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Woman To Woman / A liberal and a conservative commentator square off Should American Girl doll company partner with pro-choice group?

This holiday season conservatives are checking their lists twice to see who's naughty and nice. Unfortunately for the American Girl doll company, conservatives are striking its historically accurate doll collection from their Christmas shopping lists.

From the conservative right's perspective, American Girl dolls represent an endorsement of abortion and veiled encouragement for a lesbian lifestyle. How so, you say? Well, it seems the dollmakers are manufacturing bands with (gasp!) encouraging messages for girls. The subversive message on these bands? The words: "I can." Christian conservatives have an answer for such an assertive female declaration. It's: "No, little girl. You can't."

Specifically, conservatives are upset about American Girl's business link with Girls Inc., a nonprofit organization that promotes academic success and leadership skills among girls but also supports abortion rights and tolerance of gay lifestyles. A portion of the sales of the bands, which can be worn as bracelets, go to science and athletic programs sponsored by Girls Inc. That connection prompted Christian calls for a boycott of American Girl. Although I agree with the right to protest and certainly think it's understandable not to buy from a company whose business practices are at odds with your beliefs, I think the hyperventilation in conservative camps about this partnership is robbing them of the oxygen needed to power even subnormal brain activity. It all seems very Grinch-like, and not particularly Christ-like.

Consider the "I can" bands in question. Unless you consider too much encouragement a demonstration of liberal license, this message is hardly a call to action for girls to seek out abortions, take birth control or reject a heterosexual lifestyle. Supporting science education for girls seems pretty positive. The American Girl doll company manufactures dolls that teach and inspire. This is in keeping with the mission the company has always embraced. This is something to support, not protest.

If conservatives want to support Christian values in business practices, I encourage them to continue their good works to abolish child labor. But telling the American Girl company "You can't!" tells our girls they can't either. With so few wholesome pro-girl messages, conservatives simply come off looking foolish here, and any victory they win is pyrrhic at best.

Diane Glass is a writer and freethinker with a B.A. and M.A. in comparative religion.


I'm sure the alliance between American Girl and Girls Inc. had good intent, but the results are not, which is why family groups reluctantly boycotted American Girl products this Christmas shopping season. Seventy cents of every dollar spent on the "I can" bands goes to Girls Inc., which unfortunately has an aggressive, left-leaning agenda that many mainstream Americans are uncomfortable with.

American Girl is a venerable company -- up until now, extremely popular with family-oriented consumers -- that sells historical dolls to grade-school girls. Girls Inc. educates those girls on (among other things) the importance of access to abortion, the process of developing a lesbian identity and the need for "safer-sex techniques of contraception."

Girls Inc. started out with the laudable purpose of encouraging girls, especially disadvantaged ones, to be "strong, smart and bold" through character building, academics and athletics. As I read its Web site, I found myself wishing that such a terrific focus hadn't been skewed by the addition of a liberal sexuality agenda.

But since it has, it is inappropriate -- and bad business -- for a public company like American Girl (owned by Mattel) to sponsor it. It's nonsense that consumers shouldn't boycott companies for making disagreeable business decisions. It is because capitalism functions on free trade and competition that boycotts are necessary. Capitalism is voting with your dollars, and concerned parents have no better way to encourage American Girl not to support this sort of agenda.

As the American Family Association's Randy Sharp bluntly pointed out to me: "It would be a dangerous thing to suggest that consumers should not evaluate the circumstances surrounding their purchasing decisions. To do so is not capitalism, but socialism."

Thankfully, the capitalism vote appears to be working. Under pressure from parents, the "I can" bands were pulled from their main sales channel, the 1,700-store Bath & Body Works chain. Hopefully, American Girl will understand and return to the core values that built such a successful company in the first place.

Even better would be if Girls Inc. would see this as a wake-up call to return to its original focus: empowering girls to be all that they can be.

Shaunti Feldhahn is a conservative Christian author and speaker, and married mother of two children.

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