Opinion | For American Girls, Many Meanings


To the Editor:

Re “What It Means to Raise an American Girl Now,” by Jessica Grose (Opinion, July 15):

As a doting grandmother who happens to be a second-wave feminist, I took my two granddaughters to the American Girl store on Fifth Avenue.

I did not see any dolls modeled on Rosie the Riveter, as suggested by the art with the essay, but rather an exhibition of consumerism that once defined women in pre-feminist America and, above all, prepared little girls to spend their lives shopping, lunching and getting their hair done.

The store did offer books on historic themes, housed in a corner downstairs, but the action was upstairs, where dozens of expensive, beguiling outfits were offered for the dolls, which are now priced at more than $100. Matching outfits for children were sold.

We had reservations for a pricey lunch or tea in the dining room, which accommodated mothers, grandmothers, girls and their dolls; food was negligible, but place settings were adorable.

Although dolls are now available in several skin tones, everyone I saw was clearly privileged, white and upper middle class. A visit to the store could easily cost several hundred dollars or more. The message was that women should spend their time shopping, lunching and getting their hair done while men (none were in sight) run the world.

At this moment, when Roe v. Wade has just been overturned, we need to encourage girls to fight for their autonomy so they can help save our planet and our fading democracy and ensure that values of truth and justice endure. Shopping can wait.

Ann Shapiro
New York

To the Editor:

Mattel named its 2020 American Girl Doll of the Year Joss Kendrick, and she embraced the “can-do” attitude that Jessica Grose cited in her Opinion piece. Ten-year-old Joss, who is completely deaf in one ear and wears a hearing aid in the other, is a surfer and a cheerleader.

Joss can be an important role model for children with disabilities, as well as an example from whom kids without disabilities can learn to accept and befriend children with different strengths.

Jon Taylor
New York
The writer is vice president of the Hearing Loss Association of America’s New York City chapter.

To the Editor:

When I was growing up in the 1950s, the “American Girl” doll was a Toni doll, which was inspired by the Toni permanent wave products of the time. My Toni doll had brown hair and an extensive wardrobe of elegant clothes.

When my friends and I played house, she was always in the kitchen cooking, like Harriet Nelson in the television sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” or she was going shopping or cleaning up the mess in the living room.

My Toni doll was also feminine in the old sense of the word, and unlike some movies that later came out about the stifling circumstances of the time, she enjoyed being a girl. Of course, I’m proud of the advances women have made since then, but I don’t regret my coming-of-age as an American girl in the ’50s.

Mimi Pockross
Vail, Colo.

To the Editor:

Much anguish has been expressed over the implications of indicting Donald Trump over his attempted coup.

The real question should be this: If indicting Mr. Trump for his plot against the Constitution is too risky, then what would qualify? It’s hard to imagine what greater crime he could have committed.

If he cannot or should not be charged with that crime, then we have a king, not a president.

Orin Hollander
Jamison, Pa.

To the Editor:

Americans love sports for a reason. In sports, the nation’s fittest, most disciplined people give everything they’ve got to win. What they almost never do, however, is violate the rules and norms that make the game’s continuation possible.

When Tom Brady was accused of deflating a football to gain advantage, the response was outrage because every sports fan understands the importance of rules and norms, adding to the difficulties by which we measure a player’s skill. No one cares more about victory than athletes. They dedicate their lives to training and study, but when they lose, they hold their heads up, study, train harder and return to play again.

In politics, winning apparently means even more, including the overthrow of rules and norms. If the public thought referees were corrupt, they would stop coming to athletic events. In politics, however, all players are to some degree bought by the necessity to win money to support their campaigns, and money distorts the playing field.

Trumpism’s violations of rules and norms are endangering our nation and culture. Without respect for both we teeter on the verge of ending the game we call America.

Peter Coyote
Sebastopol, Calif.
The writer is the actor.

To the Editor:

Re “The Vice President Is Stuck,” by Jeffrey Frank (Opinion guest essay, July 27):

I could not agree more with Mr. Frank’s essay regarding the lack of opportunities for leadership and growth for Vice President Kamala Harris. It is a lost opportunity and one that will have serious consequences for both our country and the Democratic Party.

It makes no sense for President Biden to even consider running again considering his age, 79. I believe there is still adequate time to involve Vice President Harris in many important issues and stop using her as a political pawn. I hope to see wise changes coming from the White House.

Mary Helen Sandoval
Denver

To the Editor:

Kamala Harris might be a symptom of what is wrong with the Democratic leadership in general.

President Biden seems uninterested in training her to be ready to step into the presidency should he be unfit for any reason. But might this be because he hopes to run again and doesn’t want to enhance her credentials only for her to challenge him as the Democratic nominee?

Too many of our Democratic leaders are aged — Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden — and too few of these leaders seem willing to let the next, younger generation step into leadership positions.

Having been the head of an organization myself, I understand how important it is to mentor younger colleagues to replace me. Why can’t these Democrats do the same?

James Berkman
Plymouth, Vt.

To the Editor:

Re “Irish Eyes Aren’t Smiling at Us” (column, July 17):

The only thing to add to Maureen Dowd’s superb assessment of a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy is the advice of Spike Milligan, the British-Irish writer and comedian: “Contraceptives should be used on every conceivable occasion.”

Robert F. Lyons
Kennebunk, Maine



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