If Kit Kittredge is All-American Girl, What’s a Feminist to Do?

3 07 2008

Do you have a real-live daughter doll counting the days until she and her American Girl doll can go see typical girl movie star “Kit Kittredge” act real on the Big Screen?

To paraphrase Henry James: It’s a complex fate, being an American girl.

. . .The company’s stated goal is “to create girls of strong character,” a mission as unimpeachable as it is vague. And the American Girl cosmos can be, to an outsider, a fascinatingly contradictory place.

Its starchy traditionalism is balanced by a savvy, up-to-the-minute multiculturalism. The commodity fetishism on display in the stores coexists with a fastidious concern for historical accuracy and, in the books, a clear educational intention.

Huh?

. . . Kit is brave, smart, determined and kind, but never off-puttingly full of herself or intimidatingly superior. You would want her for a friend. You could easily imagine yourself in her place.
. . . As the son and husband of feminists, I can’t entirely suppress a tremor of unease.

Is the brand reflecting tastes, or enforcing norms of behavior? Is it teaching girls to be independent spirits or devoted shoppers?

Probably all of those things, and more. I have spent a lot of time, over the years, with Felicity and some others of her kind, and I still haven’t figured her out. . .

A typical American girl, as far as I can tell.

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