The first-ever boy doll to hit the American Girl toy line has outraged a pastor in North Carolina who says that amid conversations over gender identity and sexual orientation, gender-neutral toys encourage children to question the way God created them.
The Rev. Keith Ogden, who is a pastor at Hill Street Baptist Church in Asheville, N.C., said he heard about the boy doll earlier this week on a segment of “Good Morning America.”
He then sent a message to his parishioners titled “KILLING THE MINDS OF MALE BABIES.”
“This is nothing more than a trick of the enemy to (emasculate little boys) and confuse their role to become men,” he wrote in a statement, which he later sent to The Washington Post. “There are those in this world who want to alter God’s creation of the male and female. The devil wants to kill, steal and destroy the minds of our children and grandchildren by perverting, distorting and twisting to TRUTH of WHO GOD created them to be.”
The pastor also quoted from the scripture John 10:10, which states: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
American Girl, which has sold more than 29 million dolls since 1986, made the announcement Tuesday that it was unveiling a new series of characters “designed to speak to even more girls’ interests, backgrounds, and experiences.”
“The fresh approach,” it said, “gives voice to a diverse range of personalities and backgrounds and new ways for girls to connect with smart, compelling, and aspirational characters that they can relate to and love.”
The line will include an African American doll named Gabriela McBride, a Korean American named Z. Yang and a Native Hawaiian named Nanea Mitchell. It will also highlight Tenney Grant, a songwriter in Nashville — and her bandmate, Logan Everett.
“A boy character has been a top request from our fans for decades,” American Girl spokeswoman Julie Parks said in a statement. “We do an enormous amount of research with girls and their parents, and the one thing we’ve heard loud and clear is a desire for more — specifically more characters and stories from today — with more experiences, more diversity, and more interests. To answer that call, in 2017, we’re introducing more new contemporary characters than ever before — including our first-ever boy doll, Logan!
“These new characters, including two new historical characters, will help us give voice to a diverse range of personalities and speak to even more customers.”
But it’s one new character, Logan, that’s causing a stir — with people on the American Girl Facebook page expressing their excitement about the new toy.
“I just wanted to say HOW EXCITED I AM for the first EVER BOY AG doll!!!” one wrote. “And to make it even more exciting — he has my son’s name … almost EXACTLY! Can’t wait to bring one home!”
Parks said in the statement that “Logan, as Tenney’s bandmate and drummer, has a compelling storyline within the series and we believe many parents, girls and boys will be glad he joined the fold!”
When asked whether Logan was designed to be gender-neutral, an American Girl spokeswoman only said that he is meant to represent the Logan character from Tenney’s book series. That series, which will be written by author Kellen Hertz and published by Scholastic, “will inspire girls to share their authentic selves and find the courage to pursue their dreams,” the company said in a statement.
It’s not clear what will happen with Logan’s storyline.
On ABC’s “Good Morning America” this week, industry experts talked about the push to make toys such as the Easy-Bake Oven, LEGOs and Nerf guns more gender-neutral to appeal to both boys and girls.
They said that as gender roles continue to evolve, many parents believe that their children should be able to play with whichever toys they choose.
But that’s the idea that upset Ogden, the pastor in North Carolina. Ogden said he has no problem with boy dolls; he has a problem with gender-neutral dolls. He explained that Mattel’s Ken doll was designed for girls, to go along with Barbie. G.I. Joe, he said, was made for boys. But, he said, he worries about blurring the lines between them. Ogden believes that boys and girls should play with toys designed specifically for their gender.
“Anytime you take anything away from its original design or purpose, there is a possibility of perversion,” Ogden said in an interview with The Post.
He did not want to speak further because he said that since his statement to his congregation was reported in the local news media, he has been “bullied” by people calling him a “hatemonger and a bigot” for expressing “a Bible view of a world view.”
Ogden expressed frustration that he could not exercise his right of freedom of speech without being called out by “bombastic” liberals for his views.
“I’m just old-school,” he said. “That’s just the way I am.”