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From American Girls into American Women

A Discussion of American Girl Doll Nostalgia

Molly Brookfield

The American Girl brand of historical dolls and books celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2011. The girls who first played with American Girl dolls in the 1980s and 1990s are now grown women; their nostalgia for the brand is passionate and complicated, and reminiscences from nineteen such women are the focus of this study. Their nostalgic responses are thoughtful and reflective, at turns unabashedly admiring and astutely critical. The women fondly recall American Girl whilst simultaneously criticizing the company for its consumerism and its representations of American history and American girlhood. Their memories show how nostalgia can be ambivalent and contradictory, and how adults can use childhood nostalgia to reinforce and construct identity narratives.

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Living in a hybrid material world

Girls, ethnicity and mediated doll products

Angharad N. Valdivia

Drawing on a theoretical framework that combines Media Studies, Latina/o Studies, and Girls Studies with the concept of hybridity, I explore American Girl, Dora the Explorer, and Bratz—three mediated doll lines—as manifestations of an ethnic identity crisis that in turns generates a moral panic that seeks to return whiteness and conventional femininity to its normalized mainstream standing. Issues of production, representation, and reception of mediated doll lines illuminate both a synergistic marketing strategy and a contested reception of hybrid mediated dolls. As such, mediated doll lines can be productively examined as they are an excellent vehicle for understanding contemporary agendas over gender, age, class, and ethnicity.

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Sami Schalk

operates in the contemporary fictional books and doll accessories of the American Girl brand through the combined gendered discourses of education, empowerment, and national identity. I argue that disability’s inclusion in the brand is a means of touting

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The Doll “InbeTween”

Online Doll Videos and the Intertextuality of Tween Girl Culture

Jessica E. Johnston

Like many tweens in the late 1990s, I played with American Girl dolls. At the time, I would never have imagined that some years later girls would be filming and uploading videos to YouTube of their dolls dancing to Taylor Swift, sledding in the snow

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Where to from Here?

Emerging Conversations on Girls’ Literature and Girlhood

Dawn Sardella-Ayres and Ashley N. Reese

without any clear theoretical foundation or discernible methodological approach. 4 We discovered our most useful definition of girls’ literature and the North American girl's bildungsroman in Kimberley Reynolds's Children's Literature: A Very Short

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Girl Constructed in Two Nonfiction Texts

Sexual Subject? Desired Object?

Mary Ann Harlan

Landscape (hereafter Girls and Sex) and Nancy Jo Sales’s American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Life of Teenagers (hereafter American Girls) were published. These texts received media attention ( Gross 2016a ; Gross 2016b ; Holbrook 2016 ; Levy 2016

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Making It Up

Intergenerational Activism and the Ethics of Empowering Girls

Emily Bent

ethical implications of “our obsession with the exceptional girl” ( Brown 2016: 6 ). Drawing on a decade of involvement with girl-activists and colleagues at the UN, I explore the spectacular environment under which North American girls experience (dis

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Consuming Girlhood

Young Women, Femininities, and American Girl

Elizabeth Marshall

This article offers a textual analysis of how the American Girl corporation markets and sells particular ideas about girlhood to its consumers. Focusing on the historical fictions, catalogues, and website, the author discusses the ways in which the corporation brands girlhood as a set of ideas to purchase. This reading of the American Girl texts is supported with data from a semi-structured interview with eight undergraduate women enrolled in a pre-service education course who read and played with American Girl materials as children. Young women who intend to work as elementary school teachers offer a unique demographic for theorizing American Girl and its role in the everyday lives of girls. The author concludes that for the young women in this study, American Girl materials offered salient lessons in girlhood consumption.

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Possessed by Silence

Cotton Mather, Mercy Short, and the Origin of America's Mean Girls

LuElla D'Amico

In 1692, the Salem witch trials introduced perhaps the most famous early American girls-girls notoriously lambasted for instigating the death of twenty people. During that same year, Cotton Mather published Ornaments for the Daughters of Zion (hereafter referred to as Ornaments) and A Brand Pluck'd Out of the Burning (hereafter referred to as Brand). Ornaments served as a moral guidebook for Puritan girls to follow, while Brand details the possession of Mercy Short, an adolescent not directly involved with the witch trials but whose story represents the most thorough recorded account of possession that we have. These two works document the pressure exerted on colonial girls to remain silent, and help to reveal how possession gave them an outlet for the expression of their feelings. In examining them, it becomes possible to ascertain how the Puritan roots of girls' coerced silence and repressed aggression have endured into contemporary America.

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Alpha Girls and Cheerleading

Negotiating New Discourses with Old Practices

Natalie Guice Adams and Pamela J. Bettis

In Alpha Girls: Understanding the New American Girl and How She is Changing the World, psychologist Dan Kindlon (2006) claims that the new psychology of girls has produced a dramatically different kind of girl from her 1990s girl-in-crisis predecessor. He proposes that this new type of girl is a hybrid, personifying the best traits of masculinity and femininity. The Alpha Girl represents a new form of girlhood in which girls are seen as the economic, social, and cultural winners in the twenty first century because they are risk takers, competitive, and collaborative. How does cheerleading, one of the most female-identified and sexualized cultures of adolescent life, coexist with this seemingly new discourse of empowering girlhood? We argue that cheerleading provides a rich space for Girls Studies scholars to analyze how modes of femininity play out in the social practices that girls themselves deem important.