By Dannah Gresh, Founder of True Girl
Dolls are great for creative play, but the kind of doll your plays with matters more than you might know. Here’s the deal—when our daughters play with cute, nonsexual dolls, they tend to let imaginative play loose. They role-play and create, giving muscle to their executive function. (That's the part of the brain the provides self-control and direction. It's good to build it up.)
But when our daughters play with dolls that have a more seductive or beauty-based nature, they tend to be more confined in their imaginative play. Their play generally leans toward “seduce the boy.”
Dr. Diane Levin says, “The more time a girl plays this way, the more she’ll focus on looks and coquettish behavior, and the less time she’ll spend doing the open-ended activities kids need. It puts her on a conveyor belt to early sexualization.”*
The American Psychological Association reported that, as an experiment, researchers gave some grade school-aged girls a sexualized doll, “Fashion” Barbie, then asked the children about their career aspirations. Girls who played with the Barbie doll had fewer goals than the girls who instead played with Mr. Potato Head, who has no sex appeal.
God’s Word says, “Do not imitate what is evil but what is good.” (3 John 1:11) I really think that dreaming of dressing like a Bratz doll and practicing “seduce the boy” falls into the category of “imitating evil.” The Bible encourages us to pursue the imitation of good. Healthy role-playing with age-appropriate dolls opens the doors for this.
This is why I've included American Girl dolls in one of my books. In Six Ways To Keep The Little in Your Girl, I did not endorse the brand per se, but included quotes from moms who stated that it was an age-appropriate line of dolls. That is, in many ways, very true. And for many moms, American Girl has been a last remaining vestige of age-appropriate toys for tween girls.
But they have shown themselves to be careless about inappropriate content for their target market. I will be removing them from my book in future editions. Why? American Girl has recently released a book titled "A Smart Girl's Guide: Body Image Book." The book normalizes being transgender, promotes the use of puberty blockers, and encourages free gender expression. Here are some samples of the content:
"If you haven't gone through puberty yet, the doctor might offer medicine to delay your body's changes, giving you more time to think about your gender identity."
"Being transgender isn't a medical transition. It's a process of learning to love yourself for who you are!"
"Parts of your body might make you feel uncomfortable, and you might want to change the way you look. That's totally Ok."
It is my conviction, after much research, that girls being targeted with this message are not old enough to read what is in this book without experiencing confusion. Even some transgender activists are saying "this is wrong!"
I have considered carefully before I wrote this article. So many times Christians are known for what they dislike or boycott. Our concerns are often communicated without compassion and love. I long to be a part of a Church that is known for sharing the love of Christ. If you choose to communicate your concern to American Girl, please thank them for what they have done well and respectfully communicate that you cannot support material that is harmful to young girls.
I believe this product from American Girl has potential for great harm in the lives of young girls. It is not just that it could introduce confusing ideas to girls who are not struggling with gender dysphoria, but those who are need the love and support of their parents. And this book directs them elsewhere. If you have a child who is struggling—and only a small minority will—you don't want her reading a book that encourages them to trust strangers more than you.
In the very chapter that I write about dolls in Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl, I also encourage moms to be prepared to use the harmful age-compression of retailers to model a life of conviction in front of their daughters. That includes considering these three things:
- Speak to corporate giants with your wallet. Don’t buy things that are not age-appropriate. Retailers only stock what consumers buy, and we can influence that if we stick together.
- It’s your job to teach values, not to stock toys. It’s your job to teach right and wrong. Any time a toy trumps value training, you’ve stopped doing your job. Let the lessons begin.
- Use the pressure to buy to show her she’s not alone. She’s going to feel alone about a lot of things. It’s just the life of being a tween. Show her that you are in the trenches of standing for what you believe.
If you are concerned, I encourage you to do these three things. And consider returning any American Girl merch that you have recently purchased. The company has a great return policy. After you return what you buy, it's possible to purchase similar dolls at significantly less. Use the remaining money to support organizations that are fighting for Truth on behalf of your daughter and ministering to her.
Need some ideas?
I've got a few for you. Here are some of my favorite ministries for tween girls. They could use your help as they seek to raise end-of-year support.
- American Heritage Girls , a character and leadership development program for girls of all ages
- GEMS clubs for tween girls
- For Girls Like You , a magazine for tween girls
- Brio , a magazine for teen girls
- True Girl, my mom+daughter connection ministry
Our True Girl theme verse:
"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31,32
Mom, the best way to teach your daughter to live like an authentic True Girl is to live like an authentic True Woman. And to do that, you've got to get your life lined up with the Truth of the Bible. Listen to Dannah Gresh every weekday on Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth's Revive Our Hearts podcast. The program features biblical teaching, interviews that offer godly advice, and other opportunities to abide in God's Word.
TRUE GIRL IS A MINISTRY OF PURE FREEDOM, A NON-PROFIT 501C3 THAT RELIES ON DONATIONS FROM FRIENDS LIKE YOU.
CONSIDER MAKING A GIFT TODAY.
*Cited in Deborah Swaney, “Fast Times: When Did 7 Become the New 16?” Family Circle, November 29, 2008, 48. ** https://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report?item=2