Column: Anti-American dolls

By Shouger Merchant

When you thought that the conservative right just couldn’t cause any more meaningless uproar, they go ahead and surprise you.

American Girl, a famous doll company, has recently collaborated with Girls Inc., a sort of ‘chicks-rule, girl-power’ organization to sell bracelets that read “I Can.” The American Girl creed reads: “I can be myself, follow my dreams, and always do my best. I can reach for the stars, lend a hand to others, and be a good friend. I can make a difference. I promise to try.” And for every doll bought, seventy cents goes to Girls Inc. whose motto urges girls to be ‘strong, smart and bold.’

Of course, conservatives would have a problem with this. Girls Inc. addresses fundamental issues of health and safety such as female contraception and supports lesbians. To add to their credentials, they explicitly state their support for a woman’s reproductive freedom of choice.

Livid Pro-Life Action League and the American Family Association have created an insurgency of their own and are urging parents to rise up against the “baby-killer supporters” and boycott all American Girl products. They organized websites and protests outside the store on Thanksgiving Day and asked supporters to send haranguing emails and phone calls to the executive board to pressurize withdrawal of their partnership with Girls Inc. Taking their cues, pro-life parents have denounced American Girl and have thrown away their children’s dolls. Conservative parents are disappointed because they do not want their kids to “unintentionally” aid pro-female contraception and abortion groups. Even kids were announcing on a newscast that they couldn’t play with their dolls knowing that the company supports ‘immoral deeds’.

When Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said last week that “this is a classic example of overreaction and lack of proportion,” he was absolutely correct.

What was immoral about the creed? Aren’t these the kind of words you would want to inspire your children with? When you give your child an American Girl doll, wouldn’t you want to provide them with more than just the doll? The “I Can” campaign has shown promise and several parents termed it “stimulating and refreshing” for their children. By having a mere partnership with an organization that disperses education to girls about safe sex and assists girls with their sexual orientation, the store has been labeled as unsuitable and immoral.

Conservatives have this habit of attempting to twist the truth to make it more controversial and getting people riled up. I was grateful to see that many shoppers were undeterred by this bad publicity on Nov. 25, as apparent by the scores of women and kids adorning downtown Chicago with American Girl shopping bags.

The bare facts: Girls Inc. never mentions that young kids should engage in sexual acts, nor do they advocate that all girls should abort unwanted infants. Their website specifies, “Girls Incorporated believes that for young people, abstinence should be the first choice.” But the company states that if girls choose not to heed this warning, they should have “convenient access to safe, effective methods of contraception and protection from disease; referral to comprehensive information and other services that support their responsible decisions.” Aren’t these things what every parent wants their child to know?

Conservatives have taken it too far this time. Attacking a doll company because they did an honorable thing by contributing some money to a girls’ rights organization is deplorable. Sex education and availability of safe health measures is vital for all American girls and should be acknowledged at a young age. Abortion is a constitutional right and no corporation should be denigrated for supporting a lawful process. And this business about throwing their dolls away because of a company endorsement is petty and puerile. By buying dolls, the funds are not assisting physicians perform abortions but instead are donated to empower girls and help them make responsible decisions.

I would be proud to contribute to such an organization and defend the company from this conservative attempt to concoct a tempest where none is necessary. Whether or not you support abortion or homosexuality, a doll has nothing to do with it.

Shouger Merchant is a senior in Communications. Her columns appear every Wednesday. She can be reached at [email protected]