|Happy Birthday Addy! Now let's get people to treat you right.|
Alas, too many people do her wrong, and they have since I first set toes in the American Girl Fandom. I've seen a lot of shit, I've seen a lot of shit go unaddressed, and a lot of shit needs to stop. 80-90% of it is based in racism, classism, and bigotry. And that's me being nice, because to tear it down and kick that ass, about 100% of it is based in at least some subtle, unaddressed racism or bigotry. And unlike my ripping down of the fuck ups with Kaya, I'm coming from a place of my own culture and knowledge,
So sit down, shut up, and learn some goddamn things so I don't have to roll my eyes at seeing your terrible Addy shit attitudes ever again.
Slavery and Nothing Else--Is Anyone Reading Past the First Chapters?
|Incidents in the Life of Addy Walker.|
The books start with her family on the plantation, no getting around it. The first chapters of Meet Addy2 are set there. But even the very first chapter is called "Whispers of Freedom." The very first time you get to picture and meet Addy, it's her overhearing how her mother and father are planning to escape north with all of them, to give their three children a better life in freedom. Shit goes south by Chapter Two--Poppa and Sam are sold off, and it shatters something in Addy when that happens. But by Chapter Three Momma is still resolved to leave, and and by Chapter Four they have gotten the hell off that plantation and are running north and they never go back to being slaves. Addy even says so outright that they took their freedom at the end of the book. Addy is free, and she stays free for the rest of her story. The entire rest of Addy's storyline is set in the north, with her free and trying to find her family and make connections with people and educate herself and those around her. That's three chapters--three and a half, tops--where Addy is a slave. Freedom ain't free but she is free, and she's never a slave again. Nevermind she shouldn't have been one in the first damn place, but she never is again.
There was a video going around for a bit on the Tumblr--If American Girl Dolls Were Real Girls--that basically is the White Twenty-Something's 90s Kid Remembrance of American Girl, and it's so goddamn condescending and terrible I almost didn't link to it. But you know, might as well show the drek to tear it up. Kirsten is treated like she's never figured out the life in America and is an idiot,3 Samantha won't shut up about feminism even though she never said shit about it (things that were all Cornelia), Felicity is all horses and liberty and anachronisms, Molly is stuck on WW2....and "Addy" says that she's a slave and that her stories are one dimensional--and then the video labels it true. Except NOT TRUE. Wrong. It comes up sometimes from Addy--whose past doesn't?--but it's not all she ever talks about. Her stories go into education, supporting freemen, black and white relations, the struggles of freedom in a prejudiced world, reuniting her family, hope, love, and how things should be fair but ain't. If anything, she barely talks about being a slave except to relate it to how things are better than they were then. So fuck you, video, go read the books instead of looking at eBay auctions.
There is little to no excuse to reduce Addy's story to nothing but "slave" when probably at most, 10% of her story is set on the plantation and her story is set up specifically to move her as early as possible. It's even worse than reducing Samantha to "Girl Against Child Labor and For Feminism" because at least in that case, Samantha is being reduced to something moderately positive. Addy is just forever branded That Slave Girl, never to escape her past or have anything nice because she once was a slave.
Speaking of which...
Fancy Dresses, Pretty Clothes, Fine Things, and Why Addy's Allowed to Have Them
|Pretty clothes for pretty girls.|
But that doesn't mean she doesn't get to have nice clothes.
Addy has an expansive wardrobe, yes--the rule through Kit was that every Historical got an outfit for every book, so that people could go "that outfit goes to that book" and pair them together. But ever since Addy came out, people have been saying that she shouldn't have the wardrobe she has, that she has too many clothes for a poor black ex-slave in the Civil War Era. This have become even more so, with Addy's BeForever Wardrobe--and her new Meet Dress so gets shat on, because of one still from Seattle Children's Theatre from a play that was over seven years ago.
Congrats, you suck. You saw one picture--and probably from some other idiot who says stupid shit--and now you think you know shit. You don't know shit and you probably think teal was invented in 1975 too. Let me set the record straight. Saying that Addy can't have her new meet dress because the Addy play has Harriet in a dress like it--which I can bet most of y'all ain't even go to4--is like saying "well, no one can carry double handled handbags because Louis Vuitton makes them" or "since a Vera Wang dress has an A line silhouette and is red, all red dresses with an A line silhouette are clearly expensive and not for poors."
An outfit's cost value is not based on color, silhouette, or style. An outfit's cost value is based on cloth print and style, complexity (some) and associated trims. This was even more true in many eras before mass-market clothing--the difference between a fine lady's dress and one for a lower-class woman was the difference between linen and homespun cotton calico. Outside of some fringe dress philosophies and cultures, people often attempt to mimic the styles of the era to remain fashionable in some sense. They may have had to cut older clothes down5 or use lesser fabrics, but people constantly mimicked high-class clothing for their own wardrobes. People still do now. They let skirts out and draw them back in, they raised and lowered hemlines and waistbands, they buy a small fancy thing to go with the older styles, and they cover up seams with cheap trims to hide alterations if they could. People have always tried to make their clothes look like what the majority are wearing to fit in. It's only recently that people aimed to have older clothes in modern ways, the 1800s faux-Roman styles notwithstanding. There was no "vintage" in the old days. People didn't keep old clothes to wear when they came back in fashion or have a revival. No one cared. When the new silhouette came through, you took your old stuff and made it fit the new look or you got rid of it altogether.
The dress Harriet is wearing is of fine silk or high class cloth, with silk ribbons and trims and a gathered bodice. Addy's BeForever Meet Dress is cotton with grosgrain ribbon and a lot less stitching and cheaper materials. Same cut, same style, different components, different construction. Less expensive dress.
But still, people mewl that she shouldn't have so many dresses! She's poor, where is she keeping them? She should only have a few dresses, having so much is excess. First of all, shut up. Second of all, this is almost never applied to any other character. Kaya, maybe, because outside of her Today Wardrobe expansion she has two outfits. And Kit but that's another story.6 But if you want to play that game, none of the historicals except Samantha and those forward from her should have many dresses. Realistically Felicity would have only had a few dresses as the daughter of a middle class shopkeep--her holiday dress is a big deal and she almost went in her plain brown church dress. Kirsten shouldn't have a school dress and a casual meet dress unless she's getting more hand me downs. And the hypothetical Pilgrim Era Girl people make when they try to make Kaya Not The First American should have one dress, because more than a few dresses was considered excess by many people.
Fact: I grew up poor. I'm middle class now, in as much as middle class still exists in the oligarchy of the United States beyond being that nebulous group every fucking politician latches on to when they claim to be helping us but are actually helping the 10%. But I grew up poor. And I still got fine clothes and fine wear and stayed in semi-fashion for the era--even if it was the 80s and 90s and a lot of things were hideous. Not only was there second hand stores that we bought used clothes from, and hand me downs from my older sister, there was also my grandparents, who would buy me fine things for birthdays and holidays. I was one of the first kids in my circle of age children to have an NES because I asked my grandmother for one for Giftmas, and she saved up for it and sent it to me. I had nice toys. Every holiday my relatives put together boxes of gifts for me and included were new clothes and new outfits. And for Easters and Halloweens and the like? My mom is a seamstress. She would get the nice fabrics and the patterns and make us fancy dresses, all of us, if we didn't get one from a relative. And Ruth, dressing one of her two girls? Would have done the same. She made damn near every dress Addy wears.
The idea that poor people never have nice things or strive to have them is based in classism. Get it off Addy. At the most, Addy's holiday dress is a touch rich with the plaid and taffeta. But wait--if you'd read the book, it was a fancy dress that was refunded because someone else was a total bitch, and then Mrs. Ford repaired and resized it for Addy. So still hers and still hers to have.
Why Do You Even Want That?
Oh, but Addy can have other clothes, some one says. She can have, say the outfit she ran away in--that hat and boy's clothes! Or maybe her plantation dress, to expand her wardrobe. How about a plantation playset, with realistic tobacco plants?
Dot. Dot. Motherfucking Dot.
Yes, someone actually fucking suggested that, and when called out in that foam padded way AG forums did back then, the person said they were just trying to think of new stuff for Addy to have that made sense. Others compared it to Kirsten's Swedish Dress.
Forever side-eyeing that shit. The Larsons came to America by choice. They chose to immigrate, and chose to become American. Addy didn't choose to be a slave. She was born into slavery, and her mother--and father, and her paternal great grandmother--all suffered under a system that said that black people were not human enough to have anything other than slavery. Why would you even want a playset about Addy's time in slavery? What's the joy in that? "You too can pretend to subjugate a black girl!"
Don't ask for that shit, don't make that shit, and if you're stupid enough to do that you deserve to be violently cursed out.
Too "Scary" to Read About? Please.
Back to the story, though. On the opposite side of "it's all about slavery!" are the people claiming that Addy's story is too scary for a child to hear. In those early chapters, Addy goes through some scary shit. She's forced to see her father and brother sold away from her. She's almost sold herself. She has to leave her baby sister behind since they can't run with her. Her mother almost drowns in a river, she runs into a Confederate camp and has to keep her wits about her. And--in one of the more horrific scenes--Addy is made to eat worms she forgot to pick off the tobacco plants as punishment and the text goes into detail about how the worms pop in her mouth.
And it's too scary and horrifying! Children are too young to hear about this, can't they wait til they're older? Preserve their innocence!
Fuck. YOU. Not only is that reducing Addy's story to slavery again--see topic one--but you know what's scarier than a fictional story of a black girl who ran away from slavery to freedom and gets a mostly happy ending?
That horrific things actually happened to people in slavery and didn't end nicely.
There are real slave narratives out there that aren't so happy. Real narratives, real stories, real lives of girls who were beaten and whipped and abused and raped by masters and master's sons--and bore their rapist's child as another slave on the plantation. Real girls that were kidnapped from places all across the African West Coast and sold in America as chattel slaves. Real girls that were sold from their parents. Real women who had their children sold. Real girls that ran away from plantations and never saw any of their family ever again, their whole lives. Compared to the real truth of slavery? Addy's story ends magically. She gets freed, her whole family gets freed, they all reunite except Uncle Solomon directly, and she gets resolution for every member of her family.
Real people suffered, lived, and died as slaves. And they didn't get much of a pause to adapt. Nearly no slave master said "well, you know, she's only eight, maybe we'll wait until she's twelve to give her time for her innocence." Nope, they had girls out there working from the time they could walk and carry buckets--and being sexually abused from the time they looked old enough to knock up--or horrifyingly, before that. Part of the dehumanization of black girls and women that continues today is the idea that we aren't children ever. We become "thots" or "fast-tailed" or are making passes at men. We weren't ever children--we were treated like small women and subject to physical and mental and sexual abuses on the plantation same as a grown women.
So I don't give a shit that you want your well padded, almost always white child to not have to learn about slavery or abuse or racism until you think they're old enough to handle it so they can be "innocent." I learned about racism before I could cross the street. I started reading slave narratives and stories and books as a child. What makes your child so special beyond your privilege? Why does your child get to be innocent because you don't want to talk to them? Piss OFF. You probably don't want gay rights because you don't know how to talk to your child about two people of the same gender loving each other.
If your child can hear about Marta dying and Penny getting beaten and Kit's family almost losing their house, they can hear about Addy's struggles.
Hair Care For Addy Walker: Easier than You Think
|Is not so hard, actually.|
But Addy? Psh, hardly. Her hair holds styles like a charm. She has flyways now--I have had her for over nine years--but it still holds buns, braids, twists, and curls gorgeously. I can explore with her hair in a way that I almost can't with anyone else, because everyone else's hair is slippy or slidey and won't hold the kind of elaborate styles I like to test. Addy's hair is super versatile and super luscious. I kind of want to get a second Addy--depending--to play with that new thick BeForever hair. Once I stop feeling sick and my corner is clearer, I want to do a "these are the canon set hairstyles" post--you know, sans the girls I don't got, which will be represented by Girls Close Enough.
Addy's hair is only as scary as you make it, which is not at all. Take her hair down, brush through it, let it hang loose or twist it back up. Do cornrows, do double loops, do pigtails, do double braids pinned up with ribbons. Don't do terrible ugly half brushed nasty tangle puffs, don't do lazy knots, and if it's gotten dry--probably because someone's been too scared to actually brush it and do it right--then get some braid spray and the AG hair brush and lubricate those strands.
Finally. don't use the AG pick. It's not worth shit. Addy's hair can take the standard brush.
Addy Sans Addy and Addy as The Token Brown Girl
|So Tired of the Harriets.9|
The people who do one of two things: Take all of Addy's clothes and put them on their Fauxtters or other light skinned girls without ever having Addy in their collection or who tokenize Addy as part of their collection and really only have her because she's an Original Five. I hate both of these kinds of people with the fire of Alpha Centuri or larger, but if I had to kick one over a cliff second, it'd be the Token Addy Collectors because at least they have her.
Addy is part of your collection? Good! Don't make her your token black girl. Don't stick her in the corner and have her be your only black girl while you amass a collection of 15+ Classic Mold White Girls. Don't barely take pictures of her and ignore her. Don't leave her hair up for months and barely dress her and only look at her here and there. Don't buy all the new shit for Samantha and Julie and Rebecca and leave her out in the cold. Don't twist her story to take away her outfits. Don't do like one moron, and make it so that in nearly every short story you show she's doing the cooking or food prep for all the white girls--the implications are staggering. Don't have her ignorant. Don't do like that shit video up there and reduce her entire story to ex-slave. Don't make her your Token Black Girl in a sea of Whiteness.
And then you assholes, who take all Addy's clothes and put them on other dolls because her clothes are good enough but not her? You can sit in the lowest level of doll hell for the rest of eternity. Addy's clothes are for Addy. They're not for Kirsten, they're not for your Southern Belle doll Scarlett, they're not for your Mary Suzanna hunchbacked doll that never stands up straight and steals from everyone because you suck and don't know history. Don't put her Tartan Plaid on Samantha because it's a rich dress--it's not even the right era. Don't put her Cape Island Dress on Wonderbread to dance in. Don't do it. Addy's clothes aren't not even really for Cecile--not only are the clothes too late for Cecile's era, they're not fancy enough. Yes, not fancy enough. That thing I said earlier about dress fancy being based on trims and materials? Applies. Cecile is a rich black girl in NOLA in the 1850s. Her dresses and clothes are and should be on the side of ruffly and ornate, in the antebellum south. She's not going to wear a working-class girl's wardrobe. You might as well put her in workman's denim. Even her least fancy dress was probably made of something fine like linen or high-quality cotton. Addy's clothes are for her era and her style.
Addy is good enough for her own clothes and she deserves to wear them without being shoved off to the side because you think her wardrobe is too rich for her.10 Around here Addy shares her clothes only partially with Sarah while I continue to build up her wardrobe, and no one else. I'm not even ashamed to say that I think it's gross that so many people in AG fandom feel like they have the right to get Addy's stuff because it's pretty and then hate on her story and her and call her ugly or unsuitable for the clothes, and jump through all kinds of hoop justification for owning Addy stuff but not putting any of it on her.
And you're damn right I can't stop you from doing it, it's your collection, blah blah blah you defiant little shit. But I can stare at you and hate you with every cell in my brain.
Conclusion: Love Addy and Do Her Right
|Love Addy, Do.|
Respect Addy Walker and her story and collection. Treat her right.
Or else I'll curse your faves to all get silver eye, eyelash retraction, limp elastic, and vinyl stains that never come out. I'm a witch, I can do it.
1 The only other one, if I recall correctly, is Kaya, and that's more from culture that didn't track that than "fuk you black people slaves don't need birthdays."
2 Hell, the damn first volume is called Finding Freedom, now. And it contains the first three books that used to be separate, so kids don't have to just read book one of what used to be six.
3 "What is a Doll?" Because Kirsten wasn't all about Sari. What the fuck.
4 It was in Seattle for about two months, toured the US some, and that was in 2007-2008. So yeah, still doubting.
5 So many bell bottom pants sacrificed from Goodwill to make 80s skinny jeans.
6 Kit's wardrobe didn't manifest into feedsack cloth the moment her dad lost his job, suck my butt.
7 Kimmy, Charlotte, and Tara don't count for purposes of two "Historicals turned to personal Historicals" and "Historical turned Moddie" respectively. Also Next in the Lineup is Black Girl 2016.
8 I'm not intimidated.
9 Otters and I did this for Addy's birthday in 2007, when I got her her entire Birthday collection. Addy: Spoiled Brat and Deserves It. Addy still threw a fit that Otters was in her dress for even a moment.
10 See point above, in case it didn't sink in earlier.