Scholastic VP responds to distribution of Bratz books in schools
Marketing the Sexualization of Young Girls
One of the most recent calls for action by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has encouraged concerned parents to tell Scholastic to stop distributing Bratz books in schools through their Book Clubs and School Book Fairs.
A recent report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls had drawn attention to the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls’ self-image and healthy development. This report explores the cognitive and emotional consequences, consequences for mental and physical health, and impact on development of a healthy sexual self-image. (Click here to read the report)
Books of The Bratz – a line of highly sexualized dolls for girls as young as four are – being marketed in schools by Scholastic, Inc. Scholastic promotes Bratz through its book fairs and book clubs, selling titles such as Lil’ Bratz Dancin Divas; Lil’ Bratz Catwalk Cuties; and Lil’ Bratz Beauty Sleepover Bash to a captive audience of young students.
Kyle Good, Vice President at Scholastic, has sent a prompt response to one concerned parent’s request to reconsider their distribution in schools:
Dear Ms. Wildfield,
I received your email regarding the Bratz brand, and I am happy to have an opportunity to respond. Scholastic does not distribute the dolls which were mentioned in your letter, but we do distribute [their] books for grades 3 through 6 in our Book Clubs and through our elementary and middle School Book Fairs. These books, which feature strong, capable girl characters, were designed to carry messages of friendship, loyalty, and contributing to the community. They are popular with girls because they speak to them in a voice that reflects their real world while encouraging kindness.
Our mission at Scholastic is to get ALL kids reading — and to keep them reading. To do that, we offer reading materials that appeal to children where they are, not where we would like them to be. This is particularly true for reluctant readers. Books such as the Bratz chapter books help developing readers build greater fluency, a critical skill for grades 3 and up.
We recognize that not every book is right for every young person. The children in our nation’s classrooms come from widely divergent cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds. That is why we encourage parents and teachers to take an active role in children’s reading choices. We want them to help in the selection process so that a child will not select a book that is contrary to her or his family or community values.
We care deeply about our young readers. Part of our mission to encourage children to read is fulfilled by making available a wide array of titles for children to choose from. It is a very small slice of the kind of reading choices we hope a child will enjoy as she or he proceeds to chart a path of preferences, interests, and deep satisfactions that will lead to a lifetime of reading.
Vice President, Scholastic
From: Sienna Wildfield
Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2007
To: Mr. Robinson (Scholastic President)
Subject: Stop Promoting Bratz in Schools
Dear Mr. Robinson,
I am writing to urge you to stop selling Bratz products in schools.
Bratz are a line of highly sexualized dolls whose wardrobes include miniskirts, fishnet stockings, and bikinis – that are marketed to girls as young as four. The dolls were recently singled out the by American Psychological Association (Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls) for contributing to the sexualization of young girls. Scholastic promotes Bratz through its book fairs and book clubs, selling titles such as Lil’ Bratz Dancin Divas; Lil’ Bratz Catwalk Cuties; and Lil’ Bratz Beauty Sleepover Bash to a captive audience of young students.
Many schools give Scholastic special access to their students because of your company’s reputation as an educational publisher. You are abusing that trust by promoting a brand that can undermine girls’ healthy development. Please immediately stop marketing precocious sexuality to young girls in schools.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO
The APA recommends the following for parents to do to guide their children through the media maze of sexual portrayal of girls:
- Tune in and Talk. Watch TV and movies with your daughters and sons. Read their magazines. Surf their Web sites. Ask questions. “Why is there so much pressure on girls to look a certain way?” “What do you like most about the girls you want to spend time with?” “Do these qualities matter more than how they look?” Really listen to what your kids tell you.
- Question Choices. Girls who are overly concerned about their appearance often have difficulty focusing on other things. Clothes can be part of the distraction. If your daughter wants to wear something you consider too sexy, ask what she likes about the outfit. Ask if there’s anything she doesn’t like about it. Explain how clothes that require lots of checking and adjusting might keep her from focusing on school work, friends, and other activities.
- Speak up. If you don’t like a TV show, CD, video, pair of jeans, or doll, say why. A conversation with her will be more effective than simply saying, “No, you can’t buy it or watch it.” Support campaigns, companies, and products that promote positive images of girls. Complain to manufacturers, advertisers, television and movie producers, and retail stores when products sexualize girls.
- Understand. Young people often feel pressure to watch popular TV shows, listen to music their friends like, and conform to certain styles of dress. Help your daughter make wise choices among the trendy alternatives. Remind her often that who she is and what she can accomplish are far more important than how she looks.
- Encourage. Athletics and other extracurricular activities emphasize talents, skills, and abilities over physical appearance. Encourage your daughter to follow her interests and get involved in a sport or other activity.
- Educate. You may feel uncomfortable discussing sexuality with your kids, but it’s important. Talk about when you think sex is OK as part of a healthy, intimate, mature relationship. Ask why girls often try so hard to look and act sexy. Effective sex education programs discuss media, peer, and cultural influences on sexual behaviors and decisions, how to make safe choices, and what makes healthy relationships. Find out what your school teaches.
- Be real. Help your kids focus on what’s really important: what they think, feel, and value. Help them build strengths that will allow them to achieve their goals and develop into healthy adults. Remind your children that everyone’s unique and that it’s wrong to judge people by their appearance.
- Model. Marketing and the media also influence adults. When you think about what you buy and watch, you teach your sons and daughters to do so, too.