|Notice a pattern? I sure do.|
Well, Girl of the Year 2014 has leaked, and well...I have feelings, and not good ones. I'll be nice enough to put it behind a cut, since not everyone wants to be spoiled. But still.
|Meet Isabelle, the (whitebread) Girl of the Year 2014.|
We already had a dancer, her name is Marisol Luna, and she's twice the doll you'll ever be, Mademoiselle Wonderbread.
And that's pretty much what we've gotten from the limited edition line. White girl after white girl after white girl, with a spot of color here and there--but often with a spoonful of whiteness to make the ethnicity go down. I'm starting to feel like a Disney Princess fan1 over here--we get a spot of color here and there, and that's it. I mean, look at the line so far. Really. We've had: Jewish White, White, Latina (specifically Chicana), Japanese/Scottish, White, White, White, (with besties White and Half South Asian minimally), White, German/French/Hawai'ian/Japanese, White, White. And that's ignoring the skin tones laid out by AG--if we go with that, we've have two mediums and a dark, and the rest has been "light."
And now we have White. Again. And the fandom is making the same old excuses from the same kind of people who don't ever look critically at what American Girl is doing and has done. I've seen the same shit before:
"It's marketing. AG is going with something they think will do best." (Because the only thing that will ever sell to white people are white dolls, because white people do racist shit.)
"They want to tell a story that can be accepted by all people, not just about one race." (Because that's all that people of color are about, their race. I've never told a single story my entire life that didn't talk about being a black person.)
"Girls want white dolls. They're just more popular." (See the first thing. And have you ever thought why white dolls are more popular? Could it be--hmm--white privilege? Racism? Survey says yes.)
"But there is variety in the line!" *list of hair and eye color combinations here* (Twenty shades of white are still all white.)
"You have some dolls like you already, stop whining that there's not enough minorities, you've got Addy and #26 don't you?" (Fuck off into a bowl of glass shards and Legos. Don't throw me your scraps and expect me to be content with them while you take the majority of the pie.)
"Stop making this a race thing, it is you who are the racisms for pointing out racisms." (Join the other person in that bowl of Legos and glass shards. In fact, you get in first.)
And that's before you point out that most of the dolls have had light hair and/or light eyes, with the noticable exception of Jess and Sonali. They can't even bend over enough to do brown eyed brunettes that are white, much less a doll of color.
This is bullshit. There have been thirteen years and twelve (plus two) Girls of the Year. And in those thirteen years what have we gotten? Repeated whiteness.
We have not gotten a single full blooded Asian girl2, sans Sonali who only gets a toss off that her mother is South Asian (but no mention of her father so for all we know she's half white by canon), and who isn't even the main character but a companion who switched sides from one to the other. There has never been a black girl, a Native American girl--to be blunt, poor Kaya's the only canon Native American at all--and only one Latina girl, who was released years ago and who had her controversy about moving from a "bad" neighborhood to a "better" one dismissed by the company. There was more outrage that Gwen was a $95 "homeless" doll than the fact that a historically Chicana neighborhood was being called bad to live in. And given the locations that have been chosen, it's like the Disney lineup, where the last few princesses have been placed in locations and fantasy realms that allow the excuse that PoC wouldn't have been there so "historical accuracy", bullshit as it is, gets thrown around. But AG doesn't even have that to fall on for the GotY.3 Fuck me, Saige's story was set in New Mexico, a state with a high Latino/Chicano population. But we got a red headed white girl--oh, but they so generously gave her a black Latina best friend in the movie.
All the excuses are just that. Excuses. The nasty hard fact of the matter is that out of twelve main characters, only one has been a doll of color without being mixed with white--and if we count the half white girls and Sonali, the Companion to Chrissa, there's been four. 28.5 percent. That's all. All the rest of the dolls have been white. There was more variety in the Girls of Many Lands series, and the line only had eight dolls and lasted about three years.
|Girls of Many Lands: More diversity in three years that the GotY have had in over a decade of releases.|
Racism is not in your intent.And in the context of sociocultural history, this is another racist action by American Girl. It is white privilege in action. It is American Girl, overtly or subtly, assuming that white characters are easier to push and sell and want than any other race they could do, and then using that as a fall back. White privilege is finding doll after doll after doll in a line that's supposed to cover all cultures, to show that the contemporary is part of history too, and have over 70% of them be white. It is another white doll. All the so called "market research" and "universality" (don't get me started on the idea that white people are universal in stories but people of color are niche) and bullshit is dancing around the fact that it's a form of institutional racism to yet again have another white doll. We live in a society where I'm expected to accept stories about white people and around white people as universal and applicable to everyone, but stories about people like me, or dolls that are like me, are niche one offs that white people and their little white children can't understand and accept and that they would prefer whiteness.
Your intent is immaterial in how racist your actions are.
This isn’t about you BEING a racist. It’s about you DOING A THING that is racist.
Your intent doesn’t change it. Your ignorance of its meaning doesn’t change it. It’s got nothing to do with you as a person and everything to do with the meaning of your action in the context of sociocultural history. ~Moniquill
I won't be buying Isabelle. Or any other doll from AG that isn't a new doll of color, or any GotY that is white. I haven't bought a doll directly from AG since I got Shanna, to be honest. And I'm holding to that, and if I thought it would have any influence, I'd write them saying as much--but as a person outside of their target audience, I'm not going to have much push. I'm not going to lie and say I won't buy parts of her collection for Marisol, because I likely will. I like ballet, and ballet likes me. I'll get the books and read them, because I get books for dolls I don't ever plan on getting. But the character herself, and the doll? Can miss me entirely. She's not even worth it for the meet outfit.
Maybe next year, people like me will finally be someone worthy of being a Girl of the Year. Optimism is hoping for ethnic variety in the GotY line for once.
Reality--racist, painful reality--is getting just another white doll in a sea of vanilla.
1 Oh wait, I'm one of those too, and no, I don't give a fuck about Frozen. I'll be missing that too.
2 Jess by canon is half white and half Japanese. Kanani by canon is 1/2 white, 1/4th Hawaiian, and 1/4th Japanese.
3 As far as I'm concerned they don't have it as an excuse to fall back on for the historical line either. There have been people of color in the US since before there was a United States.
ETA: Some examples of why the lack of dolls of color in AG--and any other doll line--is a sign of racism, and affects children more than people would like to play at.
This is a video that contains an updated version of the Clark Experiment. (You can find more and more examples on Youtube.) The summary of the experiment is that children--generally very young children, no more than eight years old and often in a preschool age range--are shown two dolls with no difference between them but one being black and one being white. The children are asked their perception of the dolls, with no goading or directions. Simple questions such as "Which doll looks nice?" or "Which doll is dirty?" or "Which doll is most like you?"
Time and time again, children of all races and all genders and all societies reveal a clear bias--a heavy preference for white dolls. Again, these are not adults. These are children young enough that when people want to dismiss racism, they claim that children this young aren't or can't be affected by race. Over and over, children of all races see the black dolls as ugly, mean, bad, and dirty and say it is because the doll is black. The white dolls are seen as clean, pretty, sweet, and good--often just because they're white. Heartbreakingly, black children will say these things without skipping a beat--and then, when asked which doll looks like them, will hesitate before reluctantly picking the black doll, or may go as far as to pick the white one. Black children--and many children of color--are internalizing this self hatred of race at young ages, believing that "white" is better than them.
And this experiment has been done time and time again, with the same results coming out over and over. These results, when released, showed the innate effects of racism on children so blatantly back in 1939 that it was considered reliable evidence for the dismantling of segregated schools. And you want to tell me that dolls--even AG dolls--have no effect on a child's self perception. Miss me with that bullshit.