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American Girls

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The American Girl dolls and books now made by El Segundo-based Mattel are set in various, often polarized periods of American history, so that the plucky heroines experience, and have to make their own decisions about, situations in the American Revolution, the Victorian Industrial Revolution, the abolition of slavery, and other American turning points of the past.

Now some groups are warning families off the American Girl dolls and products because American Girl has supported the Girls, Inc. program, one aspect of whose many programs is that they support Roe vs. Wade and lesbians and gay men (not even gay marriage, just the existence of homosexuality). The organization's ties to these causes are real. One sub-page of the Girls Inc. advocacy section does clearly state that the organization supports Roe Vs. Wade. It also says directly above that that it "works to change limiting and dangerous media images...[that] depict... sexual relationships without responsibility" and below it that "Girls Incorporated believes that for young people abstinence should be the first choice." The organization also has a whole program on preventing adolescent pregnancy in the first place.

We're familiar enough with this organization, though, to know that it is not, for the most part, a political organization. Generally what it does is provide extracurricular activities for girls that include sports, science, and other subjects. Given that the American Girl characters in the books are active, inquisitive young women with social consciences, the match between product and organization really seems fairly logical. Mattel's position so far is that it is supporting particular programs within the Girls Inc. organization, not the advocacy effort.

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People have every right to choose which products to buy or not buy, for any number of reasons. Some of us avoid Wal-Mart because they pay their employees poorly and force music to be censored before it can be sold there. Some of us see American Girl dolls as more favorable because they are affiliated with a program like Girls Inc. It is, as Molly or Addy or Samantha or Josefina or the other American Girls could tell you, a free country.