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American Girl: Surface Values, Hidden Agenda
The Varklings have enjoyed products from the American Girl
line for years. Both daughters gained increased love of reading and better historical perspective through several of the sets of American Girl books. While we didn't go as "crazy" as some parents and grandparents, Ma and Pa Vark had no problem with paying for quality products which modeled ethical behavior while providing both enjoyment and subtle education for the girls. The books lead children to explore our history through the eyes of fictional girls portrayed as growing up in different eras. They show positive behavior and display the ability to rise above difficult circumstances brought upon by war, slavery, economic bad times, the pioneer life, and the like.
Now we discover that the parent company is taking some of the proceeds and directing them to Girls Inc.
, an organization with far different values than those we teach and try to model. However, it takes a bit of looking to find the problems; on the surface, supporting Girls Inc. sounds like a fine idea for a values-conscious company.
Seizing upon the popularity of elastic bracelets with the young crowd, American Girl offers the "I CAN" wrist band
. Note that the product page says the following: "American Girl will give 70 cents for every dollar of 'I CAN' band sales, plus a $50,000 donation, to Girls Inc.®, a national organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold."℠
"Strong, smart, and bold" all sound like good things for our girls. We don't want them to be weak, stupid, and timid. A site popup
tells you that "Donations raised through I CAN are earmarked to support programs in three important areas: Intellectual Development, Leadership, and Sports, including: Girls Inc. Operation SMART®, which helps girls build skills in science, math, and technology; Girls Inc. Discovery Leadership®, which helps girls develop leadership skills and community awareness; and Girls Inc. Sporting Chance®, which encourages athletic skills, cooperative and competitive spirit, and an interest in sports participation."
It gets even better! The I CAN Promise
encourages girls to say, "I can be myself, follow my dreams, and always do my best. I can reach for the stars, lend a hand to others, and be a good friend. I can make a difference! I promise to try." Girls Inc sounds like a wonderful
organization and American Girl a fantastic
Then the other shoe drops: Girls Inc. makes Advocacy Statements
on behalf of the Girls' Bill of Rights
. The content of these statements is a far cry from the traditional, wholesome "family values" which are the public face of their American Girl sponsors. Especially troubling are some of the positions espoused under the statement Girls have the right to accept and appreciate their bodies
. I agree wholeheartedly with their ideas about girls' health. After that, things get upsetting.
Regarding sexuality, Girls Inc. says, "To make responsible decisions about sexuality, pregnancy and parenthood, girls need and have a right to sensitive, truthful sexuality education; convenient access to safe, effective methods of contraception and protection from disease; and referral to comprehensive information, counseling, clinical and other services that support their responsible decisions."
In this section, abstinence receives no mention whatsoever, although a later section dealing with HIV/AIDS does suggest abstinence as the "best choice." Should a girl be inclined toward lesbian behavior, Girls Inc. states, "Girls have a right to positive, supportive environments and linkages to community resources for dealing with issues of sexual orientation."
The statement doesn't specifically say the word "abortion" but it's not hard to read between the lines in the section on reproductive freedom: "We recognize the right of all women to choose whether, when, and under what circumstances to bear children. Reproductive freedom and responsibility are essential to other rights and opportunities, including pursuit of education, employment, financial security and a stable and fulfilling family life. Restrictions of reproductive choice are especially burdensome for young women and poor women. Girls Incorporated supports a woman's freedom of choice, a constitutional right established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe vs. Wade." While Girls Inc. recognizes "that the family is the primary source of information about sex," in the section on sexuality, parental involvement is ignored when dealing with reproductive (abortion) issues.
There's more on the pages of Girls Inc., but what I've already outlined is enough to take away any desire I have to contribute to their programs, whether directly or indirectly through American Girl purchases. As much as I want my children to be "strong, smart, and bold," I don't want them made strong to resist God's Law, including His authority through their parents. I don't want them made smart in the ways of circumventing parental authority and creating climates ripe for sexual misbehavior. And I certainly don't want them made bold in the art of direct rebellion against parents or God.
Many of the individual ideas and goals espoused by Girls Inc. are positive and congruent with Biblical morality and a Christian lifestyle. They fit well under God's creation and preservation of human life, as detailed in the Small Catechism
and its explanations of the First Article of the Apostles' Creed and the Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer (see below). However, family, Church, and good friends known and monitored by the parents can teach and model these positives without also incorporating the unchristian, anti-biblical facets of the Girls' Bill of Rights and Girls Inc.'s support statements.
secular program, even without the baggage of Girls Inc., falls short of Christian parental involvement. "Sin" is an alien concept to such programs, as are moral absolutes coming from an omnipotent and holy God. True forgiveness and Gospel reconciliation likewise are lacking.
Parental responsibility for forming and norming the character of the children is replaced by loose guidance, equipping, and some version of allowing the children to "find themselves." Finding or becoming the "person within" means growing comfortable with the inborn sinful nature inherited from Adam. Our girls (and boys) are not "okay" in and of themselves: They, like their parents, are born without Christ and without hope. They carry the stain of sin throughout life. Even as forgiven children of God, the old sinful nature still is part of their beings
. They need their sins to be confronted and forgiven, not ignored, excused, encouraged, or explained away.
Nothing apart from the Holy Spirit working through Christ-centered, Law-and-Gospel practicing families and churches adequately ministers to the perplexities and problems of youth and adolescence. Even assuming that Christ is
the center of the family in all
circumstances (and due to our continuing sinfulness, we know this isn't the case) we've see all too many instances where the children rebel against God and godly parents. There's no way I favor giving the Old Adam in my children support in tearing them away from their Savior and leading them into lives contrary to His Father's will.
In a related note, Yahoo News carries an AP article
dealing with burgeoning protests against the American Girl - Girls Inc. relationship. It includes American Girl's disavowal of corporate responsibility, quoting a recent statement saying, "We are profoundly disappointed that certain groups have chosen to misconstrue American Girl's purely altruistic efforts and turn them into a broader political statement on issues that we, as a corporation, have no position."
So far, it sounds like American Girl is hearing but not listening.Catechism NotesThe First Article of the Apostles' Creed ("I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth"):What does this mean?
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.The Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer ("Give us this day our daily bread"):What is meant by daily bread?
Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.