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Bratz Books Expelled from US School Book Suppliers
Scholastic to stop distributing 'sexualised' stories for young girls to schools

 

Alison Flood

Guardian

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 boas.

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 schools".

"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".
 

 

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