American Girl Dolls Embrace Differences and Disabilities

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I must admit, I find American Girl Dolls slightly unnerving. They are so eerily lifelike, and I know it’s a cliché, but the eyes really do follow you everywhere. My daughter has one, and we put it in the closet every night because mommy is a little crazy.

Despite these misgivings, it’s hard not to cheer for a doll company that goes out of its way to represent girls from all walks of life and every circumstance. The new Special Sparkle section in its  holiday catalog includes a miniature service dog in harness, a hearing aid and an allergy-free lunch kit.

“We have a long history of speaking to diversity and making girls feel good about themselves, and this is just another way we are expanding on the idea,” said American Girl Doll spokeswoman  Julie Parks.

Whereas many dolls from high-end companies resemble a stereotypical beauty unattainable for most little girls, American Girl has always seemed to strive for all-inclusiveness. The dolls come in a vast selection of skin tones, hair color and eye color, which can be mixed and matched so the doll resembles its owner. Now they can also be fitted with glasses, braces for the teeth, crutches or a wheel chair, and the company recently began to offer dolls without hair to represent those who have lost hair to cancer.

American Girl books and movies also do a good job of highlighting problems girls are likely to encounter in life. This year’s “Doll of the Year” McKenna is a talented gymnast who struggles with injuries and a learning disability. In the book and movie about her experiences, Jesse, her brainy friend and tutor, is confined to a wheel chair.

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