Posted by : Wendy B Saturday, 30 October 2010

Good afternoon.
 
We just received your [Maplelea Girl] catalogue. I was initially quite excited at the concept, since my friend's daughter has an American Girl doll and I was considering getting one for my daughters. I like the idea of my girls having dolls that represented themselves and their culture, society and lifestyles.
 
Unfortunately, as I looked through your catalogue, I became more and more disappointed by both the selection of dolls and the images of the girls holding them. Neither was an accurate reflection of my daughters.
 
I appreciate the desire to shift girls away from "diva" type dolls with the poor body image and social expectations, however, I would like to see more dolls that girls like my daughters truly see themselves reflected in.
 
Fortunately, I did read your FAQ before sending this email, and I appreciate your logic behind the choices you have made thus far. I look forward to future dolls that further represent the many wonderful cultures that have come together to make Canada what it is.
 
Thank you for your time.
 
Yeeeeeah so I initially started this as an angry letter, but I did read their FAQ and they have clearly anticipated the concerns regarding multiculturalism:

10. How did you choose the ethnic/cultural background of the Maplelea Girls?
Considerable research was done to create the first four Maplelea Girls. At first blush, one might assume that our four initial dolls should represent four different racial groups. But, when we looked at Statistics Canada data to learn that 13.4% of Canada’s population considered themselves to be visible minorities, economics quickly came into play. As a very small company taking on a very large task we had to ask ourselves whether it would be economically viable to have 75% of our initial characters represent 13.4% of our market. [angry! but! dammit! logic!]

...

We are now actively working on the development of the sixth Maplelea Girl. We are using suggestions that we have received from the public, as well as our own research and creativity, to determine the background, interests, personality and physical appearance of this new Maplelea Girl. If you would like to provide input for future Maplelea Girls we encourage you to write to us. management@avonlea-traditions.com. [what the.. you want my input??]

Our plan is to introduce a new Maplelea Girl character every few years. As we do, we will be able to represent more of Canada’s diversity, remembering that diversity refers to a wide range of factors including, but not limited to, heritage, colour of skin, interests, family composition, home province/territory, personality, passions, etc. [hmph. more logic!]

Alexi is a Maplelea Girl who is a visible minority and many people have speculated as to what her family heritage might be—Native, Muslim, Hispanic, Italian, Trinidadian, South Asian, etc. etc. Some have also suggested that she is of mixed heritage. We say they are all correct. You see, in Alexi’s journal she talks about many things—her friends, her family, her interests, the diversity of Toronto (her hometown), but she never mentions her ethnic background. That is because we want the real girl who befriends Alexi to decide for herself what Alexi’s background is. In Alexi’s journals there is also no mention of any specific religious or cultural celebrations, for the same reason.

We wanted geographic diversity in our dolls. For Brianne who lives on a farm in Sandy Lake, Manitoba, it was very likely that she would have a Ukrainian heritage, so that’s what we gave her. For Jenna who lives in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, we gave her Scottish and German heritage, which is common in that area of Canada. For Taryn, from Banff, Alberta, we gave her Caucasian features but left out any mention of her cultural or religious background. That way, the real girl could create Taryn’s background. And for Alexi, who lives in Toronto where 42% of the population considers itself to be part of a visible minority, darker skin, hair and eye colour seemed the right thing to do. Thus, there are two dolls for which ethnic and cultural backgrounds are left open to a girl’s imagination.

We don’t have precise data on the cultural and ethnic make-up of who is buying our dolls. However, we have met a number of our customers and we know that there are girls of all colours who have Maplelea Girls, and they are not always choosing a doll that looks like them. Each of our five characters, like all real girls, are a whole package of interests, personality traits, preferences, family situation and physical features. With over two million girls in Canada in our target group, it is impossible to create a doll that perfectly mirrors every girl. Then again, these dolls are not meant to be mirrors; they are meant to be friends and most girls are not choosing their friends based on the colour of their skin or their hair. A South Asian girl who likes soccer might choose red-headed Jenna because of their shared interest in that sport; a red-head might choose blonde Brianne because she, too, lives in a single parent family; a light-skinned girl might choose dark-skinned Alexi because she shares her passion for inventing and all things technological, etc. [well, Alexi isn't dark-skinned... but okay. fine. sheepish acceptance complete.]

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