Friday, October 2, 2009


Just when I thought my fan club had a limited membership, I opened my e-mail and found a letter from the American Girl Company.

Before I read their letter I just knew it was an apology. The perspective of a Minnesotan who lives in a town of 13,000 had shown them the error of their ways. Instead I read:

Dear Prof. Harris,

Since I know you’ve been following the American Girl issue I wanted to pass along an updated statement from the company and their partner HomeAid America, a leading national nonprofit provider of housing for today's homeless, is proud of its ongoing partnership with American Girl. Since 2006, we have worked with American Girl on HomeAid's Project Playhouse™, an annual key fundraising event that raises money and awareness for the organization's shelter development program.

As one of our signature partners, American Girl has demonstrated a high-level of commitment and passion to help us with our mission to build dignified housing where homeless families and individuals can rebuild their lives. We are pleased to continue our relationship with American Girl and look forward to our next fundraising project with them.

Jeffrey A. Slavin


HomeAid America, Inc.


So, do American Girl and HomeAid America make compelling arguments, or is Project Playhouse,™ a band aid on a scar called Gwen, that isn’t healing homelessness?


Alexa said...

I suppose it depends how much money they make from the dolls and how much of that they donate. If it's 100%, great. If it's 10%, I'll give the $95 directly to a local shelter. What about the harder to track profits from accessories bought after the fact?

musingsonspaceandplace said...

If we consider “band aid” as suggesting that ProjectPlayhouse makes American Girl consumers feel better about the way in which they spend their money … probably so.

However, there is an deeper ideology that I find more troubling than efforts that the privileged make to soothe their conscience. American Girl is promoting the assumption that homelessness exists a priori to individual experience and by default in our society. This is a large part of why Sunshine House in Gwen’s story and fundraisers with Project Playhouse can be so successful.

While I am not downplaying this type of social action in helping the poor, I am concerned that products such as Gwen and their convergence with fundraising “band aids” stifle a conversation that increasingly needs to take place in our society. This conversation is about personal responsibility and where we are located in a capitalist system that creates homelessness. Homelessness does not just exist – no, it fuels the competitive market of supply and demand that provides many with the privilege of being able to afford these dolls.


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