Monday, May 19, 2008

Bratz Dolls- The Future of Our Children?

In an ever-growing media-based society, it is easy to see how gender roles are being assigned to children before they can even speak. In America, television has become one of the easiest methods of communication, and the marketing world has begun to take advantage of this. However, television isn’t just a source of entertainment anymore; it is a way for the media to drill messages into its viewers in an inconspicuous way. Commercials are designed to sell products, many of which are directed to the youth of our nation, as they are seen as easy targets. There are many large product lines such as Barbie, Bratz Dolls, and Legos, which say a lot about the way gender is viewed in our society. These values are instilled in these children from such an early age that it may almost seem like these separate values for boys and girls are inherent, however there is much more to it. The Bratz Dolls collection and many other childrens’ toys are marketed to perpetuate specific gender roles in America.

In the second chapter of Newman’s book, he discusses the theories of essentialism and constructionism. If you look at gender from a constructionist’s point of view, then gender is seen as a product of culture and the way we act is not dependent on nature or biology (Newman, 36). Therefore, society determines how males and females should act according to the roles and criteria we have assigned. The way we have constructed gender is clearly separated into a dichotomy where males and females are seen as opposite sexes. Newman also expands on this idea by saying, “Thinking in terms of ‘either/or’ dichotomies also reinforces the view that these identifiers are permanent fixtures in all human societies, a biological imperative (Newman, 37). This teaches the young that there are a certain set of behaviors to follow according to the sex, and therefore gender, given at birth. These gender ideals are embedded into the minds of the young and old via the media, especially television. Commercials subtly tell little girls that they should stay indoors and learn how to make themselves beautiful by dressing dolls in skimpy outfits and makeup, while boys build their masculinity playing with trucks outdoors. If these messages of how girls and boys should act continue to exist, they will continue to perpetuate the norms we have established in our society.

The Bratz Dolls product line is one of the top-selling lines and although it is a relatively new brand, its popularity with young girls can be compared to that of Mattel’s Barbie Dolls. While searching the internet and toy stores for Bratz Dolls, I found it hard to find any dolls that symbolized intelligence. The heavily made-up, short skirt-wearing, pole-thin girls insinuate that females should shoot for beauty over brains. This is also a main theme of reality television and can be seen in shows such as The Bachelor, The Swan, and America’s Next Top Model. The
creators of these shows condone stupidity in women and even go as far as to deter those who show their intelligence. Tyra Banks, the host of America’s Next Top Model gave advice to one of the show’s contestants in saying, “One thing with [your] intelligence is that it can intimidate people” (Pozner, 97). Hearing this, it is not surprising to see the accessories associated with girl’s dolls. Not only do the accessories that come with Bratz Dolls work on the dolls themselves, but they can be used to beautify the girl playing with them in order to encourage wearing bright blue eye shadow and dying their hair. And keep in mind, the suggested age for these products is six and up. One must figure, if girls cannot be smart, they might as well be pretty.

Even though women are much more frequent in the workplace today, messages are still being sent to girls that they should expect to be housewives. For example, products such as the Bratz sewing machine are a great way for female consumers to get acquainted with the products they will use most in their futures. Kitchen and home accessories are also included in this product line, and of course always come in the color pink. Another set that you can purchase for your Bratz Dolls is one directed toward mothers, also known as “the caregivers”. This set comes with a stroller, baby pen, baby swing, and other pink accessories the mother Bratz Doll would need. Girls are being taught first of all, that it is only normal for a grown woman to have babies, and secondly that they will be the primary caregiver once the child is born. On the other hand, none of the toys in this collection are considered suitable for boys. If you were to do a search on any toy website to find toys for boys, Bratz Dolls would never appear as a suggestion. Neither girls nor boys are oblivious to this fact and know exactly for whom these toys are appropriate.

The products sold in the Bratz Dolls line stress female sexuality most of all. Just about every doll is provacatively-clad in a mini-skirt, skin tight jeans, or a plunging top, which can be seen in the pictures below. It is interesting to note that the images these dolls portray are completely unrealistic and unattainable by the majority of society. Even some of the clothing that comes with the dolls goes so far as to include a black tank top with rhinestones that spell out “BABE” across the chest. This may strike the average consumer as startling since the suggested age-range of these dolls begins at only six. The mass media sees society as targets for the products they sell. “Television commercials, for example, encourage audiences to think of themselves as ‘markets rather than as a public, as consumers rather citizens’” (Gitlin, 1979: 255-Lull 62). These product lines sell more than just toys, but rather norms for society to follow.

Toys such as Bratz Dolls say a lot about our society as a whole. If these are treated as artifacts in the future, one would believe our society was driven by beauty, sexualization of women, and might also associate girls with anything the color pink. There are also few if any boy dolls that can be bought from the Bratz collection, so one might think these dolls are perpetually single or perhaps not heterosexual. By looking at these dolls it seems like they are meant to be homemakers whose sole jobs are to take care of the children as well as cook and clean. These products are not at all discrete about the messages they are sending children about gender identity.

Children are extremely influenced by the media and have such easy access to advertisements that are directly targeted towards them. Marketing companies take advantage of this and continue to perpetuate gender ideals, especially to young girls. Television is a simple way for society to perpetuate its codes for gender and helps shape children into conformists. These messages tell girls that they should only wear and play with things that are pink, and should stay indoors practicing becoming beautiful girls with no intellectual stimulation. Adults are the ones sending these images to young boys and girls and simply view children as objects of manipulation. Toys, whether intentionally or unintentionally, are marketed for a specific gender and influence the way children construct their own gender identities.


“BABE” Bratz Doll. [Online image] Available, May 18, 2008.

Bratz Baby Carriage. [Online image]. Available, May 19, 2008.

Bratz Doll with silver dress. [Online image]. Available, May 20, 2008.

Bratz Fashion Designer Mini Sewing Machine. [Online image] Available, May 18, 2008.

Bratz Hairplay Accessory Pack Blonde Hair. [Online image] Available, May 19, 2008.

Bratz Magic Fashion Nails Chloe. [Online image] Available, May 18, 2008.

Bratz Movie Starz- Yasmin Styling Body. [Online image] Available, May 18, 2008.

Dines, Gail, Humez Jean M, eds. Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A text reader. London: SAGE Publications, 2003.

Gitlin, T. (1979). Prime-time ideology: the hegemonic process in television entertainment. Social Problems, 26, 251-66.

Lull, James, "Hegemony," in Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A text reader , eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez (London: SAGE Publications, 2003), 62.

Newman, Chapter 2, p. 36, 37

Pozner, Jennifer L. "The Unreal World" p. 97