“Our Dolls, Ourselves?”


In reading the article, “Our Dolls, Ourselves?”, which discusses the correlation of the doll’s personality to that of her owner, I realized how accurate it was. Girls pick their favorite American Girl doll based on her characteristics: not necessarily the time period, race, or economic background. Sure, those factors undoubtedly play a role, but at the age of 8-12 (the age of most American Girl fans) girls are fairly indifferent to the cultural differences of the dolls. At this transition from “girlhood” to their teenage years, girls are beginning to understand themselves, and what personality traits set them apart. The American Girl historical collection is made up of dolls from a variety of different backgrounds, which reflects on their unique personality traits. Girls choose to identify with a doll that they feel best represent themselves; or one that they aspire to be. For example, when I was growing up, I wanted to be exactly like Kit Kittredge, a doll from the 1930’s. She was strong, resourceful, loved her family, and was a spunky tomboy. This relates to the keyword “girlhood”, as these girls serve as role models to girls making the transition from “girlhood”to their teenage years. These dolls help to bridge the gap between these years by giving girls an example of someone of the same age making a similar transition. Whether the situation between the doll owner and the doll’s story are similar or completely different, the main takeaway for the girl reading is to relate to the doll, and learn from her story. Just as the author said, I too can attest that Kit Kittredge has helped to shape me both as a girl and now as a woman.

3 thoughts on ““Our Dolls, Ourselves?””

  1. This is a great point that you bring up. I can definitely identify with what you are saying as I too as a child wanted to be like Kit Kittredge. I would agree that most girls do not necessarily pay too close attention to the doll’s cultural background as they do their personality traits.

  2. Hi Elizabeth,
    I understand your point completely and I think it’s a nice one in theory – that as children we look at American Girl dolls in a ‘color blind’ way and we only identify with them based on their personalities. And yet, I don’t think this is necessarily true (or that it works in the same way) for every girl. I would argue that when you are given a selection of dolls that are majority white, as a white child, there truly is no need to contemplate what the doll looks like or what it’s “culture” is. Yet, as a child of color, you are faced with much more scant selection of dolls that could even look like you, let alone be like you – and this is meaningful for children. We see in The Bluest Eye how Claudia feels resentful that her mother buys her a white doll and expects her to enjoy mothering it. We see in the old psych experiment videos that children associate black dolls with ‘badness’. There is more simply more complexity to the process of identifying with a doll when you are a child of color. I would argue that most girls of color don’t have the privilege of being ” fairly indifferent to the cultural differences of the dolls”. Those cultural (or specifically, racial) differences are meaningful to girls of color, especially when it comes to representation and identification.

  3. I will also agree that a lot of girls choose their dolls based on personality traits rather than their ethnicity or cultural background. I think it is interesting that you mentioned that you wanted to be just like your doll because a lot of the American Girl Dolls set very gendered standards, for example, all of the girls wear dresses and demonstrate somewhat feminine rolls. I think that even if young girls do not play with their dolls in a mothering way, looking to the dolls as role models could also affect the values they learn to accept as they grow up.

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