#‎AGDoCGotY
American Girl, keep giving us Dolls of Color for Girls of the Year.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

AG Complaint Department: Fucking It Up With Kaya, AG Style

Kaya can be modern and not be a stereotype.
So if you have been surfing my blog and have seen my header, you will notice that it's Kaya up a tree, with her hair in pigtails and in an outfit I'll probably review on her, the Earth Day outfit. When I first thought about getting Kaya--and I absolutely was going to get her, because Dolls of Color rock--I assumed that she was going to be as historical as any other Historical I had. All my other historials had, after all, stayed in their time periods. And then a buddy of mine who is Native goes, "Why do images of Native people always stay stuck in the past?" And I got a smack awake--one of several I've had in my life. I'm not going to lie, it wasn't until college or so that I started really learning about Native people properly instead of "the stuck in the past" way mainstream history does. I had studied Pocahontas, I knew about Sacagawea, and I'd read Island of the Blue Dolphins in middle school and of course learned the little I had in school--but the approach in American history still sticks Natives in a past narrative. Having Native friends--really open, honest ones who weren't and aren't afraid to call me on my shit--is one of many ways how I opened my eyes. I'm no expert on Native people and I'd be the last person to claim expertise, but I've been taught a thing and as an anti-racist and anti-bigot1 I am passing the learnings onto you.

Kaya is the only canon Native American in the AG line, released in 2002 (and at the time, put Felicity in semi-retirement). She's billed as the First American Girl--as is her right, contrary to some shit people say. And because of this, AG collectors tend to fuck up seven shades with her and her collection. Shit, AG has fucked it up. This post is a not-even-remotely complete list of the multiple ways that people fuck up Kaya's presence. I plan to just pick a few to rip into--mostly because I've seen them recently.

Learn, and stop doing this shit.
Kaya: Present, past, and future.
Braids, Beads, and Buckskins: Sticking Kaya in the Past and Leaving Her There

Kaya, as I said, is the only canon Native in the AG Line, and her time period is that of 1764: post-European contact, prior to permanent settlement of the Pacific Northwest by white people. And because of this, she is stuck in what TV Tropes has usefully titled Braids, Beads, and Buckskins look. Quick summary half swiped from the Mosi (and Shola) review I did for the Toy Box Philosopher: Braids, Beads and Buckskins is the shortcut method of visually directing a Native person into "Native" by using stereotypical shortcuts of an outfit. The big three are putting said Native in some style of leather clothing, beaded items--often necklaces or beaded clothing--and having them have straight black or dark hair worn in one or two long braids.


Example: Kaya straight from AG.
And oh look, that's exactly how Kaya comes straight from American Girl.

Not only is this lazy imagery, it serves the dual purpose of trapping Native people in a past, "primitive" narrative, implying that Natives don't wear any modern clothing and haven't changed to adapt to the US since the 1900s, and you can only know a Native person is Native if they look the way they're "supposed" to. I saw on a blog where a girl wanted Kaya, but she didn't quite understand that Kaya could be dressed any way she wanted and said that she wanted a modern Native--so her mother encouraged her to get a moddie and dress her in Kaya's clothing. While they at least got the first step of not having a Native person stuck in history, it's still bad to assume that Kaya has to stay in the deerskins and a learning opportunity was lost. Stop making Kaya stay in the past because you don't know how to dress a Native without throwing feathers and fringe on her. Which segues into my next point:

Fringe Covered Suede Bullshit: Ugly Native Crap Kaya Shouldn't Endure

So you don't want a modern Kaya. She's got three modern outfits--four if one counts both versions of the PowWow Dress--but somehow the idea of Kaya in jeans and a t-shirt can't wiggle into your thick little head. Then stick with accurate wear. Don't, in a poor way of expanding her wardrobe, stick Kaya in woowoo poorly done bullshit Native things.

Doll Diaries didn't post this, but they might as fucking well have.
Doll Diaries--which I check for news but don't link to or comment on because they have too much fail for me to endorse--has listed a post called "Fashion Finds for Kaya" since someone there has purchased a Kaya. And since a "Nez Pearce" (what even is that, at least spell the wrong name right2) doll can't wear anything but Native clothes lest you somehow forget she's Native, what is being shown as ideas for "extras" for her wardrobe on one of the biggest doll blogs out there?
  • Kaya’s (second issue) Pow Wow Dress of Today, about the only one I can't bitch about too much; 
  • a hideous crocheted outfit--I have already gone into great detail about the fail of doing this with doll clothes
  • and three ugly, ugly Native sets that look cheaply, badly done. 
All but the one from AG have "Native" headbands, even though headbands were worn by very few tribes, not by Kaya anywhere in the books or in her modern wear, and the main reason society associates Native wear with those over the hair headbands is because that's how Hollywood had to strap the wigs onto non-Native actors. That's all we need: more people continuing to mess up Native wear and pointing to one of the biggest doll news sites as backup. Seriously, Doll Diaries, you have fucked up. I can understand keeping her historical, but if you're going to do so don't go forcing ugly woo shit on her. Just handle the limited wardrobe she's got. Save your money and get her something proper.

Like her Shawl Outfit. Get That.
Who the Shit is "Kaya Atonmy?": Name Failure

Kaya does not have a last name. Her full name is Kaya'aton'my, which translates to "She Who Arranges Rocks" as it was the first thing seen when she was born (ETA: though it has been shown that this is a stereotype: details here.). She does have the second name Swan Circling, which is a gift from her mentor and when she gets older she will take it as her own. But as a short version? Kaya is her nickname. Not her first name.

And yet, I have seen it time and time again that someone adds Kaya to their collection and declares her last name to be "Atonmy." There is a doll collector in the blogosphere--I'm not linking to her because I just see her as a trainwreck--who, among the many ignorant things she has done including sticking Mosi as Kaya's little sister because All Native Are Native, has added a new doll to her gang and named her "Singing Bird Atonmy." She's not the first, and horrifically, she won't be the last.

Calling Kaya "Kaya Atonmy"  is like naming a character Anna Stacia or Jen Niffer or Sam Antha. If you want Kaya to have a last name, just...don't. Or make it Swan Circling or something that fits. Just don't make it Atonmy, like an idiot.

ETA2, 2/25/15: "[someone else] did [it first]." I know. She also is a fuck up. Don't think you can get away with fuck up shit cause other people did fuck up shit. You're all a bunch of fuck ups.

Prop Kaya: Interchangable Nativeness

Kaya has been made to stand in for:
  • Singing Bird, the Ojibwe girl from Kirsten's Series
  • her adoptive sister, Speaking Rain
  • Mariana from Josefina's birthday book, a Pueblo girl
  • Disney Princess Pocahontas, who is full of doing it wrong
  • Tiger Lily from Peter Pan, who is also full of doing it wrong, even more so
  • every other Native girl anyone can think of
Because since she's the only native, she apparently has to hold up every other Native there has ever been written by AG or any Native Character in life ever. As I just articulated above, someone has named their doll "Singing Bird Atonmy." Because every Native Tribe is every other Native Tribe, so just stick Kaya in Generokee Plains Indian wear and give her a headband and buffalo and teepees and canoes and never, never explain why. That is why I explained that while Macro is Kaya's baby buffalo, she's not from a tribe that would have interacted much with buffalo. I don't want anyone thinking that Kaya was Generic Native for even a hot second.

Not all Natives are interchangeable and one Native doesn't cover every tribe and nation. You can't put Kaya in what's she wearing in her books or some badly done Native crap and call her every other Native girl there has ever been.

The Love of Jeezus: Conversions to Christianity

Back in my days on the AG Fans Board--don't worry, I'm getting into those stories fully later--there was a member called ToG. She was a teenager who was a fundamentalist Christian3 and she had Kaya. Who she had then converted to Christianity. And she got praise for showing doll story albums that showed Kaya calling the faith she spoke of in her stories as superstitious, wrong, Satanic, and evil and that "real" faith was Jesus. This is horrifically problematic, considering that historically Natives were forcibly converted to Christianity and not allowed to practice their native faiths and practices legally in the US for centuries thereafter, using those exact same ideas.

The layers of nasty implications for making Kaya convert to Christianity and denounce her historical tribal faith could make an onion the size of the moon. 

Native Naivety: Stupid Kaya isn't Cute

Kaya is wholly capable of learning herself out of a book.
Kaya has shown herself in the stories to be highly intelligent, figuring out how to get away from being captured and how to get back home with another person with her. She's thoughtless here and there, but she's not dumb. Yet when people add her to their gangs, they often make her dumb as a post of wood and who can't figure out her head from a hole in the ground. What is a sink? What is this concept of "camera"? Shit like that. Having Kaya too dumb to understand technology and speaking like fucking Tonto with half-messy English is racist and bullshit. There's a reason my Kaya is a genius polyglot and the smartest person in my gang, who adapted to the modern era like it was nothing. Because I for one got sick of seeing Kayas in gangs appear unable to socially function, as if a Native girl would show up in the modern era and not be able to figure out shit faster than Felicity or Kirsten.

Closer to Earth: Mystic Nativeness is Also Bad

Oh, you say, but she's smart in other ways! She knows the woods and tracking and plants and is super environmentalist and can paint with all the colors of the wind! Yeah, that's not helping either. The idea that Kaya being Native makes her closer to mystic and Wise in all the Ways of the Earth is a form of positive stereotyping, and implies that Natives are magical innately because of being Native-- and because they're  more magical, it's their job to teach us all better about the earth or share their faith and knowledge with New Age Hippy Chicks who want to get back to a more "pure" look on life and so put on headdresses and feathers and take filtered pictures on Instagram and then get upset when called out for their actions.

It was bad with Disney's Pocahontas and it's bad with Kaya and stop it.

Doing it Better: Elyse

Elyse: Doing it So Much Better
There are ways to do it right. My buddy AJ of The Toychest Snarker, has a part-Native doll, Elyse Wachiwi Joubert. Elyse is from South Dakota and part Oglala Lakota, and based on someone AJ knew growing up. And she doesn't prance around in badly made Native Wear, act like she can't figure out technology or modern clothes, or get all woo woo mystic. She's Native representation without being a stereotype, and if you're going to have Native representation, do it right.4

*~*~*

As I said, this is not a complete list. If I had a week and a chalkboard the width of Delaware, I couldn't go into every issue with Native mess-ups in the AG fandom. And I wouldn't because I would listen to what my Native friends have to say about things first. They live the life, not me. But fucking Nightmare, AG Fandom, could we stop at least doing some of this totally racist, bigoted, ignorant shit--and calling it out when we see it? 

--Neth

ETA, 1/22/14, 8:46 am:

So I skimmed the Diaries post comments which is about as bad as reading the comments on news stories only with more hugboxing.5 (I don't comment there because I'm not about to put my words on a site that won't allow anything but squee, fluff and hugboxing.) My post got linked there, which people are free to do, the internet's an open place. The comment linking to me ultimately was taken down, but it looks like it got half addressed by the mod who posted the following: 
One of the reasons I did this post was to show what is easily found right now for Kaya. I did not create this post to cause controversy or negativity. Obviously Kaya and what she can/should/would wear is a sensitive topic and maybe that is why AG has kept her collection so small. Ultimately, at the end of the day, doll play is about creativity and imagination – Kaya the doll can wear anything her owner wishes her to wear. I wanted to put Kaya in Saige’s sweater outfit, but Natalie would prefer Kaya just stay in her meet outfit for now. That is her choice and how she wants to play with her dolls.
--Char
 Part by part?

--What is "easily found" for Kaya isn't right. Other than the PowWow outfit by AG, the rest of it is stereotyped, racist bullshit.
--Just because they meant no harm doesn't mean they didn't cause any. I remind you again that racism is not in your intent, it's in your actions:
Racism is not in your intent. 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
Want less negativity? Do less negative racist shit.

--It is in fact a sensitive topic. Which is why throwing up generic Generokee woo, not addressing the issues, and then mewling that "it's sensitive" is weaker than dishwater tea. AG has kept her wardrobe small--and at the same time? They haven't added anything to it that isn't at least half well researched.

--You had an opportunity to teach your child that Native people aren't stuck in the past, and have a discussion about how thinking so is a wrong assumption, but you are privileged enough to be able to avoid that altogether. And you didn't just drop the ball, you ducked it, watched it bounce away and explode, and then whined when someone pointed out that you did this.

And the part that really gets my Gogoat, hence it being addressed last?

"Ultimately, at the end of the day, doll play is about creativity and imagination – Kaya the doll can wear anything her owner wishes her to wear."

OH REALLY, NO SHIT I DIDN'T KNOW THAT. Except I did. 

Yes, Doll Diaries mods and posters--yes, white doll collectors, cause 90% of fuck ups in the AG community are by insensitive white people--you can ultimately put any old crap on Kaya you want. After all, I'm just one person, I can't tell anyone what they have to do, I'm not the Dolly Outfit Police (*gag*). You can slap generic Native shit on her, make her have to be every damn tribe there is, only put her in western wear because Natives sure do love the old wild west, or crochet her a garbage ass wee-sha-sha dress done on a size I hook in neon blue striped Red Heart with ugly rainbow-chicken feather headbands.

But you're still acting racist by doing so, and all the handwringing and hugboxes won't save you from fucking up by putting Kaya in stereotype woo shit.

If Native children or collectors come by your site looking for data and see that post, and their soul dies a little more from another of the thousand micro- and macro-aggressive paper cuts they and other people of color get in this world--you just said "who cares?" Your child's just being "creative" and who's going to let a pithy thing like racism get in the way of your child's feelings?

It's fine, when it's not your feelings being maligned. It's not you or your child having to combat another stereotype. It's not you or your child who will grow up and hear a person your own age claim that all the Native people died off or get mad casino money or be told that they don't "look Native" and that they're just "honoring their culture" by sticking feathers in their hair and smearing acrylic paint on their faces and tagging the photo "#Native American." It won't be you or your child who has to feel another stinging racist slap or kick or cut. If your child's creativity and imagination relies on tired stereotypes that bring pain to an oppressed person, then your child is on the path to perpetuating racism as they get older.

It's real nice to be able to claim that doll play is about creativity and imagination when, at the end of the day, you're not the one being called "Tiger Lily" or "Pocahontas" or "squaw" or "redskin" or "injun."

--Neth, again.

1 Some jerkasses would call me a Social Justice Warrior, because it's the new way to say "how dare you call me on my bigotry, you!" But I am no type of warrior. If you must insult me, do it properly and call me a Social Justice Bard. Vary the party or you'll end up with a Total Party Kill.
2 The tribe calls themselves the Niimíipu, and I am a fan of calling people what they ask to be called. Not to mention that the term Nez Perce is a misnomer Lewis and Clark heard from the French, translating to "pierced nose." The Niimíipu didn't do nose piercing.
3 There's way too many of them in fandom but that will be torn apart in a separate post.
4 And no, doing it half assed is not better than not doing it at all. Native people don't need you to represent them with bullshit and ignorance they have to unteach later. They can represent themselves.
5 Hugboxing is when all you allow is feel good comments about things, with critiquing only if it's wrapped in fluff and excuses and "I don't want to be controversial" and generally happens in toy fandoms out of the idea of everyone having to be nice to spare feelings. Fuck hugboxing to ignore bigotry. 

55 comments:

  1. Yes to all of this. Can I say, one of my favorite things to do with my Kaya is dress her in Julie's 70's clothes and make her an AIM (also WARN) activist. Though I really want the jingle dress (just can't afford it right now, it is pricey on ebay).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jesus fuck. I want to hug Kaya. And for god's sakes! Why can't Kaya wear jeans and t-shirts?

    And if you want a historical Kaya, as you said, it's not all beads and buckskins. OH and le gasp, Kaya can't have updos and pigtails without braids and OMG any other hairstyle ever? Screw that!

    Not native myself, and don't have any Native friends, but even I got tired of that shit and realized Pocahontas Disney's version, was doin' it waaaay wrong.

    If I had a Kaya, she'd probably wear jeans and t-shirts and hoodies like anybody else but Addy, and that's only because my Addy doesn't do pants. Just not her thing.

    Singing Bird Atonmy my ass.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much for making this post. I'm Two Kettles Lakota and although I dig that AG put "us" as a part of America worthy of a historical (as well as at least made an "outfit of today"), Native-in-the-Past is still such a frustrating misconception and it's like Kaya is giving people a tool to willfully misread and stereotype. It'd really help to have a NDN Girl of the Year but with the way AG is headed lately, that ain't gonna happen.

    Way off topic but I was wondering if you'd ever consider doing a post about how you store stuff for your gang? I adore your lovely pictures and read through the beautiful albums you were so kind as to link in your post about Elizabeth and I've been having such trouble with storage/display lately, I was wondering how you pull it off and if you had any tips/tricks? And of course I get to live vicariously through your beautiful collection! ;)

    Thanks again for writing this post. I get too upset/angry to really go into depth about this sometimes, especially since dollies are a happy escape for me and I hate seeing ignorant people poison that too.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you---Thank you ----Thank you ---- such a great post !!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Would you share the title of the book Kaya is reading? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's an image from the back of Welcome to Kaya's World.

      Delete
  6. Thank you for the post. I wasn't going to be doing any of that shit with my Kaya anyway, but it was a good overview of the wrongness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, and just one question--a sincere one, I assure you: You've told us What Not to Wear, but what whould modern Kaya wear? You have Native American friends...what do they wear? I'm assuming they make their own personal choices and wear clothes, like everyone else, but there's always the possibility, however slim, that I might be wrong (heh heh), so I'm checking my facts.

      Delete
    2. The same thing any other modern person would wear. Mine likes jeans, polos, and long sleeved shirts and sweaters.

      Delete
    3. @laughsatluna - My Elyse loves jeans, sneaks, and simple casual wear. She's not much for dresses and skirts - though sometimes I can coax her into them - but really just prefers to be comfortable, because who wants to go outside and play in a fuckin' dress?

      Delete
    4. I watched a movie in class once that was supposed to be about modern Native Americans (that is, a couple (Navajo) were the protagonists), and they wore just normal stuff (some of their shirts had cultural in-jokes/stuff, but yeah, normal).

      While we're on the subject of movies, that one outfit from the "fringe covered" section looks like it's from a horrifically bad one. From the '70s or something.

      Delete
    5. On a similar subject - I just received on of the Maplelea catalogues (the Canadian version of AG, more or less, although their dolls only have modern stories) and one of their dolls is Inuit - one of her outfits is an amauti, but everything else is standard clothes-for-cold-weather gear (the character is meant to be from Nunavut).

      Delete
    6. Thanks, guys!

      I don't actually have Kaya yet--she's next on my wish list and I'm putting away money in a Bring Kaya Home Fund--but when I do get her, she's going to be a time-traveler, going modern when she wants to, and getting styled, dressed and played with. I was secretly feeling guilty about this, thinking it might be disrespecting the historical character, but this post, and the comments, have opened my eyes to the possibilities.

      PS. AJ, your Elyse is lovely!

      Delete
  7. This was a really cool post! <3 I was really excited when I saw it was a complaint department, maybe I'm just pessimistic XD

    ReplyDelete
  8. Yes to all. I just looked at what they had on Doll Diaries and those crochet things? Gaaaah burn it with fire!

    What gets me is that it's not like books about what different native tribes actually wore in real life are that hard to find--anyone who can sew should be able to put something authentic together with a little bit of research.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I thought of you right away when I saw the post on Doll Diaries. Stuff like this really irks me, and I'm so glad you wrote something about it. It's like saying all Chinese people eat rice for every meal. Let me tell you one thing. There be some places in China where the rice don't grow, and my grandma is from one of those places. We often eat peanut butter toast or buttered toast or toast with marmalade for breakfast (or buns if we're so inclined), and there's nothing wrong with that.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Right on. I'm Romany (Gypsy), and we get that stuck-in-the-past (barefoot, scarves, flowers, preferably illiterate and living in a wagon) crap all the time. And of course all Gypsies supposedly have the same "culture," which has to be as exotic as possible. It's probably a good thing there isn't a widely distributed "Gypsy" doll. Besides Esmeralda (sigh).

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love Elyse, AJ. I've considered getting that JLY and customizing her myself (into Katara from "Last Airbender"but that's another story).

    The culture to portray for your dolls is something that's been on my mind lately too. My favorite is a #30, whom I will not dress in anything Asian. I know so little about the culture that I do not want that discussion with a more educated person someday because my dolly's wearing a cheongsam.

    ReplyDelete
  12. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!

    I haven't been around the AG internet 'culture' enough to see most of what you mention here--being a guy in his 30's makes it a bit...awkward to be on AG message boards?---but I have seen similar cultural ignorance w/BJD's. TBH, that story about the person who "converted" Kaya to Xtianity is kind of triggering to read; it makes me think of stories I've heard of Boarding Schools & other such wholly traumatic & abusive forced assimilation programs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There was a man in his 40-50ss or so who made his dolls wear frilly panties with tiny skirts, treated them like they were baby dolls, and had a "slimy towards little girls" feel. As long as you aren't as creepy as him, you're fine. Guys on AG boards are cool with me! As for message boards, keep you ear to the ground. AJ and I have plans.

      Yeah, that's how I felt about the story--it was super creepy, along with the Jewish doll being converted too and the pale brown one who came from an ancient magic kingdom where all the people had to worship the king and his many wives and she and her mother were "good Christians" and weren't falling for pagan ways. But any calling her out on it wasn't "playing nice."

      Sorry for triggering you, though.

      Delete
    2. this one time, I found an AG msg board (forget what it was called), but I had to 'register' before I could access it & the registration info asked for my gender & DoB. I never got the confirmation email & figured it was cuz of being an older guy. *shrug*

      no worries about the triggering... I'm more upset that someone made that backstory for their doll apparently w/no regard to the realities of kids in similar situations. it's horrific & I guess people think everyone just had a nice conversation w/cake & tea & then they decided to convert, but it's not like that at all!

      Delete
    3. They converted the Jewish girl? Wrong, wrong, wrong! I have Rebecca. Half the time, she goes by Rivka. (Yes, I know that was her friend Rose's name in the book. However, "Rebecca" is the English version of "Rivka.")

      Delete
  13. I suggested on Doll diaries that they read your post !!!! He he !!! I said you really know your stuff !! Can't wait to see their comments !!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It looks like the comment might have gotten taken down. This is why I hate hugboxes. And the only comments are like "she's only one person." Yeah, one person who knows what she's talking about.

      Delete
  14. THANK YOU!
    I usually like Doll Diaries, but when I saw that post I almost barfed and thought "Oh, I bet Neth is going to have something to say about this!"
    Kaya was my second AG, and I get really irked when people think she needs to stay stuck in the past. Whenever I see girls comment along the lines of, "Kaya's cute, but I don't want her 'cuz she doesn't look good in modern stuff," I fee like yelling "Oh yeah? Well, you haven't met my Kaya, missy, and seen her in her nearly-all-modern wardrobe!" Kaya's adorable in modern clothes (especially hats :))!
    I have to admit guilt in the area of keeping her hair in some form of braid(s) most of the time, though that's mostly a habit left over from when I was a kid and that was the best way for me to keep her hair tidy. I did sweep her hair up into a high ponytail for the holidays, though, and decided she looked elegant and adorable and that I'm experienced enough now to try more daring stuff with it.

    Anyway, thank you so much for this rant! Totally spot-on!

    --Kate :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. I posted a comment on Doll diaries about Whitebread being boring !!! Haven't seen it up yet!!! Guess you can't say any thing bad about her !! I really just like to stir them up !!!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Kaya is a troubling doll for me. I have to applaud parts of her, but parts of her also leave me with very mixed emotions, particularly some of the contents of her books which have been thoughtfully and critically analyzed by Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children's Literature (an excellent blog on the subject of Native peoples in children's lit). Her post about Kaya is here: http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2007/04/american-girls-collection-kaya-broken.html

    As usual, I don't agree with all your criticisms, but I do enjoy your frankness and willingness to critically analyze dolls and toys.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for this link! I shall put it in my bookmarks post haste.

      I am sure many people don't agree with me. But I'm still going to be very outre about my opinions.

      Delete
  17. The response on Doll Diaries was so disappointing. Good grief.

    I read a blog post somewhere (sorry, blanking on who) where the writer equated doing bigoted things with walking around with your zipper down. When someone points out that your fly's open, you don't act all offended or say that they're too sensitive to deal with your pants being open--you THANK them for saving you from a potentially embarrassing situation. And then you zip up and try not to do it again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've seen the metaphor of that, or walking around with your pants down and showing your ass. When someone points out your pants are slipping, you don't pull them down further and screech that you're being "imaginative."

      Delete
  18. Well, they've taken down everything I posted so guess I'll just leave Doll Diaries alone !!!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I really want to impress upon the white people who just let their kid do whatever that the whatever their kid is doing is often racist bullshit given to them by racist culture and needs to be addressed.

    Your kid didn't decide out of a vacuum that Kaya needs to be dressed in beads, braids, and buckskins.

    You taught your kid that by only showing them NDN people in the context of Peter Pan and Pocahontas.

    Why do so many white people think 'children's imaginative play' and 'racism' are somehow mututally exclusive? That children can’t play in racist ways? That children can’t innocently mimic racist bullshit that has been fed to them by a racist culture? That children can’t be hurtful without meaning to or knowing why they’re hurtful, and that their ignorance doesn’t make thier actions any less HURTFUL?

    Kids who want to/are playing in racist ways need to be told to stop, because they’re hurting people, and have the racist and hurtful nature of their actions explained to them, because that is how the ignorance of children i addressed. Saying 'they're little kids, they don't know any better, they didn't mean to hurt anyone' is some bullshit. If your innocent child is dropping water balloons off overpasses because they think it's all fun and games, YOU STOP THEM. Why is racist play different?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. THIS THIS THIS, THANK YOU!

      I'd like for these people who insist how it's "all child's play" and "let kids be kids" to talk to my seven-year-old nephew who came in crying after playing with some boys on the playground who demanded to know why he was wearing jeans and sneakers and not "buckskins" and started calling him a "scalper".

      Children's play has very real consequences and messages they receive (or more accurately, do NOT receive) from adults have lasting effects.

      Delete
    2. [problematika] Yup. Same kind of experience here, affecting kids under the age of 10. It's all fun and games - unless you're the one who's different (and that's not just about ethnicity).

      Delete
    3. Mark Twain saw it too. Excerpt from "Disgraceful Persecution of a Boy":

      "He was a "well-dressed" boy, and a Sunday-school scholar, and, therefore, the chances are that his parents were intelligent, well-to-do people, with just enough natural villany in their compositions to make them yearn after the daily papers, and enjoy them; and so this boy had opportunities to learn all through the week how to do right, as well as on Sunday. [...] It was in this way that he found out that in many districts of the vast Pacific coast, so strong is the wild, free love of justice in the hearts of the people, that whenever any secret and mysterious crime is committed, they say, "Let justice be done, though the heavens fall," and go straightway and swing a Chinaman. [...] It was in this way that the boy found out that a Chinaman had no rights that any man was bound to respect; ... that nobody loved Chinamen, nobody befriended them, nobody spared them suffering when it was convenient to inflict it; everybody, individuals, communities, the majesty of the State itself, joined in hating, abusing, and persecuting these humble strangers. And, therefore, what could have been more natural than for this sunny-hearted boy, tripping along to Sunday school, with his mind teeming with freshly-learned incentives to high and virtuous action, to say to himself:

      "Ah, there goes a Chinaman! God will not love me if I do not stone him."

      And for this he was arrested and put in the city jail. Everything conspired to teach him that it was a high and holy thing to stone a Chinaman, and yet he no sooner attempts to do his duty than he is punished for it--he, poor chap, who has been aware all his life that one of the principal recreations of the police, out toward the Gold Refinery, was to look on with tranquil enjoyment while the butchers of Brannan street set their dogs on unoffending Chinamen, and make them flee for their lives."

      Kids notice racist things that other people say, and if you don't nip it in the bud, that racism takes root.

      Delete
  20. ...I love your ETA. I want to hug your ETA. I'm not horribly experienced in what racism is and is not (which is why I try to let people guide me!) but your ETA hit all my feelings ever on -isms and even tone policing!

    I personally don't have Kaya yet (she's fifth on my list, and I'm only getting 4 dolls for now), and I was toying with the idea of leaving her in the past even after this post (if only because I've been leaving all my historicals there), but no more! When I get Kaya, she's coming to the present to chill with my JLY 4! (Another doll I don't yet have, but I'll get there.)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi Neth, great post, again! Ive just read the above link about the Kaya reads, its a great read in itself but I wont be adding Kaya to my collection at all. I will be adding Maplelea's Saila however. The company seem to have done a great job with her and unlike her very scary sisters, she is very pretty. Its great that she has a nod to her inuit culture as well as being a modern girl too. I was surprised by one of the comments above asking what would a modern native american girl wear, because why would you need to ask?

    We have a company here who makes my blood boil. Everytime I look at the site it makes me fume. Australian Girl doll is the very imaginative name of the crew and its grandmother's attempt at making an American girl clone for us here in Australia. Its so racist it makes me sick. One doll of colour to cover all of the different non white nationalities we have here, and whats worse, its racist undertones. IF you have skin of colour all you are good for is sport and be "lively". The treatment of Asian Australian girls is just as bad. Apparently, if you an asian aussie girl, al you like to do is play music and be quiet. ITs dreadful. Its a very isolated white view of a very different Australia we have now.

    Poor old Kaya is a very white view of what some folks feel a Native American should be like without thinking through the consequences or wanting to see that all men are created equal. Even the folks that we very kindly stole their land from.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I want to see an aborigine doll now. Do they have one? I'd like to see their take on it.
      Is there still a lot of strong feelings against them in modern times that you've seen. I ask because I saw it mentioned in an entertaining modern travel log - a gentleman on a train told the writer he believed they all should be killed (I don't think he knew he was speaking to a writer).
      Just curious. Not trying to make you an Aussie spokesperson.

      Delete
    2. Why would I need to ask? Well, it's nice in a way to know that I really wouldn't, but I was asking to fill in a gap in the information I've gained through my own observations. My neighborhood in Chicago is a diverse one; I see African American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern , and Asian people on a daily basis, and I've noticed some styles and customs among them. Young black people have African Pride T-shirts that they wear, and women wear African-inspired dresses, along with their regular everyday clothes. Latinos often take great pride in their country of origin, with shirts, jewelry, and even tattoos. Unfortunately, I have not been able to observe Native American styles in the same way. Since my Kaya (when I get her) will be a modern girl who is interested in her people's culture, I want to "do it right" with her, and not give in to white-person thinking. I guess what I was asking is whether Native American young people have items that indicate Pride, the way other groups do...and I guess I can do research on my own to find that out. In the meantime, it's nice to know that when I get her, I can buy her clothes like I do my other dolls, and not be messing up too badly.

      That is all...have a nice day!

      Delete
  22. Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for this. I saw that Doll Diaries post, and after that I had to go barf in a trash can. Kaya was always one of my favorite characters, especially after her second book. SINGING BIRD ANTOMY! After I read that, I was fuming. I have a My American Girl #28, and she's Navajo and enjoys writing for her school newspaper and soccer. I hate it when people stereotype Native Americans. More people should read this post.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Neth, i seen that god awful doll diaries post. the other thing that really bugs me is the last names. people assume that natives can only have last names like Aton'my' but i am white, and there is a native girl at my school who shares the same last name as i do.(but we are related through a distant cousin, though.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aton'my isn't a last name, though. It's the other half of Kaya's given name.

      Delete
  24. And this is why the modern American Girl dolls are more popular...

    No one wants to be stuck with a stereotype of the past, because the truth is people are only proud of the miraculous moments of their culture's history, and not happy with stereotypes that seem to make their people "less westernized" aka modern.

    It's the same with Addy. There are some people who feel Addy doesn't hone in on slavery enough, and just washes it away. But there are others who think Addy gives people the stereotype that pins all black people into slavery, poverty, and broken English. There's two types of complainers, that have one thing in common: both will see it as "racist".

    It's the same with Native Americans. If they didn't have a historical American girl, they would complain that their history isn't taken into account, but with the image, people stereotype all Native Americans in the same mold they've always been in.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with Kaya. Something's wrong with modern dolls. GOTY needs a modern Native American.

    ReplyDelete
  25. This is also exactly why Mattel is reluctant to create characters of a different ethnicity than the ones they are accustomed to making. It's a very sensitive move. People will hate it either way just because Mattel's behind it, a white-owned company.

    People will notice every detail of the doll, looking for flaws to burn up the company. If it's a slave doll, you'll see people trying to see how horrifying the details were, and how too "light" they made the situation, because for some reason educating history is only about "issues" to people, not about lifestyles, culture, language, and fashion...

    Then there's the other side that fights,"Oh stop making us so historical, people tend to think we live in the past as it is. Lighten up, make us normal (aka European westernized)". Two different sides, hard to please.

    No different with Native Americans. I'm half Cherokee and Pottawatomie.

    It was the same with the black Disney Princess. You had people asking for the princess, but then when they saw pictures, they said, "Why are her lips so big, why is her butt so big? That's stereotyping that all black people look like that!" (Barstomama on youtube)

    And then they changed her, and you had people saying, "Ugh, they made her look like a white girl. That;s racist!" They ended up changing her back.

    While I do believe racism exists on a grand scale, as a black and native person, I believe we need to get it together on what we really want, and unite in thought, or we will just confuse those we are making demands from. Then causing lawsuit mess...

    ReplyDelete
  26. Poor Kaya being forcibly turned Christian - well, in a way, that´s HISTORICAL play (at its worst... ) If this chick who claims to love LOTR, too, turns Aragorn and Arwen into reborn "I love Jesus"- freaks I´m really going to puke!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is depressingly common, especially among uber-sheltered "the world is EVIL" fundamentalists. There is a Sailor Moon fanfic that is all about the Sailor Scouts converting to Christianity. Including the "but who is this Jesus" scene, the "oh, I didn't realize my Shinto gods were actually demons, I'm converting right away! Praise the Lord!!" scene, and...yeah, you get the picture.

      The fact that she would have been unlikely to meet any Christians at all (unless she happened to run into Lewis and Clark as a 50-something woman) just makes Kaya's situation worse (though, admittedly, not as brain-meltingly stupid as the idea that the denizens of a fictional world like Middle-Earth would know about a god from our world). At least Usagi et al. are supposed to live in modern Japan, where small numbers of actual Christians exist, and thus could conceivably run into a zealous missionary brat.

      Being from the sort of upbringing wherein "good" and "Christian" were viewed as practically synonymous, I can understand the desire of some very-sheltered people to make all their favorite characters into Christians. It's a bigoted, stupid-as-Hel's-toenails desire, but I can at least understand it.

      Delete
  27. I agree with you 100%! People should stop stereotyping Kaya. American Girl has it wrong with Kaya's collection. I feel that they did a good job with the modern Kaya clothes, but those are for more of a special occasion. American Girl needs to realize that the Natives just don't wear those fancy outfits everywhere, they wear T-Shirts and jeans as well. Kaya needs some casual modern outfits. I'm not talking frilly dresses, I want some khakis and tees. I would be paralyzed with happiness if they made that happen.

    Just a question for you here, since I know that you are a Kaya owner (like myself). I purchased my Kaya doll in December, and I have not taken out her braids yet. I want to, but I'm not sure if it will be the wisest choice. What do you suggest?

    ~ Rach

    ReplyDelete
  28. A-fucking-men, sister! I was so pissed off by that Doll Diaries post, you have no idea. If a modern Native girl wanted to dress Kaya (or another medium-skin-tone doll) in the clothes of her own Nation, I can deal with that. But when my fellow white people make racist Generokee bullshit, or worse, recommend that other people do so on a well-known blog, I get Angry Racial Ally on people's asses. I commented that the Generokee trash was racist on DD, and probably got it deleted for my trouble. Because heaven forbid anybody get called racist for doing racist shit, right?

    ReplyDelete
  29. So interesting. I am getting to know a whole aspect of the fanbase I didn't really understand. That is f'd up. I bought Kaya because she's pretty. And I haven't changed her clothes because her hair is so pretty I don't want to fuck it up. It never occurred to me that people would feel she can't dress in modern clothes. She looks so good in modern clothes!!! Especially pretty dresses!!! And that conversion shit is just weird. Are there people converting Rebecca too?

    ReplyDelete
  30. So much wrong with the converting her to Christianity I don't know where to even start. But typical fundamentalist crap. No respect of other religions at all. I have a dear friend who was raised Catholic but as an adult became involved with the Seneca Indians and all that went with us. Another friend had a fit about it, told him he was joining a cult, he would go to hell, etc. Totally annoyed the piss out of me. That would have been enough to have made me want to leave that board in a hurry!

    My historical dolls have always been "time travelers". I think your Kaya looks adorable in modern clothes.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Where can I find information on Kaya's religious beliefs? My local library doesn't have Welcome to Kaya's World (I was really hoping they did, it's so expensive on Amazon) and I couldn't find anything online.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Okay, so first. I agree that keeping her in the past is not good. My Kaya'aton'my signs the blog with her full name. Yes, I kept her name and I do call her Kaya (even though that is essentially incorrect...read on). I found a great article written by a Native American about how baby name books and search engines do a huge discredit to Native Americans for many reasons! It was a great article - humorous and informative. He did note that AG got Kaya'aton'my's name correct but then messed it up by shortening it - she wouldn't have done that and neither would her friends and family.

    I don't mind that Kaya's historical collection is not added to since it does represent what a Native American girl would have in her possession during the 1700s. Thereby it is much more accurate than say Kit's ever expanding Depression era wardrobe. I also like that they try to provide her with somewhat authentic pow wow regalia. Having these options allows her to embrace her family, her history, and her cultural traditions. With regards to more modern outfits, Kaya can wear anything in the GOTY, MAG, TM, etc. lines. Can you imagine what they would come up with for her?

    My Kaya has retained a lot of the characteristics of her historical book character - loves horses, nature, the outdoors, etc. However, she also plays lacrosse and the cello and wears whatever she wants. Currently, she is a riding habit, but I think she looks fabulous in anything and everything. Yes, she wears the historical outfits on special occasions, but not always. I would say she is Christian, but also explores the spiritual beliefs of the Nez Perce without reproach. (Yes, I have kept her hair braided and tied with the shells.)

    I do not think one has to give up a strong history or family traditions to become modern and saying she can't have the buckskin and the beads is as bad as saying she can only have the buckskin and the beads. There is room for both and I try to honor the memories of those who were pushed aside by not forcing her out of those things as was done in the horrible schools where Native children were taken from their families and beaten for speaking their home language, practicing traditional rituals, and wearing clothes other than those provided.
    ~Xyra

    ReplyDelete
  33. So apparently I am spontaneously buying Kaya! Would the name "Kaya Swan Circling Finnick" (Swan Circling as the middle name, Finnick as the last) be appropriate? I used Swan Circling because I believe that Swan Circling gave Kaya that name in here stories (I never read them because no money=no books).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not Native, so I don't feel respectful answering this question. I'm going to ask a friend to reply for me and she may or may not. Furthermore,if she does she should not also be the definitive answer on the question.

      Delete
  34. I just have to say that as a Catawba woman with children that are Catawba and Ponca and Bois Forte Ojib I was happy to see us even get a doll. Apparently all these dolls are historical. Set in some era. The AG books on Kaya though are historically incorrect and the customs are all wrong according to a friend of mine who reviews books that is also Indigenous. So we didn't buy any books BUT we bought the doll. My daughter wanted a doll that looked like her. We go dance. The doll had modern pow wow clothes and we bought a couple outfits. She immediately took the buckskin off and said...Now she'll dress like a normal person. Well she loves her doll. She takes her to all the pow wows. She understands we aren't stereotypes or defeated people. She knows her customs and she knows her ways. She also is just a normal kid in every sense of the word. I really hesitated to buy this doll. After a lot of research and findings i.e., the books sucvk, the Nez Perce tribe signed off on the doll...I bought it. My daughter doesn't let the doll leave her site. The doll has been to more pow wows than some Natives. We're at peace with our decision. I liked your article and your friends are right. We do get represented like we don't exist anymore. We're still here people. We're still here.

    ReplyDelete

Trolling, pointless bigotry, and hating for the sake of hating will be removed, as will any post screaming "first" because no one cares. Cursing is fine, as I curse myself. I still expect you to act like you have home training. This is not a Free Speech Zone. I reserve the right to delete comments or tell you to piss off. You post, you stand by your words, and all the consequences of those words, even if that consequence is getting your ass handed back to you. Don't come in my space, spit on my floor, and expect me to call it a swimming pool. I can and will cuss your entire ass out. If I told you not to comment, and you comment, your comments will be deleted.

If you are under 13 your comments will be removed; you're too young to be on the internet unsupervised and you know it.