Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Corporate Tentacles

Julie D. at Happy Catholic linked to this article at De Civitate Dei who links with this MSNBC news article.

Mattel Inc. bought American Girl Dolls and also sponsors a club called Girls Inc. According to the news article Girls Inc. "Girls Inc. offers a wide range of programs and resources to help educate and encourage girls in everything from science to health. That includes information about abortion and contraception along with sexual abstinence. The organization also affirms lesbian sexual orientation."


DD#1 & DD#2 currently own three American Girl dolls: Felicity, Josefina, and Kit. Between them, they have almost all of the books about the historical dolls and quite a few of the craft kits and advice books. DD#2 subscribes to American Girl Magazine. I read AG and I've found nothing offensive in it. There are maybe too many articles about "boyfriends" and boy-girl relationship issues, especially considering the target age is 12-15, but the advice concerning girlfriends (the "best friend" issue) and parents is pretty solid.

And I really like the fact that Mattel hasn't over-comercialized the American Girl doll line. When Pleasant Howard founded the company, her goal was to keep girls playing with dolls longer--and not Barbies or Bratz or similar types. My mother bought Kit for DD#2 because Kit's era is the 1930's and provides DD#2 an insight into what my mother's childhood was like. (Besides, Kit looks like both of them!) This is an important connection for the two of them.

Girls, Inc. does have a lot of good programs for young girls, especially in urban areas.


Several of my cousins are deep into Social Justice. When one of them had to buy a refrigerator, she looked at the corporate business policies as well as energy efficiency. I know women who won't go to Curves because the founder contributes to pro-life and Fundamentalist Christian causes. According to CAIR, the President of Starbucks is anti-Muslim, based on some remarks he has made about the Arab-Israeli conflict over the years.

I can't win.

Somebody's fingers are always in somebody's pie that includes something I don't like. If it was one of my kids eating a salad, I'd say "Pick out the stuff you don't like." But I can't. And I don't even want to begin to think about what kinds of stuff the Presidents and CEOs of the corporations that my retirement plan holds stock in are up to. (Awkward sentence--I hope it makes sense!)

There is a company that advertises on BART called "BuyBlue." They claim to invest only in companies that match a "progressive" agenda. I wonder who the heck that is? And if a "progressive" company is bought by a non-progressive company (a "red" company?), then do they immediately divest all their customers' stock? Can they do that without violating fiduciary trust?

How much of Mattel's support of Girls, Inc. is to improve their corporate identity (and counteract the effects of Barbie on girls' self-image) and how much of it is what the Board truly believes?