Parents push to
boot Bratz books from Scholastic fairs
Byline: Sarah Schmidt
February 28, 2007
CanWest News Service
OTTAWA - The decision by Canadian schools to sell
books featuring the popular but controversial Bratz
dolls is drawing fire from psychologists and
parents, who want them pulled from school book clubs
The group is targeting Scholastic Inc., North
America's largest operator of school-based book
clubs and fairs, which sells a line of Bratz books
at discount prices at schools across the country
through its Canadian subsidiary.
The books, including Lil' Bratz Dancin' Divas and
Lil' Bratz Catwalk Cuties, are a spinoff of MGA
Entertainment Inc.'s top-selling fashion doll
notable for her skimpy wardrobe of miniskirts,
high-heel boots and feather boas.
The group says the books promote "precocious
sexuality" and shouldn't be marketed to a captive
audience of impressionable young girls at school.
"I'm sending my daughter to school with $10 and she
sees a whole shelf of Bratz books at the book fair.
We're asking Scholastic to come to our schools to
promote educational materials and they're promoting
a book about dancing divas. What six-year-old needs
to know what a diva is?" said Wendy Boyko, an
Edmonton parent of a first grader.
"As a parent, if you want to go to stores and buy
this for your kid, you can, but this is school. It's
not the place."
Boyko has put her name to a new petition launched by
Harvard University's Campaign for a Commercial-Free
Childhood, asking Scholastic Inc. to stop selling
Bratz books through its school-based book fairs and
student catalogues distributed at schools.
Scholastic Canada's licensing deal with MGA Canada
to market the Bratz books in its school flyers and
sell them at book fairs came into effect last month
and is set to expire at the end of 2008. Schools
that distribute the Scholastic catalogues and host
the book fairs receive a share of profits from
Last year, the Harvard group teamed up with the
organization Dads and Daughters to stop Hasbro Inc.
from producing a line of dolls designed for four- to
eight-year-olds based on the Pussycat Dolls, a
burlesque troupe known for their revealing clothing
and sexualized song lyrics.
Susan Linn, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School
and co-founder of the campaign, is hoping for the
same outcome with the Bratz-Scholastic initiative.
"Any product marketed in the school carries that
school's endorsement. That's one of the reasons
marketers like to market in schools. They have a
captive audience of kids."
The author of Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover
of Childhood, added, "Commercially driven sexual
stereotypes have no place in schools. By joining
with Scholastic to market the Bratz brand, schools
are undermining their own efforts to educate girls
to nurture themselves and nurture their own academic
Linn's message is bolstered by a new report of
American Psychological Association's Task Force on
the Sexualization of Girls, which singles out the
"The objectified sexuality presented by these dolls,
as opposed to the healthy sexuality that develops as
a normal part of adolescence, is limiting for
adolescent girls, and even more so for the very
young girls who represent the market for these
dolls," the task force report notes.
Scholastic and MGA stand by their partnership - and
the Bratz brand.
Kyle Good, Scholastic's vice-president of corporate
communication, said the company's mission is to get
kids reading. "To do that, we offer materials that
appeal to children where they are, not where we
would like them to be. This is particularly true for
Besides, she said, the books feature "strong,
capable girl characters . . . They are popular with
girls because they speak to them in a voice that
reflects their real world while encouraging
Bratz dolls, with their trademarked slogan "the only
girls with a passion for fashion," have overtaken
Barbie as the most popular fashion-themed doll in
the United States. In Canada, the Bratz brand is
gaining rapidly in market share; it has branched out
from the dolls to a Bratz TV series, DVDs,
accessories, clothing, and laptop computers.
The Bratz books "communicate the same positive,
empowering messages about friendship, teamwork and
self-confidence that the Bratz characters inspire
and foster," said Diane Goveia-Gordon, president of
Martha Zimmerman doesn't buy it. The London, Ont.,
mother of two wants the Bratz books pulled from
schools. She says the characters are terrible role
models for both her son in Grade 3, and daughter in
"They're so sexual with the pouting lips and the
clothes," said Zimmerman. "Bratz is just another
word for tramps. I just don't want that influence or
image for my daughter especially, but for my son,
too. I don't want him to look at girls like that."
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