// 10 December 2008

The controversial line of dolls Bratz has been ordered off the shelves by a US judge, over a copyright infringement issue.

Elle, phd posted a very good analysis of the whole Bratz issue:

My point is, that Bratz did not look like white-Barbie dyed light- or dark-brown, and that is definitely part of their appeal:

“BarbieĀ® did advance as women advanced. She had a doctor’s outfit, she went into space. But she was still blonde and blue-eyed when a majority of girls in the U.S. and the world were not.

Focusing on the fact that these dolls are multicultural does lead to more troubling questions though:

1) Why did the manufacturer feel the need to dress and adorn these dolls in this way?

2) Have people (particularly moms) explored why it’s so easy to call these dolls (dolls, for god’s sake!) “freakish” and “hookers” and “slutz” and “trampy”?

The Bratz are market successes because they rely on stereotypes about “ethnic” women: they are sexy (and sexual) and made cutting-edge/trendy by their “exoticness” and their adherence to an alternative/rebellious counterculture (in this case, largely hip-hop).

Ironically, these are the exact reasons Bratz are repudiated. This mom, for example, was appalled by the “vinyl whores” who, when compared to Barbie had “less boobs, more junk in the trunk.”

Comments From You

Jane // Posted 10 December 2008 at 11:01 am

I fucking hate the Bratz Pack. I’ve told my four year old daughter they were run over. Along with Barney the Dinasour.

Sabre // Posted 10 December 2008 at 11:42 am

When I was young I had a black Barbie (grew up in an African country). When it came to body image I was pretty unfussed. Where I grew up there wasn’t much interesting TV (one kids show a weekday, things like Button Moon!), no girls magazines and I watched few films. The school I went to really promoted academic excellence; the coolest kids were the cleverest (such a shock when I came to the UK!)

In the UK (aged 9 years) I immediately noticed girls are definitely more influenced by images on TV and magazines and notions of what they should look like. Dolls are more influential for girls figuring out how they should look because there is so much pressure here to look good. There are few role models for girls, celebrities on TV tend to reflect the doll figure (esp for Bratz) and tend to have looks-based careers. Dolls then become more important, they are elevated from being toys to role models.

For me as a a kid, I didn’t want to look like my Barbie any more than I wanted to look like my teddie bear. They were just toys.

Re. ethnic stereotyping, I think this is better than having no ethnic looking dolls at all. The Bratz figures that come in clothes like saris are stereotyped, but at least it recognises different cultures unlike Barbie (in the western world anyway)

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 10 December 2008 at 5:59 pm

Bratz dolls are equally as bad as Barbie. Bratz dolls reinforce the increasing belief that non-white women are ‘exotic sexualised creatures’ who are even more willing to pander to white men’s fantasies of male sexual exploitation. By claiming Bratz dolls are ‘sexy’ this neatly ignores how these dolls perpetuate racist, misogynstic and white men’s belief white women of colour are more animalistic and less civilised than white women.

Both Barbie and Bratz dolls reinforce white patriarchal views that women are just ‘sexualised commodities’ and worse girls who want these dolls are influenced by them. It is no wonder some individuals call bratz dolls ‘hookers’ and ‘sleazy’ because these dolls are dressed in clothing which deliberately reinforces pornography’s rampant mainstream images of women of colour. Good that Bratz dolls were ordered off the shelves but unfortunately for the wrong reasons. The term ‘hooker’ in itself is misogynistic because there is no comparable sexually degrading term for men because men unlike women are not defined by their sexual availablity to men.

A few decades ago it was widely perceived that ‘golliwog’ dolls were racist because they reinforced racists perceptions of women and men of colour. But of course the golliwog was male hence the reason for this outcry but when it comes to women being depicted as sexualised commodities within the toy industry we are told ‘they are only dolls.’ Toys do influence both girls and boys because they are based on rigid gender-based ideas of what supposedly comprises female and male behaviour. Take a look at the body of Barbie – her breats are enormous and yet her hips are minute – does any real woman look like this? Yet girls having this toy are subtly being encouraged to aspire to male-centered definitions of feminine behaviour, ones which will not in any way ‘threaten’ or challenge male power. Bratz likewise reinforces view that coloured women are ‘exotic’ and even more ‘sexy’ than white women. Meaning of course ‘sexy’ has nothing to do with an individual woman’s sexuality but is all about adopting a pornified and degraded image in order to gain male sexual approval. I see no equality here but instead increasing female subordination.

George // Posted 12 December 2008 at 12:21 pm

Wait a minute – isn’t one of them extremely blonde-haired and blue-eyed??? So, how does this analysis fit with that?

Also, I agree that they are freaky caricatures of patriarchal beauty norms, but necessarily racist, in the same way that golliwogs are racist? I don’t quite get it…

Leigh // Posted 12 December 2008 at 12:34 pm

Just a shame they were banned for copyright infringement before they were banned for being misogynist…

Fran // Posted 12 December 2008 at 6:19 pm

George: I don’t think the existence of white Bratz means the dolls that do represent women of colour don’t exoticise and Other them. Clearly Bratz don’t (didn’t?) exist solely as a racist statement in the same way that golliwog dolls did (and do), but where the dolls do represent WOC, there’s a lot of racial stereotyping going on. Take a look at this picture that elle, phd posted:

George // Posted 12 December 2008 at 7:11 pm

Maybe it’s just me being stupid… but I still don’t think that this is the main problem with this brand.

Firstly, that image is a tad misleading – *any* fantasy that is to do with “genies” is going to import very orientalized and over-sexualized assumptions, but this is a general issue that applies to more than these dolls.

I also agree that the presence of one blonde doll doesn’t prevent the other from being racially stereotyped – but from where I’m standing, the only difference I can see between the dolls is slightly different shades of plastic, making up exactly the same odd googly-eyed head. So, in the absence of any other cultural markers, I don’t really know what you’re getting at – unless you think that the presence of any “dolls of colour” within a product range makes that product more sexualized/othered/whatever, which seems an odd conclusion.

But, again, it might just be me not seeing it – I am certainly not familiar with these toys.

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