Monday, May 19, 2008

Blog Post #1- Bratz Are Designed For Girls

Using the product line of Bratz Dolls, for females, ages 8-11 years old, several issues were evaluated to decipher if the Bratz Dolls play a role in the gendered socialization of children. The criteria to evaluate the dolls were the following: Do the dolls promote a typical female American stereotype (i.e. what does the doll represent—is it a hairdresser, a teacher, or a police office?); does the doll look like a stereotypical image of an ideal, American female (i.e. tall, slender, curvy, and flawless); is the doll universal to attract male and females in the age group. After identifying the Bratz dolls’ attributes, the dolls fulfilled two of the three specified criteria for being a gendered toy, which results in the judgment that Bratz is a doll for the stereotypical girl. Therefore, the analysis provided will elaborate on the reasoning that Bratz Dolls are normative to the gender roles for American females ages, 8-11.

While searching the “Toy ‘R’ Us” website, it was very easy to categorize what type of toy one was searching for due to the drop down menus simple navigation. Therefore, using the Bratz as a key search word, the toys immediately popped up and an assortment of products could be seen on the main screen. At first glance, the majority of the dolls were in bare midriff shirts, of extremely tight dresses. After picking a few dolls to examine, one in particular was called “Bratz magic hair styling torso.” The doll consisted of only a torso and a head, which was meant for girls to put makeup on the face and the style the doll’s hair. The doll was a stereotypical image of what girls should be playing with: makeup and hair; hence it was influencing girls to use tools that beauty schools would need. Another example was Bratz “Movie Starz-Styling Body.” The styling body doll predicted that girls like using makeup and the description of the doll stated, “Every little girl loves the movie star treatment! Help Yasmin [the doll] by performing a little makeover magic before her big Hollywood debut.” Moreover, girls led to believe by advertisements, such as the Bratz dolls, that clothing and their beauty is important—hence the fact teenage girls spend over $4 billion on cosmetics (Kilbourne 259-260). Thus, again, the image given off by the Bratz doll is that their “female” toys represent the stereotypical image that women should be beautiful by wearing makeup, and should use the Bratz makeup to anticipate their future of being famous, because as the slogan insinuates, “every” girl loves changing their appearance to look flawless like the movie stars at Hollywood events.

It was interesting to discover that under the “boys” category on the Toys “R” Us website, two Bratz dolls were considered to be for males: A Shrek and Spiderman themed doll. Both dolls came with a wearable object—the Spriderman doll had funky shaped sunglasses, and the Shrek doll a headband with horns on it to represent the main character of the movie. What was surprising, however, the Shrek themed doll came with lip gloss, even though it was considered to be for boys. Yet, using the criteria relating to what the Bratz dolls represent, it is clear that some of the dolls represent merely fantasy figures, like super heroes, but under the “girls category” the dolls represent stereotypical images of what girls should aspire to be: beautiful females walking the red carpet. Nevertheless, if they are not on the red carpet, then they should be making the dresses because a Bratz toy also sold is the “sewing machine” and the “knitting machine.”

Continuing with the gender criteria, it was also apparent that the image of the Bratz dolls could be quite controversial. Unlike the blonde hair blue-eyed Barbie Doll, Bratz dolls consist of an array of images with several doll characters being repeated, depending on the product. For example, the doll Yasmin is a stereotypical Latina name and also looks as if she could be Spanish because of her dark features. Yasmin could be used for the fashion line of dolls, and also the makeup line. Cloe, Phoebe, Sasha, Jade, and Dana are also that are repeated throughout the various products, and appear to break the stereotypical appearance since each doll had different colored eyes and hair texture as well. Yet, the physical shape of the doll are trite: large angled eyes with perfect eyelashes, unusually large lips with bright lipstick and lip liner, small petite noses, perfectly even eyebrows, and flawless skin tone. The bodies of the dolls are extremely curvy and thin, long slender legs, and their heads and feet are oversized in comparison to their bodies. Yet, American girls live in a culture that supports slim and “glossy images of flawlessly beautiful” women (Kilbourne 260). Therefore, the disproportionate body of the dolls make it is difficult to decide if their physical shape can be evaluated, but Bratz dolls should at least be applauded for the fact that the array of characteristics depicts a more universal group of dolls which represent a variety of cultures in American since the main dolls do not all have blonde hair.

The last decisive factor measured asked if the Bratz Dolls were universal for both boys and girls. Referencing the previous example of the Shrek and Spiderman themed doll, it does not seem as if boys or girls will find the toys useful without using their imagination to play with the doll. One of the main gimmicks used by Bratz is that they wear a lot of make up and encourage girls to wear the makeup that is sold with the doll. The dolls also promote the buyer to braid their hair, put on fake nails, and dye their hair (or wear a wig) since all the products mentioned are sold with the doll, or sold separately, like the wigs. Therefore, in the American society, boys are looked down upon if they were to wear wigs or have fake nails glued on. Even though some boys have recently been painting their nails black as sign of a punk rocker, they are not influenced to glue on glitter pink nails. As a result from the findings, it is the normative gender role that females use fake nails and lipstick, and therefore, Bratz is not a toy for males.

What is quite interesting is that Bratz Dolls represent the opposite lifestyle of Barbie. None of the dolls are teachers; none of the dolls are astronauts. The dolls are simply toys that represent the stereotypical preteen female, acknowledging the growing presence for the need to learn how to use makeup and dress fashionably. As Mary Roger’s argues in “Hetero Barbie,” it may be true that Barbie represents a bisexual or homosexual lifestyle because Barbie has no family and does not dedicate herself to caring for a family (95). Accordingly, Bratz represents the opposite of the culture Barbie depicts: a heterosexual lifestyle for a young adolescent. Even though both Bratz and Barbie illustrate the anti- feminist culture of being portrayed to be seen as a “girlie girl,” Bratz dolls do not have careers and therefore, fit the heterosexual lifestyle better because they can aspire to be mothers one day since no obstacle, like a career, will stop hinder their natural breeding capabilities.

Recalling the thesis that Bratz Dolls are in fact facilitating the normative gender roles and stereotypes in childhood by sending messages to young girls that they should gear their attention towards cosmetics and physical appearance, it can become quite frustrating to break the norm of dolls sold to American girls. Accordingly, if young girls are being fed messages that they should buying dolls that are being sold to the certain demographic of young girls, then the product will also have an effect on the formulating opinions about gender roles of the young adolescents. Hence, if the girls are buying toys based on the body image of the dolls, then boys will be buying opposite toys, and therefore, both sexes begin to acknowledge what type of product they should continue to consume. The research from Kilbourne and Rogers also emphasizes the fact that culture and stereotypes does influence kids and can affect their attitude towards toys, gender roles, and society. In summarize, the criteria that was used evaluate the dolls pertaining to the American female stereotype shown that the Bratz production line of toys is gender specific towards young girls

Works Cited

"Bratz Movie Starz - Yasmin Styling Body." Toys "R" Us. 2008. 19 May 2008 .

"Bratz Spider-Man Doll." Toys "R" Us. 2008. 19 May 2008 .

Kilbourne, Jean. "The More You Subtract, the More You Add." Gender, Race, and Class in the Media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003. 259-260.

Rogers, Mary F. "Hetero Barbie?" Race, and Class in the Media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2003. 95.

1 comment:

Jessiebg said...

Great job with your blog post Lisa!
I thought that the comparison to Barbie was quite interesting for your analysis. It's interesting to see the idealized image of young women, which girls that play with Bratz are seeing as an ideal to aspire to, is actually more sexualized and objectified than Barbie! The only area that I would suggest for improvement is the sentence structure clarity. Make sure that your wording is as clear as possible :o)
Great work!