Trash the plastic slappers

 

Jill Parkin
Courier Mail (Australia)

3/20/07

SO THIS is the end product - little girls dressed as sex bait.

This is what the manufacturer of one of the most successful children's toys ever is really turning out.

It's an intelligent parent's nightmare and a pervert's dream. Bratz are childlike dolls all big eyes and big heads packaged as hookers. They have pouting lips, bare midriffs, plunging tops, tiny skirts and skimpy lingerie in black and pink.

The dolls look like tarts and you can buy the clothes to make your little girl look just the same at any number of fashion outlets. Who would want to do that? Well, apparently lots of people would. Department stores aren't known for stocking stuff that no one will want to buy.

And these pictures show just how easy it is to find sexualised children's fashion in the stores.

What are they thinking of, these mothers who turn their little girls into sex kittens?

They're certainly not thinking of them as children. And they're not thinking of the danger emotional and physical to which they are exposing their daughters.

As for who would buy the dolls, well, Bratz outsells Barbie by two to one and has about 40 per cent of the $250 million-a-year UK doll market.

When my daughters (now 14 and 11) were at the doll stage, I loathed the then-popular Barbie. She was vain and emptyheaded everything I didn't want my girls to be. Any Barbie that crossed our threshold came to an accidental but murderous end.

I didn't rage, because that would have made her more appealing, but I conspired with my daughters to mock her until the day she met her unlamented end by chance melted on the stove, thrown out with the rubbish or abandoned somewhere.

I never realised what mild stuff she was until I came across the trash marketed by UK Bratz distributor Vivid Imagination. Frankly, Bratz dolls make Barbie look like a Brownie.

MGA Entertainment, the family owned California firm that launched Bratz in June 2001, earns about $4 billion a year from the slapper dolls and their accessories.

And where one manufacturer fishes successfully, others will follow, no matter how dirty the water.

In 2005, Asda was condemned by child welfare groups for marketing black lacy underwear to nine-year-old girls. In 2003, Bhs was forced to withdraw its Little Miss Naughty range which included thongs and padded bras and was aimed at under-tens after campaigners called for a boycott of the store. It beggars belief that such stuff push-up bras and high heels ever make the shelves.

Who were these designers and marketeers who sat around the table cold-bloodedly sexualising little girls for profit?

The message sent out by Bratz and other porny paraphernalia is that little girls must look like this or be worthless. The message it sends out to adolescent boys and perverted men is that these aren't children but knowing child-women, somehow up for it and dressed for it.

We live in an age that likes to appear cynical.

If you object that certain products demean girls and women, well, you are considered a prude.

But it needs to be said, because simply saying "So what?" is costing the childhood of a generation.

There's a five-year-old I see in the school playground, clutching her rabbit pencil case.

Bugs Bunny or Peter Rabbit? No, Playboy.

Every day, this child carries her crayons and felt tips in a case with the symbol of a pornography empire that has now become so entrenched in our society that you can buy it on the children's shelves. Her big sister, who is just old enough to tell the time, has a Playboy watch.

So what? An unhappy childhood, that's what.

These children can never be good enough because there's always another image to live up to just as there's always another slut-doll to buy. At the shops on a Saturday, you can see children wearing make-up, children who have spent ages straightening their hair, children wearing T-shirts with provocative slogans. Hardly signs of self-esteem and happiness.

Last month, the American Psychological Association issued a warning about Bratz dolls.

"It is worrisome when dolls designed specifically for four to eight-year-olds are associated with an objectified adult sexuality," APA said.

The same month, a Unicef study concluded that British children were the unhappiest and unhealthiest of their age group in the developed world. Only this week, the charity Child-Line reported that one in six of some 6000 calls from youngsters to the helpline about mental health problems came from girls who talked about suicide. Some of them were only five years old. It's ironic that our children, on whom we spend more than ever, should be feeling so sad.

Children spend much more time alone often isolated in their bedrooms than they used to.

The space that parents once occupied in their lives is now filled with products and, of course, with computer screens that link them to advertisers and other predators.

We need to get back into our children's lives and elbow the creeps out. All the cards are in our parental hands, just as the money is in our wallets. Parent power is bigger than pester power.

We can see Bratz off, just as we can see off all the sexy stuff that is appearing on hangers in the children's departments.

All we have to do is not buy it.

"They represent all that little girls want to be," say the makers of the Bratz dolls.

No, they don't. It's up to us to tell our little girls that they can be much, much more than that. We can do that by companionship and conversation, by having family meals and family outings that don't involve the shopping mall.

Happy children don't look like plastic slappers.

Do your daughter a favour: bin her Bratz today.

 


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