Beth Walton, USA Today
The Rev. Keith Ogden of Hill Street Baptist Church sent a message to more than 100 of his supporters and parishioners Wednesday titled, “KILLING THE MINDS OF MALE BABIES.”
Ogden invoked Scripture as he criticized the American Girl company for its debut of Logan Everett, a drummer boy doll, who performs alongside Tenney Grant, a girl doll with a flair for country western music.
Logan is the lone boy among American Girl’s vast cast of characters, and the company sees him as both a.way to please longtime fans as well as a new addition who will appeal to a broader audience.
“This is nothing more than a trick of the enemy to emasculate little boys and confuse their role to become men,” the minister said in the e-mailed statement he sent at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday after watching a segment about American Girl on Good Morning America.
Ogden has been influential in Asheville’s community, often speaking publicly about race and policing, violence in low-income communities and his opposition to same-sex marriage.
In June he announced he would soon leave Buncombe County due to his wife’s health concerns. He said Wednesday he still doesn’t know when he will depart; he is still trying to sell his house.
In the meantime, Ogden has no plans to stay quiet. As long as he is still living in Western North Carolina, the preacher said he will speak up when he feels it is necessary. On Wednesday, his outrage was sparked by a child’s toy.
“There are those in this world who want to alter God’s creation of the male and female,” he wrote. “The devil wants to kill, steal and destroy the minds of our children and grandchildren by perverting, distorting and twisting (the) truth of who God created them to be.”
Later that morning Ogden told the Asheville Citizen-Times that he doesn’t think that boys should play with dolls, that he thinks American Girl’s move will confuse children.
“Now you are going to have little boys playing with baby dolls, and that’s not cool,” he said. “We need to get back to our old values and morals.”
Ogden said churches need to stand up and speak truth to power as the community wrestles with gender identity and changing values, especially as it relates to youth programming and activities. The Boy Scouts of America, last month, for example, announced that it will allow transgender children to enroll in scouting programs.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” Ogden said. “It’s not natural for a boy to act like a girl. It’s not natural for a girl to want to be a boy. You’ve got the government and people who placate this mess instead of telling little boys they can’t change their biology.”
American Girl, however, says it’s just meeting customer demands and expanding its market.
“A boy character has been a top request from our fans for decades,” said spokeswoman Stephanie Spanos, adding that along with two new historical characters the toy line this year will introduce more dolls with modern story lines than at any time in its 31-year history.
“We’re hopeful Logan will appeal to both girls and boys,” she said. “For boys, we know Logan can speak directly to them and give them something unique and special to call their own.”
The brown-haired, gray-eyed Logan doll is 18 inches tall, and has a set of drums to accompany Tenney.
Mattel, which owns American Girl, saw its sales surge last year following its introduction of a more diverse doll selection.
Its Barbie Fashionista line veers from the blond, thin Barbie-of-old to include three new body types along with an array of skin tones and hairstyles.
American Girl’s “TrulyMe’’ doll line offers more than 40 combinations of complexions, eye tints and hair colors. And in a bid to speak to and about children dealing with disabilities or chronic illnesses, American Girl’s doll accessories include a wheelchair and diabetes care kit.
The YWCA of Asheville, which works to empower women and eliminate racism, operates child care programs that serve children from infants through school age throughout Buncombe County. Though it does not have any specific programming or initiatives that address gender roles or gender neutral clothing or toys, it said American Girl’s move was in line with progress.
“At the YWCA, we encourage play that helps all children explore what it means to be human and to accept each other’s differences,” CEO Beth Maczka said. “We are happy to see dolls that celebrate diversity and represent different races, abilities, body types and genders.”
Charisse Jones of USA TODAY contributed to this report.