Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Scholastic's Bratz Ban Indicates Isn't So Clear

When schools send these book club fliers home with children, the message is that 'We think these are fine and are good for your child.'

-Susan Linn, Director of The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

In Motoko Rich, "Scholastic Cuts ‘Bratz’ Products for Book Clubs and Fairs," New York Times, September 21, 2008

Linn's organization is celebrating--and taking credit for--the decision by Scholastic Inc. to no longer include books based on the Bratz dolls in any of its school book clubs or fairs this year. Scholastic makes about a third of its income from those clubs and fairs. Critics of the Bratz dolls consider them overtly sexualized due to the emphasis on particular aspects of the female anatomy; the critics insist that nothing about them should be placed in the hands of girls. In fact, Scholastic has also stopped offering spinoff products--for example, a Bratz computer game and designer stencil kit, in its book clubs and fairs.

Scholastic's president will not state directly that the Campaign influenced its decision; the company's position is that declining sales of these materials as well as anger around the Bratz combined to lead to that decision. Although some in Linn's organization may take the credit for Scholastic's decision as a win against commercialism in books sold in schools, over the long term the picture is much more complex. Many teachers and librarians believe that items in commercial culture are the only predictable items to attract serious attention toward reading by many young people. They feel that if bringing commercial products into books will encourage reading, then it should be done. Rather than indicating a trend against commercialism and childhood, the Scholastic decision make simply indicate an aversion to mixing sexual depictions and childhood.

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