Lessons from an American Girl Store

Over the weekend my sister, mom, grandma, and I went on a mini getaway to Chicago. We went shopping, ate way too much food, and saw Hamilton, which I have been listening to on repeat ever since we got back. At one point in the trip we made a stop by the American Girl® store to pick up a gift for my little cousin. While being absorbed in the nostalgia of it all, I noticed something that I didn’t when I was a little girl there myself. 

I looked up at a wall overlooking the store, and displayed in billboard letters was a phrase: “A doctor? A teacher? A baker? Yes”. I looked around at the store and saw little girls of all shapes, sizes, races, and ethnicities surrounded by dolls that looked like them, showing them that they can grow up to be whoever they want to be. There were displays of dolls in basketball outfits, showing that girls can be tough. There were ballerina tutus and doctor outfits, symbolizing that a girl can wear sparkles and still be the smartest one in the room. 

Each doll comes with their own story, showing that girls are more than just things to look at. They are real people with passions, history, and ideas. A doll by the name of Melody caught my eye, as she is a young black girl living in the 1960’s who desires to be a singer. She is shown wearing a button for equal rights, letting little girls know that they can stand up for what they believe in and that their voices matter just as much as a boy’s.

Melody seems like a girl of my own heart.

One of the most powerful moments was when I saw a doll with no hair. How beautiful it is to imagine a little girl going through cancer treatment playing with a doll who looks  just like her. Dolls are traditionally seen as pretty, perfect idealizations and American Girl® is showing that little girl that she is pretty and perfect just the way she is. 

I know American Girl® is a money-making business, but I choose to believe that their mission extends beyond that. The dolls with different skin colors, hair textures, diabetes kits, wheelchairs, hearing aids, and service dogs show that being an “American Girl” is not a mold that girls have to confine to. Being an “American Girl” is embracing everything that you are. The store showed that girls cannot be put in boxes, and they are not just one thing. Doctors? Teachers? Bakers? Yes.

Or maybe photographer.

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