Thursday, September 18, 2008

No More Bratz in Canadian Schools

Remember book fair day? Book fair day was always a favourite of mine, even though my mother proclaimed Scholastic books 'overpriced' (I'm sure influenced by the fact that she worked in a bookstore) she would still allow me one pick. Reading is a healthy, important part of childhood development, and book fair day was the total embodiment of that. It helped make kids excited about reading. Perhaps other kids, ones who maybe couldn't afford books or who didn't like to read didn't share my excitement. But I'll put money on all of my readers here knowing exactly the feeling that I am talking about.

The feeling of book fair day was pure and beautiful. Having not been in a public school in so many years I had no idea that Scholastic was selling a line of Bratz Books. Scholastic defends its choice to sell the books in the past as they "...appealed to "reluctant readers" and [their] job was to "offer materials that appeal to children where they are, not where we would like them to be." Well, I can see where they are coming from. Some kids just don't have the passion to read, and maybe the books being about a topic they are interested in, Bratz, Spiderman, etc, will get them interested. Fair enough.


Thats where the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood stepped in. They determined that the Bratz series promoted "precocious sexuality". And I can't help but agree.

Why you say, would I be ok with Barbie, my homegirl, and not Bratz? Here's the answer to that: Barbie was an adult.

Barbie was an adult or at most a "teen model". Barbie gets to be all sorts of good things like a Doctor, Teacher, Fashion Model or Rock Star. Barbie is a mature adult, who is choosing to wear clothing that maybe is slightly inappropriate. Perhaps there have been editions of Barbie with a mini skirt, or an overly made up face. Yes, her boobs are unnaturally big. But the fact is, as a child, I knew that Barbie was an adult, and that I wasn't, and therefore what was OK for her wasn't for me. I know some people say that Barbie contributes to poor body image, but I can honestly say I never wanted to look like Barbie, or be Barbie. (Actually at that age I wanted to look like Annie Lennox.) I used her to explore all sorts of ideas I had in my head and I built her beautiful apartments made of Lego, thus expanding my creative design skills. Barbie was an outlet for fantasy, a way to explore what I could have or be someday.

Bratz, on the other hand are doll-children who are sexualized to look like adults. They are characterized by large heads with wide eyes and full lips. Don't take my word for it though, ask the American Psychological Association:

"Bratz dolls come dressed in sexualized clothing such as miniskirts, fishnet stockings, and feather boas. Although these dolls may present no more sexualization of girls or women than is seen in MTV videos, it is worrisome when dolls designed specifically for 4- to 8-year-olds are associated with an objectified adult sexuality"
– Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls

According to the New Yorker, the dolls look as if they, "[have] undergone successive rounds of plastic surgery," and "have large heads and skinny bodies; their almond-shaped eyes are tilted upward at the edges and adorned with thick crescents of eyeshadow, and their lips are lush and pillowy, glossed to a candy-apple sheen and rimmed with dark lip liner. They look like pole dancers on their way to work at a gentlemen's club." Even Barbie is a classier act than that.

And so I say a fond farewell to the Bratz books series on Book Fair Day. Here's hoping the 4-6 year old girls pick up something a little better for their minds:


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