Bratz Books Expelled from US School Book Suppliers
Scholastic to stop distributing 'sexualised'
stories for young girls to schools
September 19, 2008
One of America's
largest distributors of books to schools has stopped
listing Bratz books, after a campaign from parents
saying the characters contributed to the sexualisation
of children. The Bratz books are a spin-off from MGA
Entertainment's line of Bratz dolls, which variously
wear miniskirts, fishnet stockings, bikinis and feather
Scholastic, which had included a selection of Bratz
books in catalogues of children's titles sent to schools
across America, claimed the decision was entirely
unconnected with the campaign, saying that book club
offerings "change all the time".
Scholastic acknowledged that they had received a
"couple of thousand" emails from concerned parents,
following an initiative spearheaded by the Campaign for
a Commercial-Free Childhood. More than 5,000 parents
emailed Scholastic last year to complain that it was
"marketing precocious sexuality to young girls in
"The Bratz are highly sexualised and they promote an
impossible anorexic body image to very young girls,"
said Susan Linn, psychiatry instructor at Harvard
Medical School and co-founder and director of the
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood coalition.
A report last year from the American Psychological
Association said that "the objectified sexuality
presented by these dolls … is limiting for adolescent
girls, and even more so for the very young girls who
represent the market for these dolls."
"We're not interested in banning books, " she
explained. "What we think is that there should not be
commercialism in schools, and that when schools market a
product to children it is particularly effective. First
because it's a captive market, and second because it
carries extra weight – even if children don't like
school, they know it's meant to be good for them. When a
school sends home a Scholastic flyer they are saying we
support this, and that's the issue for us."
She professed herself "delighted" with the news that
Scholastic was no longer selling the books in schools.
"It shows that if people work together to put pressure
on these companies they can make changes."
Scholastic rejected the suggestion that they had
responded to external pressure. "We didn't have [Bratz
titles] in our fairs last year, and they are not in our
clubs this year," they said. "There is a process we go
through to select titles and they change all the time …
There was a campaign in the US 18 months ago and we got
a couple of thousand scripted emails, as well as a lot
asking to keep the books. [But] we make our decisions
based on our editors."
Linn remained confident of the campaign's impact. "We
find companies often don't say [they've withdrawn
something] because of our campaign – it just happens to
happen after our campaign," she said.
Scholastic had previously defended the Bratz books,
saying they featured "strong, capable girl characters"
and were aimed at reluctant readers. It said it aimed to
offer reading materials "that appeal to children where
they are, not where we would like them to be".
In the UK, Scholastic's book club division is
currently selling two Bratz titles, the Bratz Fashion
Pixiez Carry Pack and the Bratz activity book. Group PR
director Alyx Price said that Scholastic UK's Bratz
titles were selected "responsibly from within the [Bratz]
range" by its expert buyers, in consultation with
teachers and librarians. "What we want to do is provide
a wide range of books," she said.
The CEO of MGA Entertainment, the company which makes
the Bratz dolls, suggested that the brand stands for
"passion, self-expression and the importance of
friendship" instead, and called for people to "focus on
the positive values that the Bratz brand represents".