posted Wednesday April 10th, 2013
Dear Ms. Silverman,
Thank you for writing to share your request. We certainly understand
your desire for a My American Girl® doll with Down’s Syndrome. Over the
years, we have received many requests for characters facing various
medical conditions or physical challenges. We realize that girls want a
character to which they can relate.
All of these requests are important to us, as well as to the people who
are asking to create specific characters. Although we get our ideas
from our own staff, we sincerely appreciate requests such as yours as
they help us determine if we are meeting the needs of the girls we
serve. We will continue to do our best to bring you products and
services of the highest quality. Please watch for new developments in
our catalogues and on our website at americangirl.com.
American Girl Customer Service
Phone: 1-800-845-0005 or 608-831-5210
Available Monday – Sunday 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. Central Time
In other words, no. We will not make an American Girl doll with Down syndrome.
I have to admit that I’m not 100% convinced the world needs a doll with Down syndrome. Let me clarify — not just any doll. For a while, years ago, I was convinced that Cabbage Patch Dolls all had it; that freaked me out. And it makes me sad when, from time to time, I stumble across a line of dolls with Down syndrome designed by a well-meaning mom of a kid with DS.
With all due respect, Sophie and the rest of the kids — and even more important, their typical peers — deserve something better. They deserve what the rest of the girls get. They deserve an American Girl doll with Down syndrome.
I get the complaints about American Girl dolls. For starters, they are really freaking expensive. And the add-ons (ears pierced? hair styled? a doll hospital?) are ridiculous.
But I love the back stories. That, the company really gets right. It’s brilliant marketing. I had just bought Annabelle her first American Girl doll when they released Rebecca, the Jewish one — which, of course, I had to buy. So then Annabelle had two. Then they came out with Mia, the doll that gets bullied. We had to have that one. When Sophie begged for Gwen, the homeless American Girl doll, what was I supposed to say?
Which is why today, if you walk past our playroom, you might be startled by the tangled, naked orgy of messy-haired dolls on the floor. The dolls wind up taking second place to the accessories (Rebecca’s sweet, tiny menorah that I put next to our grown-up one each Hanukkah; and the movie about Mia and Gwen, that I made an entire slumber party of girls watch at Sophie’s last birthday celebration) but the fact remains that there’s a Jewish American Girl doll — and one for just about every other ethnic group you can think of.
There’s even a tiny wheelchair you can purchase for your American Girl doll, although the clear implication is that it’s designed for a doll with an injury that will heal, rather than someone in it for life.
It’s not just about marketing. It’s about education, something that only comes when you have a captive audience. For me, this is as much (or more) about a doll that Sophie’s friends will want to own as it is about a doll for her.
I get all the reasons American Girl hasn’t come out with a doll with Down syndrome — it might be awkward to alter features on a doll when they really don’t do much to change up the ethnically diverse ones. AG makes a big deal out of how you can buy a doll that looks just like your kid, but the truth is that they really all look alike. Again, it’s the back story.
I’m not saying it would be easy. I’m saying it would be fantastic — I can’t think of a single thing the toy industry could do to encourage acceptance and education about developmental disabilities at an early age that would have a greater impact.
You want to teach kids (girls, at least) to quit using the word retarded, or never use it in the first place? This is how.
Every time I walk by the playroom, I swear we’ll never buy another American Girl doll. But for this, I’d make an exception. They better hurry up, though, before my girls and their friends outgrow dolls altogether.