Tuesday, June 26, 2012


 The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.
-Ayn Rand

I went to bed tonight with the words “Girl Power” echoing in my head. The day started with my daughter’s first of what will likely be many trips to American Girl in Chicago.  After my daughter picked out a doll that looked just like her and we changed them into matching dresses, we headed to the American Girl restaurant for tea. The doll had her own chair and place setting. I especially loved the box of thought provoking conversation starter questions on the table.  If you could own a store that sells something, what would you sell? If you could own a pound of anything excluding jewels, what would it be? Have you ever thought about running away? My 12- year old son quickly answered yes to this last question, followed up with “right now”. He was the only boy there.
Our day ended at the movie theater where my daughter and I saw the new Disney movie Brave as the guys watched  Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer in the theater next to us. In a departure from the princess finds her prince and lives happily ever after theme, Princess Merida defies an age old custom to marry. Her father’s kingdom will be split apart by war and her mother will be transformed into a beast unless she can find a way to undo a spell that she caused through her own selfishness. There is still a happy ending, but this time the princess is free to make her own path and find her own purpose.
I love the story line. Like any mom, I want to be a role model for my daughter to empower her to find her purpose, to create her own happy ending. There is much written about Girl Power. How can a term that has come to represent the third wave of feminism really originate from music by the Spice Girls? Is it the next phase of the female empowerment movement or is it an ideology based on consumerism as some critics claim?
According to the Oxford dictionary definition, Girl Power means: power exercised by girls; spec. a self-reliant attitude among girls and young women manifested in ambition, assertiveness and individualism. 

Maybe it is that and it happens to sell a lot of stuff. After all, American Girl's tag line is "follow your inner star". The company's mission statement is "celebrating girls and all they can be." A doll will set you back $100 without the accessories. Founded 26 years ago by a teacher, the brand has expanded beyond dolls to books, magazines and movies. Annual sales exceeded $350 million in 2003. I couldn't find recent sales figures, but based on the number of girls we saw walking on Michigan Avenue with a doll in hand, it is a lot more than that.

Before now, I didn't know there were "waves" of feminism. Apparently, the second wave between the 1960s and 1980s was criticized for assuming that women shared a universal identity. The current movement or third wave challenges stereotypes and media portrayals. It recognizes that I share different views and values than a woman raised in Afghanistan or a devout southern baptist or a someone with doctorate degree or a single girl in her twenties. Come to think of it, it was rather offensive that some people assumed I should like Sarah Palin just because she was a woman who found herself on the national political stage. Third wave is American Girls of every every hair, skin and eye color to the second wave's Barbie. Third wave is Merida. Second wave is not Cinderella. 

I leave you with these questions: Are you brave and what is your definition of an American Girl?

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