Scholastic Cuts ‘Bratz’ Products for Book Clubs and Fairs

dynamom's picture

September 22, 2008
Scholastic Cuts ‘Bratz’ Products for Book Clubs and Fairs

By MOTOKO RICH
The Bratz dolls, a frequent target of those who bemoan the hyper-sexualization of young girls, have taken another hit.

Scholastic Inc., the children’s publisher, will no longer include chapter books based on the overtly sexy Bratz dolls in any of its school book clubs or fairs this year — and an advocacy group is taking credit for the decision.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, based in Boston, said that Scholastic’s move followed an 18-month fight to purge book club fliers that go home with students and are distributed at school book fairs of titles like “Lil’ Bratz: Dancin’ Divas” and “Lil’ Bratz: Catwalk Cuties.” Scholastic has also stopped offering spinoff products, like a Bratz computer game and designer stencil kit, in its book clubs and fairs.

Susan Linn, director of the campaign, said the group’s members had sent 5,000 e-mail messages to Scholastic protesting the highly sexualized images in the Bratz books and products. “When schools send these book club fliers home with children,” Ms. Linn said, “the message is that ‘We think these are fine and are good for your child.’ ”

Scholastic, which generates roughly a third of its revenue from the book clubs and fairs, said its decision to withdraw the Bratz books was influenced as much by dwindling sales as it was by the campaign’s push. Judy Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs, said she also solicited the opinions of editors, teachers and librarians to help choose the titles included in the book clubs and fairs.

Ms. Newman said she met with a representative from the campaign in Boston earlier this year. But, she said, “I can’t be directed by anyone’s special interest.” She added: “That would almost be censorship.”

Parents who had written e-mail messages to Scholastic were pleased with the disappearance of the Bratz books. But they were also concerned that other books tied to popular television shows, movies and toys still appear in the book club fliers or at book fairs. “There are a lot of books that are more just gimmicky,” said Allison Sharma, a technology consultant and mother of two in Newton, Mass. “They aren’t real books.”

Some teachers said that books tied to shows like “Hannah Montana” or “Star Wars” might be the only things some children would read. “There comes a point where if it’s something that’s going to get a kid to start reading, you want to get that hook in there,” said Jennifer Vaillancourt, who teaches third and fourth grade at the Ramsey International Fine Arts Center in Minneapolis. But, she added, “I think the bottom line is the Bratz are inappropriate.” MOTOKO RICH

Comments

mamakats's picture
Submitted by mamakats on

YEAHHHHH!

mamakats
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sonya SmithWong sagely said, "dig down deep and light a Mary candle before you go!"

mamakats
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sonya SmithWong sagely said, "dig down deep and light a Mary candle before you go!"

franny p.'s picture
Submitted by franny p. on

"Some teachers said that books tied to shows like “Hannah Montana” or “Star Wars” might be the only things some children would read. “There comes a point where if it’s something that’s going to get a kid to start reading, you want to get that hook in there,” said Jennifer Vaillancourt, who teaches third and fourth grade at the Ramsey International Fine Arts Center in Minneapolis."

good christ. my eyes do not roll far enough back in my head for this comment.

'bout time!!!

weirdmama's picture
Submitted by weirdmama on

YAY! i think that if we eliminate the trashy, insulting options from book fairs, most children WILL still choose something to read. it's like if you don't keep candy in the house, a kid has to eat an apple when he wants something sweet, right?

this is a little off-topic, but when monkeygirl was picking out her 'big girl' undies today they had bratz 'bikinis' in size 2T. sick.

lapina's picture
Submitted by lapina on

While I personally HATE HATE HATE the Bratz dolls with their blow job lips and mindless storylines...I take my job as parent pretty serious. My job is to guide my kid in his choices of entertainment and learning. My little boy was given a Bratz video that he loved for about a week..he got over it. I won't belong to any group urging censorship. A little too right wing for me. Some parents have no problem at all buying Bratz crap for their children. Let 'em if they want to. That is their thing.

I really appreciate Ms Newman saying “I can’t be directed by anyone’s special interest.” She added: “That would almost be censorship.” No shit.

turtle's picture
Submitted by turtle on

I wish this were more clear-cut too!!! I have no love for Bratz dolls (or any number of other highly commercialized toys out there, sexualized or not). And the permeation of that stuff into books makes me kind of sad, growing up as I did on Anne of Green Gables, etc. Reading is one of my great loves in life and it makes me ill that books would exist as tie-ins for commercial products.

But I don't think I could join a campaign to get books removed from book fairs, etc. Not to big a step from there to get books removed from libraries, bookstores. There are a few things things that I consider 100% wrong and banning books is one of them. Of course, this usually happens with right-wing groups trying to ban books that I love (A Color Purple, etc). So where do I stand when someone wants to challenge (which isn't exactly what's happened here, but for the sake of argument) books that I *don't* like or that I wish my kids *wouldn't* read? Do I all of the sudden say, "Oh well, in this case it [censorship] is okay!" I just can't go there.

In the end, I agree with you, lapina. I believe it's my job as a parent to guide my kids' choices and if somehow they choose at some point to read stuff like this, well, it prolly won't kill them, and we can talk always about it! Do a little cultural/media critique.

I remember the one book that was my reading 'hook'- clear as day. I was in 4th grade. Not much of a reader. I didn't hate it, just wasn't in love. I read a book that was the retelling of the Cinderella story. Not exactly reflective of the radical woman I grew up to be!!! But my life changed in those days that I read that book. I literally fell in love with something that has brought me joy, tears, pleasure, laughter, heartache. If every kid child out there felt a fraction of how I felt about reading, I would weep tears of happiness. And if some kid's hook is a Star Wars book (which, by the way, I have read some of! nerd that I am)? Well, hells bells, does it matter in the end?

Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough. -- Emily Dickinson

You want to do what you think is right and what matters to you, and if other people don't like it, as my father would have said, they can go fuck themselves. -- Amy Bloom

turtle's picture
Submitted by turtle on

I'm so long-winded! Sorry.

Again, this is somewhat off-topic to the post, since getting challenged or banned is not what happened to the Bratz books. But I thought some you reading mamas and mamas of readers might be interested--

Next week is Banned Books Week - the American Library Association has a list of the most challenged books of 2007 here.

Top of the list? And Tango Makes Three, which is a terribly darling book and not even very radical in its "gay agenda." But you know, being matter of fact about homosexuality IN PENGUINS! is, um, dangerous. I have of course, given that particular book to every little one I know!!!! ;)

Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough. -- Emily Dickinson

You want to do what you think is right and what matters to you, and if other people don't like it, as my father would have said, they can go fuck themselves. -- Amy Bloom

guava's picture
Submitted by guava on

I don't think it's censorship at all. I would be concerned if this were happening at a public library, or if the books were being yanked out of bookstores and being made unavailable. But a book fair is sponsored by a school, and I'm tired of corporations using donations to public schools to advance their marketing agendas in an "educational" space. Schools should not be venues for advertising products. Placing books that are essentially merchandising vehicles for a toy brand in a school book fair, to me, is the same thing as setting up a M*Donald's in the lunch room.

"Too weird to live. Too rare to die." - Hunter S. Thompson

dynamom's picture
Submitted by dynamom on

I was having trouble putting my thoughts on this in a way that made sense and you really summed it up nicely.

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