Barbie Flashback and the American Girl Addiction.

FLASHBACK to August 1978
. It is my sixth birthday party. Someone has given me a Barbie doll. I hate dolls, I say. They’re stupid, and they don’t do anything. I toss it in the back of my closet and forget about it.

. Junior year of high school. My friend Andrew wears combat boots with the disembodied, disfigured head of a Barbie doll tied to one of his shoelaces. I think that this is the coolest thing ever, and dig up the old Barbie from the back of my closet. I give her an asymmetrical, Duran Duran haircut, rip her head off, and tie it to the rearview mirror of my car.


. Senior year of college. I’m taking a seminar entitled, “American Culture in the 1960s.” I write my final paper on the ways in which Barbie has permanently damaged the American female psyche.


. Michael and I are in Chicago for a wedding. Harper, two years old, has been left home, and I’m feeling guilty about it. Suddenly, a red storefront looms in front of me. American Girl, it says in bold, white letters. What’s that? I ask Michael. He shrugs. Excited at the prospect of having found something new, we enter. Almost immediately, I am regretting it. There are little girls everywhere, clutching dolls that look exactly like them, that are dressed exactly like them. I stare at them as I ride the escalator to the third floor, wondering what kind of freakish cult we’ve stumbled upon. After seeing the doll hair salon, I run for my life. Barbie suddenly seems quaint. I will never let Harper have one of those things, I tell Michael. NEVER.


FLASHBACK to one year ago
. An invitation arrives in the mail. It is for a birthday party at the new American Girl store that has opened in Los Angeles. It is addressed to Harper Green and her American Girl doll. I immediately throw it in the trashcan and e-mail my regrets to the mother. I am extremely pleased with myself for having dodged that bullet.


FLASHBACK to two months ago
. Harper comes home from kindergarten and informs me that all of her new friends have something called American Girl dolls that look like them. She wants one. I tell her maybe for Hanukkah and pray that she will forget about it.


FLASHBACK to two weeks ago
. I ask Harper what she wants for Hanukkah. She hasn’t forgotten about it.



Flashback to 1980: My partner and I create the "Handy Girls" concept for children -- based on our own successful painting and paperhanging business. Our goal was (and still is) to provide positive role models for girls through active and creative play -- and to give them choices other than Barbie. We actually dealt with Mattel for one year to develop a line of how-to toys, but the deal was never struck.

Flashback to 1984: Random House published the first two "Handy Girls" books.

Flashback to 2008: We republished the award-winning "The Handy Girls Can Fix It!" through BookSurge, a division of Our hope is that "Handy Girls" is still viable for today's girls! Please check out to read about "Handy Girls and review the book on Keep up the great work!!!


So much anguish over whether or not dolls should be an important part of your daughter's life. ;-) There are far more important things to worry about than dolls. One of my daughters had zero interest, except for the latest one advertised on TV each Christmas; that interest faded quickly each January. The other loved dolls and took great care of each. They have BOTH grown up to be strong independent women. The one not interested in dolls is a wonderful loving mother of three and the doll lover is a project engineer for a construction company. No "wilting violet" there.


From what I have read from this article, Mrs. Green must have been a tomboy growing up.
I'm curious to know if Green was happy to know that she was having a little girl. Did she think about all "girlie" things that she would do with her daughter? Or did Green concentrate on how she can mold her daughter into having the same beliefs?
I have a 6yr. old daughter who loves to play with her Barbie dolls and American Girl doll (I have yet to take her to the store). I don't mind playing with dolls with her. In fact, we started a collection of Barbie dolls that she can not play with; the special edition ones.
Now she has crossed into the "Hannah Montana" stage of life without any pushing from me. Being my kid's mom, I take interest in what my daughter likes. I sit there, watch and listen "Hannah Montana" with her. Some of her music is on my iPod. When the photo of Miley Cyrus appeared, I showed them to my daughter to see what she thought. She didn't approve because "Miley is not old enough".
It would be totally different if I would have had a little boy. And if I did, I would be my kid's mom and take the time to get to know what he likes and dislikes. If my little dude liked Sponge Bob and I didn't, then I would bit the bullet and give it my 100% attention.
By showing your attention on something that your child likes, then your relationship with them will be stronger.
Just my opinion...


What's so sad is that we still haven't learned that - despite the fact we resist turning into our mothers - we can't force our little dears to be carbon copies of us, either. I wanted to raise a healthy, happy, well-adjusted child, not an overly-socialized girl; despite my best intentions, she likes Barbies and Polly Pockets. I have to respect her needs to experiment with the overly feminine, just as I respect her interest in science and playing with army guys.

I'm not sure what the big deal about these dolls is. If you don't like them or think they are inappropriate, don't get them - it's that simple. However, always keep in mind that any child is allowed to be an individual, and as parents we should respect that.


I think it is silly to get so distraught over the kind of doll your girl plays with. The important part is to be a good parent and teach them what they need to know to be successful in life. I wouldnt do the salon and buy matching clothes simply because of the cost but I see nothing wrong with the dolls or barbie or even being a princess. As a 34 year old procurement agent I long for the days of playing with my babie and being a princess in the castle that was my bedroom. I say LET THEM BE KIDS WHILE THEY STILL CAN!!!


When I'm ready to buy my, soon to be, daughter a doll, it will be something like this...

or this...

Although I worry about denying my daughter a common cultural reference point with her peers. I realize that I was a girl at one point and my common cultural reference point with my peers is Star Wars, so there ya go.

ubi dubium

i could appreciate the historical connections to the books if the history wasn't so racist and classist. Sorry, having different skin tones on dolls with obvious caucasian features doesn't move you into the "tolerant" category. Including "friends" who are poor and black and "saved" by the rich white girl perpetuates deficit perspectives. I know some will say but what about the Native American and Chicana dolls? My question is- were those books authored by Native American or Chicana authors? if you want to learn history, there are far superior children's books.


I suppose if a company (or parent) is going to promote consumption (and let's face it, virtually everything out there promotes consumption in one way or another), at least AG is doing it with dolls that aren't dolled up like prostitutes wearing "trendy" skankwear or a princess crown. For me, AG is the lesser of two evils. (Full disclosure: this makes me very glad to have a son...)


Um, to Tiff - the company is Mattel and they also own Barbie. They're not promoting childhood, they're promoting consumption. But you can't argue with the marketing genius of it all. I wrote an article about American Girl a couple of weeks ago in my weekly column The Self-Employed Mom (

Risa, I am SO with you on this one. I hope you'll check out my article. I felt totally guilty after it was published that I wasn't on board with the whole doll obsession.


You know, they have a whole series of books that the original dolls are based on and the books are a great way to introduce your daughter to different historical eras. My second daughter and I are reading the Felicity series right now about a girl who grows up in Colonial Williamsburg which is two miles from our house. Both of my girls love to point out the things they have read about in the books. We have also read several of the other series. My only problem with the dolls is that they are so expensive and soooooo big. They are definitely Grandma gifts. I think the hair salon and the matching outfits are just dumb. My aunt just marvels about how American Girl is genius marketing.

Mom to 3