February 20, 2007

Bratz Girls Damage Self-Image Of Young Girls

The American Psychological Association reaffirmed what most people of sense and taste already know -- that overly sexualized advertising aimed at young girls pressures them into objectifying themselves sexually. The Bratz Girls dolls and accessories come in for specific criticism:

Advertising and media images that encourage girls to focus on looks and sexuality are harmful to their emotional and physical health, a new report by the American Psychological Association says.

The report, released Monday, analyzed some 300 studies over the past 18 months. It included a variety of media, from television and movies to song lyrics, and looked at advertising showing body-baring doll clothes for pre-schoolers, tweens posing in suggestive ways in magazines and the sexual antics of young celebrity role models.

The researchers found such images may make girls think of and treat their own bodies as sexual objects. ...

The panel defined sexualization as occurring "when a person's value comes only from her/his sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is sexually objectified, e.g., made into a thing for another's sexual use."

The report cites Bratz dolls, in particular, for "sexualized clothing such as miniskirts, fishnet stockings and feather boas."

"Although these dolls may present no more sexualization of girls or women than is seen in MTV videos, it is worrisome when dolls designed specifically for 4- to 8-year-olds are associated with an objectified adult sexuality," the report says.

As the grandfather of a 4-year-old little girl, this isn't an academic exercise to me. I understand that sex sells, and when the product is aimed at adults, that's no problem. Sex is a choice that adults make, and adults have a more settled sense of themselves and comprehend the profit motive behind the advertising. Teenagers have less confidence in their own identity, and while they have the intellectual capacity to comprehend the profit motive, these advertisements take advantage of their natural insecurities.

Preteens and little girs do not have any sophistication in defending their own identity and values, and dolls like the Bratz Girls model the kinds of behavior that lead to teen pregnancy, the spread of STDs, and the general devaluation of women and their role in society. Bratz Girls are not liberated in any practical sense of the word. They consign girls and women to the role of sexual toys, selling girls who have no sexual development on the lifestyle of sluts before they have a chance to understand its negative aspects. Worse, it creates peer pressure among their friends to buy into the Bratz image.

MGA Entertainment isn't the only offender, of course; retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch and popular music and videos also objectify and overly sexualize young people, especially women. The solution won't and shouldn't come from governmental regulation. Parents need to take command of these influences on their children and stop putting money into the cash registers that float this nonsense. We have to ensure that we build a future for our children, especially our young girls, that aims somewhere above the belt line.


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