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

Monday, March 10, 2014

Why I'm an Outsider - Part One: Finding AG Fans, or How Periods are Bad for Children

Oh, Addy, if we'd only known what was comin'.
So, I've been thinking long and hard about how to write up my story about my entrance into, time in, and hard booting out from the majority of the American Girl Fandom. It's been a touch over eight years since my first foray into the American Girl Fandom in January 2006, so I have to go back in time mentally and really think about it. Hell, back then we didn't even have smartphones, flat-screen monitors or TVs (at respectable costs), or tablets. We still had Windows XP and the Gamecube. We'd just gotten the Nintendo DS. I'd just gotten my own Nintendo DS.

It's not so much uncomfortable as it is frustrating to look back on and see the shit I went through for AG. So far it's coming out to a ten-parter that covers the two and some years. That's right, I somehow managed to make myself blacklisted on two boards in less time than it takes for a child to go from fresh-squeezed Moro-reflex making1 fleshlump to general walky-and-talky sprog. The hard thing about talking is that it honestly wasn't one or two major incidents that started the spiral down from me wanting to be part of the American Girl Fandom to throwing my hands in the air and going it alone (until recently). There's at least two big hard hits and one striking slap, but there were little things and trips that tipped me off from the start that I was dealing with no small degree of bigotry.

Now, I generally won't be using names unless I can recall them, and all names will be the e-name I have. So you know, if your bitch ass used your real name as your screen name, sucks to be you bitch, maybe next time you won't use your powers as weapons.There will be one major case where I don't use a name, but it's less out of politeness and more out of persona non grata, damnatio memoriae.

I'm sure there's a person or two that thinks that this airing out of AG Fandom's dirty laundry is cruel or unneeded. Some people believe in forgive and forget. Some people forgive but never forget. I am neither of these people. If the cut is deep enough, I neither forgive nor forget, because fuck that, that's why. The idea that I am obligated to forgive the cruelties inflicted on me because of reasons such as enough time has passed (but it's been years!) and being the "bigger person" is a load of bull shit. Redemption is a rare thing and not easily given to those who fall from my grace hard enough to leave imprints on the soil.

About the pictures: a lot of my pictures to break up the text blocks are pics that will be semi-relevant to the times covered in the post, but not exactly on topic. I don't have much in the way of screen shots from the boards at the time--partially because I no longer have access to the boards in one way or another. The internet archival of message boards that lock themselves down lest people see the shit spewed is sporadic.2 But I do have older pictures of my gang, and pictures help break up reading online. Plus you get to see how I started on my photographing of AG. I'll also be linking to new posts as they go up and editing older posts to add in links. That way, when this series is said and done, a person can start at the prologue and straight-shot through the whole thing, like a novel with a bittersweet ending.

Prologue: Not Such a Sweet Baby Face 
 
As I've said time and time again to the point that the entire world should know by now, I got my first American Girl Doll, Aduke Firstarrival "Addy" Walker, for Giftmas 2005 in Colorado. And when I got back in town with her that January after spending the holidays and New Year's at my in-laws, I was ready to look for the American Girl fandom on line. Yes, I'd gone through the Baby Face situation and it had sucked. But I'd recovered from that. I'd even had to deal with a really shitty incident with a college roommate and her asshole boyfriend my Senior Year 1,3 but in the process I'd learned to become a stronger person and speak up for myself and push toxic people away as much as possible. Not only that, I'd found myself as a pagan. I was secure in my faith now--thanks to the Pagan Student Association at my college, I'd learned there was nothing to be ashamed of about being pagan and I wasn't going to feel bad about my faith.

I knew how the process worked online. There was a message board somewhere. Of course there was. There was a message board or mailing list or site for everything. There was one for people who were self righteous about being barefoot everywhere, there was one for Harry Potter for Grownups, there were oddly specific furry porn comics about inflation, there was data for up and coming Discordian-tinted Pagans, there was Gaia Online which was just anime chibi avatars that enjoyed talking about all kinds of things for gold, and there was one for college organizations that flooded my e-mail inbox still. Hell, I'd been a part of three different focused Pokémon message boards and spent some time on the HP Fan Fiction boards before the Cassie Claire4 thing got super weird. By Hermes's Guidance, He'd help me find one about American Girl dolls. I just had to look.

However, I wasn't going to be too out about my "weird" online. I had LiveJournal for that. I'd seen what being weird could lead to just by making goth dolls. But that was okay. Get in good first and then let the weird out in metered doses. I didn't have to come right out at the start and be openly pagan-queer. What mattered was that I could meet new people. There had to be more people my age in AG fandom instead of me being the only mid-twenties girl in the group like in Baby Face. There were mostly people my own age in the My Little Pony Fandom, and I'd made it a long time--internet speaking--at MLPTP (My Little Pony Trading Post) and MLP Arena. I was twenty-five years old and ready to join a new fandom.

I hit up Google--now our premiere search engine--and pulled up "American Girl Fans Message Board." Jackpot. I read the rules--no cursing, no offensiveness, etc., etc. Which, you know, I could do my best not to let every third word in my post be damn or motherfucker, that's what I had my ElJay for. I signed up--I've had my online name since I was sixteen back in the AOL dayz--and made an intro post about being new to the boards, being a black woman--I was going to be upfront about that--and that I was living with my fiance in the Seattle area. I liked writing, art, My Little Pony--Gen 3 was still in the upswing--and that I'd just gotten my first doll, Addy Walker, that holiday season. I got a lot of happy, polite greetings and many notes that people there were in my age range and many had even had dolls when they were younger. There were older people too--who mostly collected dolls after being introduced by their girls or introduced their children to them or got a random catalogue--but there was a healthy mix. I wouldn't be the only "kid" among grownups who claimed to know better. I could learn what I'd missed about AG between 1997 and now--I'd dropped out of news heavily before we'd even got Josefina, but I knew some things.

Alas, I seemed to have missed the obscure rule over the door: "Abandon all Non-Super Sanitized Topics and Alternative Lifestyles, Ye who Enter Here."

The first step out into the depths of the AG Fandom.5
The board had some characters. There were the mods of course, who all seemed oddly intertwined in their modding styles--but there was also one called Kenshin-chan, who seemed okay. Thre were at least two Mormons around who didn't like tank tops or short skirts. There were many, many people who said that Pre-Mattel dolls were better--I didn't even know Mattel had bought AG--but they said I took lovely pictures of a Mattel Addy. There was prasnlrd who was black as well, and had even IMed me and greeted me warmly as a fellow black collector, even if she seemed to make slurping noises towards dolls and called most dolls "morsels"--black ones, of course were "chocolate morsels." The abbreviations were really juvenile--DD? DS? DH? Can't you just say "daughter," "son," and "husband"? I cocked an eye at the idea of emptying out wallets like you were possessed or being "compelled" to buy $500 worth of stuff on a whim because you just had to by the Dolly Force! I wasn't interested in the "Clothes Police," who would "arrest" you for such crimes as dolls without shoes and gadding about with no underwear, and traveling dolls seemed risky as hell.6 Bratz were looked down upon, as were Barbies for being mature and "inappropriate." But it takes all the types to make a Pokémon World, right? And I wasn't exactly "normal" myself.

It was a nice start to the year. The Year of Jess--and there was a lot of excitement about her being White/Japanese--and there was a lot of data and news about upcoming new shiny things and things that had been retired. I'd missed some outfits for Addy--one of the heartbreakers being the lamp and needlework kit and the the garden stuff I'd cherished as a kid, argh. And I'd just come up short for Marisol, who appeared gorgeous--but that was a later goal, right? They'd made Nellie--I'd always liked her better than Samantha--and Elizabeth, who I was disappointed to find had been changed to blond. But they'd opened stores--actual physical stores!--and they were opening a new one in LA soon which was the closest to me at the time and there were movies and the modern clothes looked so pretty and I now had a wishlist! I could deal with odd birds as long as I could get news and data and commune with collectors. I didn't even know there was a Girl of The Year thing and only vagely knew about Kaya, Kit, and Josefina after getting their books from HPB. And the moderns didn't come with writing books anymore. But god, these new modern dolls were gorgeous. Especially #26! And the majority of people seemed nice. I'd deal.

So deal I did. I posted pictures of how I'd curled Addy's hair with sponge rollers, taken with my new digital camera. I tried light photostories, which was the idea of telling stories with your dolls posing in albums, most of the time uploaded to ImageStation who made it easy. I got a new sewing machine and set it up and started drafting and designing doll clothes from patterns myself--I got books upon books of historical fashion, which was a passion of mine. I grabbed chunks of patterns and edited them to be a little more accurate to the style of the 1860s, and I started crafting outfits for Addy both based on what I couldn't get anymore from AG and because it seemed like they weren't ever going to give her nice things in lieu of throwing everything at Kit, Samantha, and Molly--including the gorgeous Jump Rope Outfit7 which got lots of compliments. I made friends. I even offered the idea of using braid spray in doll hair as spray-in conditioner--since it was the same stuff I used in my braids--and it came off great! People listened to what I had to say, and they liked me! I was part of a community, and it felt good.

If we'd only known, Ida Bean.
It wasn't going to last. And it started with a simple, simple thread I saw early on. "How'd you get your first American Girl?" Hey, I could answer that! I had already made a post about it! So I grabbed the post from my eljay8 and copied the text in. It wasn't too curse heavy. There were a few "shit"s and "damns", but I removed them to abide by the no-cursing rule--but I left in a mention that I didn't buy Addy in college because I first bought a computer and a lot of the sparse money I had went to not starving between meals and tampons (which are important for not bleeding onto clothes if you don't use things like Diva Cups or pads). If you've read it, it's a pretty touching story. I posted the edited version for the board, but linked to the ElJay long form for people to read, with the caution that it had some spicy language but nothing too offensive for the average adult.

Not much later, I got a mod PM. Oh, shit what had I done wrong? Had I done anything wrong? Had I left a "damn" in my post? Please gods, don't ban me, I'll be good, just warn me and I'll walk off with my tail between my legs and do better.

I don't remember which mod told me, but she told me that my short version was "appropriate" for the board but the one posted on my journal wasn't, not even to link to. "Children don't need to know about a lady's monthlies," was the gist of the lecture. Furthermore, I wasn't supposed to link to any sites that could lead to "unwholesome things" or bad topics, and Livejournal was on the bad link list along with Google--Google?--and some others. We weren't even supposed to tell people to Google something cause they might get something they don't like in a link. A rule of thumb, she chided me, was that I should think like an eight year old girl. If what I said wasn't proper to tell a "good" eight year old, it wasn't proper or innocent enough for the board.

I was confused and offended--I hadn't said anything that bad! A eight year old girl should know about menstruation, at least in the fact that her mother likely had a period, right? I knew about periods when I was eight because my older sister had her period by then, and I'd read a lot of books on biology when I was in school and periods were something that came to most women. And furthermore, I knew that COPPA had come in well over five years ago and that there shouldn't even be an eight-year-old left alone on a message board that would wander unsupervised! But--I wanted to stay. So I complied. I thanked her for clarifying the rules, and said that I would do better next time. I was still very new, and I'd made friends and I didn't want to lose them. I still felt terrible and chided needlessly, but board rules were board rules.

Then I got another PM. I think it was Bean--BeanBunny, who became one of my oldest homies on the net in the AG fandom. The reason I'm sure it was her was because she told me that yeah, Livejournal was banned for their ability for a child to surf to things that their parents might not want to talk about. Her doll journal for her doll Sara was even banned for being on Eljay, and it wasn't offensive at all--the whole site was just flat out not allowed. Basically, it was good to keep my head down and play it super sticky safe. But there was a community on LiveJournal, and I might find some kindred spirits there.

I had no idea until I posted my Addy story, but the glurgy crap of what I had exactly signed up for when I'd joined AGFMB was just about to come at me, and it was going to be sprinkled with Jesus jimmies and fundie flakes.

Next:
Part Two: There's Fundies in my Fandom

--Neth

1 I shouldn't like the Moro Reflex as much as I do, but the fact is one of the most amusing things to me. I'm going to be a delightful mom when I startle my kid to take pictures of this one.
2 This was one of my major motives behind AG Collectors being public and open.
3 I arrived at Texas A&M Fall 99, and got my degree in Spring '04 after sitting out a semester.  So I had two senior years, and I am class of  '03. So there. Not many people nowadays finish college in exactly four years.
4 I was actually there when that plagerizing thing went down. It felt...odd.
5 A lot of these pics are at my first apartment in Seattle.
6 Topics to tear into later. 
7 Crafting Creatively is coming. This is not an outfit to skim over.
8 I've linked it so many times here. That's the DW post, but I ported all my posts over so. I posted the edited one when I joined the AG Community on Eljay that later died a wander-off death; the link leads to the "clean" version.

26 comments:

  1. That is terrible that you were shamed for something so trivial, especially when you were sharing something so close to your heart. I have an 8 yr old daughter, and there is NOTHING wrong with her knowing about menstruation. "Monthlies" are not a "dirty" little secret. I don't understand why anyone would scandalize something so natural. Oh geez, my eyes would have rolled clear out of my head. I can't imagine how I would have responded to that, I doubt it would have been positive. I can't wait to hear more... :)

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  2. I learned about periods on a long car trip when I was nine (I know I was nine because I remember the shoes I wore), but my cousin at least had access to that sort of info at eight--straight from American Girl themselves! (She had the first version of the body book.) Why would just mentioning it not be something you could do around an eight year old? (I understand some eight year olds actually aren't ready for "the talk", but mentioning is not talk.)

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  3. I don't remember when I learned about periods, but I know I was ignorant about for a good while, maybe up to 12 years old. I still don't think there's anything wrong with mentioning periods, for goodness sake. Like anon above me says, they're in the AG about your body book! And as someone who works at a daycare, the 8 year-old girls tend to know about periods already. And anyway, it's not something anyone should consider immoral. Most of this place already sounds like a pearl-clutching nightmare, I'm already apprehensive about what's to follow.

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  4. I think I learned about them when I was about meh maybe eight or nine, this being because my mother flat-out told me that people were gonna start mentioning things at school and she'd rather me ask her. So, I did. And I laughed so haaard when I heard all the sex rumors a few years later.

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  5. Oh Neth---- so sorry that people were so stupid !!!!!!

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  6. I was warned that I would be banned for mentioning my mother's death on a AG message board. The board is for age 13 and up but "sad" topics are not allowed. I also got a warning letter when i wrote something about a flashlight/ It seems flashlights are too scary for some reason. Maybe they are all afraid of the dark but in that case flashlights should be a good thing. One of the mods seems to hate me and has sent me many nasty messages about things I post. She seems to have issues of her own though. She likes to talk about her spiritual gifts and how the spirit world warned her about events like 9/11. She writes about her conversations with the dead and other crap about her gifts as a medium.

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    1. That's ....... Creepy

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    2. I found it all very disturbing. She posted a lot of strange stuff like a story about how as a child a ghostly voice called her into the attic. This voice told her that Kennedy would be shot and her future husband would die in Vietnam. The stuff she wrote about was far more frightening then anything I wrote about my deceased mom and her doll collection. Some of the other stuff, like the morsels, is too cutesy for my taste but at least it doesn't remind me of one of those ghost hunter reality shows. In general this board is just show and tell for childish adults. You show off your dolls and other people say, " ohh cute".

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  7. I was 8 when I got my first period. I really could have used that AG book. My mom hadn't gotten around to telling me anything yet and i thought I had cancer. I told her I was dying and she told me a confusing story about butterflies . It must have been her version of the birds and bees but it didn't really enlighten me. I must have figured it out on my own a month later when the whole thing happened again.

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  8. It sounds like there was enough jacked-up stuff going on there, but that whole calling dolls "morsels" thing sounds, so... icky....

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  9. Oh... my... Gods. That is... WHAT? I went to a Catholic elementary school and we learned about periods in first grade simply because it was biology. WTF is wrong with these people? Were they in a cult? It sounds like it, what with the "keeping dollies modest" whatevery. I'm sorry you (and Addy!) had to go through this. I thought *my* experiences with fandoms were bad!

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    1. PS: I've squealed about dolls, but making slurping noises... no. Just... what? Also, morsels is uber f*cked up, especially if it's a child doll. It just sounds so... predator-y.

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    2. Lmao this was my exact reaction too!

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    3. Yeah, I felt exactly the same way about that 'morsels' thing. Really? That's ridiculously creepy, ngl.

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    4. Well...I'd like to say in her defense that prasnlrd is one of the better members of the AGFMB, in my opinion. Behind all the talk of morsels and the smileys gone wild and all the other wackadoo things in her posts, is a kind woman with the proverbial heart of gold. I will admit, though, that reading too many of her posts in a row, usually gave me a godawful headache....

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    5. I did feel bad singling her out, especially as she seems to be one of the only even semi-friendly people Neth met in the story, but the morsel thing really squicked me.
      As a Black doll collector myself , a message of welcome like that sounds really kind particularly in a possibly-predominantly white fandom, but the "chocolate" thing is one of my pet peeves and I fear I might've gone all "YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER" or something in response. Some people embrace the chocolate thing, I've been street harassed by too many white boys with it. :\

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  10. Oh Neth, that's so horrible! All those message boards are fucked up. Honestly, yours has got to be the only sane one on the web.

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  11. You're probably not going to see this, but by any chance was this message board owned by a girl named Liz?

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    1. I don't think so; it's been years.

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    2. Liz from...AG Fan?

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    3. It isn't that one, I was on that until it closed down around a year ago, (She couldn't pay the monthly bill anymore.) None of those user names were familiar, and the amount of adult members was low.

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  12. What ever happened to Bean anyway?

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    1. I follow her on IG and Tumblr, but I don't know how dolls she is anymore.

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  13. I learned about periods when I was 5, maybe younger. It's just something people need to know about.
    Norah

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  14. My mom didn't tell me about periods. She got her period when she was 15.5 or nearly 16 or something so she thought she didn't have to tell me until around then. I learned about sex and was allowed to watch horror/R-rated movies at 4 years old, though. Go figure.
    I learned about periods when I was 10 or 11 when my mom got me the AG body book. I was so confused. Why hadn't my mother told me about such a thing? I asked and she said it was gross and unnecessary to tell me and she didn't know why it was in a girls body book. Okay. Let your 4 year old watch somebody get gutted while the killer screams "YOU GODDAMN SON OF A MOTHER FUCK YOU WHORING SHIT -" etc but periods are gross and dirty? Lol.
    Jokes on her, though, I got my period at 14.5 and not 15.5, so even if AG wouldn't have told me I would've figured it out the hard way before she ever would've gotten around to mention it.

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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.