My daughter will turn 10 this month. In many ways we have tried as much as possible to expose her to as wide a range of peoples and cultures. We have attempted to encourage a sensitivity and sensibility about racial differences but also human similarities. She has had many “aunties’ and “uncles” and “cousins” from various ethnic, cultural, and national backgrounds. We are intentional about where we attend church, where we live, and where we travel and the range of cultures she encounters. But it turns out, that she still gravitates towards certain preferences when it comes to the type of dolls she wants. And the doll catalog is absolutely of no help.
For the three months that my daughter was into Barbie dolls, we insisted on buying her a range of different dolls. So we had the typical blonde Barbie (given to her by one of her school friends), but we also bought her a Brazilian Barbie and a Korean culture Barbie. All of the dolls (except for the Korean cultural Barbie, still in its original box – it’s a collector’s item, she wasn’t allowed to play with it) were given away during our last move.
So now for her 10th birthday, my daughter really wants a My American Girl™ doll©. (It’s nice that American Girl has been trademarked – so no one else can claim to have ownership and control over who defines an American girl except for American Girl’s parent company, Mattel, which also happens to be the parent company of Barbie). We’ve been holding her off for the last few years — mainly because those dolls are ridiculously overpriced. (We even tried to trick her a few years ago with a knock off version – she was polite but very clear that the knock off doll would not suffice). But for her tenth birthday, her grandparents are chipping in to buy a doll and she’s actually saved up her allowance over the last year to buy a My American Girl™ doll.
So I’m leafing through the My American Girl Doll™ catalog. I’m encouraging my daughter to at least look at the historical dolls. Being a typical Asian parent I believe that even a doll should come with some required reading. (And she should also figure out how much the tax is for herself and calculate accordingly). Just the names tell the story: Molly, Emily, Kit, Felicity. There are no Korean girls named Molly. If there are any Korean girls named Felicity, it’s probably a relatively newborn child whose parents are nostalgic for the WB show starring Keri Russell.
All of the dolls have these ridiculously round eyes. None of the historical dolls are Asian. (The Asian dolls featured in the catalog don’t look very Asian. And they all have bangs. My daughter hates bangs.) The non-white dolls come at the very end of the catalog: Addy (I think she’s a slave girl doll – Really Mattel?? Really?!) and Kaya (a Native American doll). They come after the catalog has extolled the virtue of Julie (the counter-culture hippie history doll), Emily, a British girl who has escaped London to come to the US (so apparently she’s more American than any Latino or Asian doll could ever be), and white dolls from the two World Wars and the Depression.
So now we’re going to end up with two American Girl dolls. I think my daughter wanted the girl from the Depression. (Because during the depression, all of us were people of color.) And Kaya, the Native American doll. Natives and Asians go way back.
I’m very proud of my daughter. She was asking me why I had her doll catalog on my desk. I told her that I was writing something for my Racial Identity class. She said,” You know what doll they really need in that catalog. They need a Japanese Internment doll. I would buy that doll.” You go girl!©