye color, hair color
and style, and skin tone. Girls can create their special My American
Girl? doll using our new online tool that allows a girl to personalize
her doll's look onscreen, including the addition of ear piercing, braces
and glasses. They can also create a unique personal style for their
dolls through an expansive collection of outfits and accessories that
reflect their favorite interests and activities.

Although we do not currently offer a doll with the combination of
features you are looking for, we hope you will continue to watch our
website for new developments to this product line.

Thanks again for your interest in American Girl!

Sincerely,

American Girl Customer Service
Phone: 1-800-845-0005 or 608-831-5210
Fax: 608-828-4790
Available Monday - Sunday 7 a.m. - 10 p.m. Central Time


This seems to be the same response someone else posted. I still urge you all to email them. Thank you!


I asked Cassidy of  Natural Selection to share this open letter as a guest post. I would like for us all to join together and email American Girl with this link, in hopes that they will further look into this. Click HERE for their contact form or email service@americangirl.com Thank you!

__________________________________


Dear American Girl—

I grew up as a huge fan of your dolls and your books. I pored over the pages of your biographical books of these young girls. I soaked up the historical facts of Addy, Felicity, Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly, girls who grew up in our country in times past, girls who very well could have been me if I had lived 60, 75, 100, 150 years ago. I applaud your efforts in striving to ensure that girls today are not only aware of, but also proud of their heritage.

All American Girl Dolls

More recently, (and past my age of doll-playing) you introduced a line of American Girl dolls that are designed to look like their young female owners. “What will she look like?” asks your website. Well, the clear response for any young lady looking for her doll-sized counterpart is: SHE’LL LOOK JUST LIKE ME. As a person of color, I was pleased to see your attentiveness to including a wide spectrum of skin tones and eye colors for the dolls.




However, as an African American who wears their hair completely natural without any chemicals of heat to alter the curl pattern, I was more than disappointed to see your exclusion of highly textured, curly, kinky, coily hair options for these lookalike dolls. Sure, you do have one doll with tan skin and loose ringlets, that I assume is supposed to be the representative of the entire ethnic demographic with natural hair, but what about options for those who hair that is more tightly coiled than the options you provide?

In all you have 40 dolls offered in this collection and only 8 of them have wavy or curly hair. There are many young girls of all ethnicities from Caucasian to Indian to African American to Jewish to Hispanic who have hair that is excluded from your offerings of hair texture. If the goal of this line is supposed to promote and encourage a healthier sense of self esteem for young girls by creating dolls that look like them, what sort of message does it send that they must fit into the aesthetic ideals of straight hair or loose curls to match your dolls?



I was extremely put off by the fact that you advertised this doll as having “textured” hair. Frankly, I see nothing textured about this long, straight hair and would love to hear your explanation about this product descriptor.



I called your customer service lines to ask about this issue as well as see if your in-store salons might have styling offerings catered towards this demographic because of their ability to further customize the dolls to their owners’ preferences. The first person I spoke to was a customer service representative who I asked if there were any styling options that American Girl dolls could have that would reflect more ethnic hair styles. When asked what I meant, I explained highly textured coils or twists or braids or dreadlocks, popular styles of many African Americans, including my 8-year old sister who is a huge fan of American Girl dolls. I was shocked to hear your customer service representative reply to my question by saying “Dreadlocks!?!?!? We would never do that to our dolls.” Can you imagine what sort of impact a response like this could have on a young girl, especially one that your company is attempting to celebrate- a REAL American Girl? The customer service representative continued to explain that they did offer many braiding styles that might work, styles such as “two braids, a pony tail flip with braid, two half braids, two fishtail braids, a half pony tail braid, ponytail veil, half side braid, or pig tails” which are offered in stores for $15-$20. While these braid offereings as being well-intentioned, I see these styles as being catered towards straight hair as well.


After this first conversation, I decided to call your company back in hopes of speaking to a marketing representative who could explain to me the decisions made about your product line and why this exclusion of African American hair. While the customer service representative did not have access to the marketing department’s contact information, she did inform me that creating curly hair textures was impossible due to the fact that the American Girl doll hair was made of a synthetic fiber called Kanekalon. Having paid countless trips to beauty supply stores throughout my life, I know exactly what Kanaekalon is. No, you cant use heat on it to manipulate the texture, however it IS widely used to create wigs, including those that have more tightly coiled curl patterns.



A Kanekalon Wig

What it appears to me is that it is more than possible to create a multitude of customized hair textures, but do not want to expand the style options to include those with highly textured hair. I commend you for including wheelchairs, retainers and headgear and other accessories catered to smaller demographics for the purpose of creating an inclusive community. You should expand your doll hair options to include more textures reflective of natural, highly textured hair and include cornrows, flat-twists, two strand twists and bantu knots in your menu of hair styles at your salons. Whether it is for motives based on maximizing profit or otherwise that you have decided not to reflect naturally curly hair, this exclusion can be damaging to the psyches and self-esteems of young ladies as they grow up. It can also be a hindrance to them as they develop hair-maintenance skills on hair that is very differently textured than their own. I encourage you to take a long hard look at the ever-growing diversity of today’s living, breathing American girls and continue to work to make sure that your dolls are inclusive of all.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter,

Best,

Cassidy Blackwell

Natural Selection