Large eyes, short skirts, excessive make-up and no noses. Add an unquenchable passion for fashion and you not only have the immensely popular Bratz dolls, but also the projected ideal of young girls in the United States.
Tomi-Ann Roberts presented a report at USF on Friday titled “Little Bratz: The Sexualization of Girls and Girlhood.” Roberts is a member of a taskforce spearheaded by the American Psychology Association that examined the sexualizing of girls and girlhood. The report finds that the portrayal of “girls and young women in advertising, merchandising and media is harming girls’ self-image and healthy development.”
The report relates what may have been evident to many who have been to a mall or watched a Disney program in the last few years. Media and toys for young girls have become increasingly sexual, and the psychological impact is becoming more apparent in those who are subjected to the media and consumption blitz of dolls such as the Bratz brand.
This research is crucial for members of a democratic and capitalist system. While many may view such research or the support of it as prudish, that research is assaulting companies for their participation in perpetuating gender stereotypes and oppression.
The AMA Web site states that parents can combat this by “teach(ing) girls to value themselves for who they are, rather than how they look.” And, as Roberts mentioned in her presentation, grassroots movements can – and have – ultimately force these companies to place their emphasis on building up consumers instead of breaking them down for the sake of profit.
When personal value is equated to unattainable exterior standards, everyone will fall short of the ideal.
The fear of being inadequate that is inspired by such equation drives U.S. consumption in several industries, from diet and weight-loss pills to hair dye and make-up.
The result for corporations is financial reward, but it is coming at a heavy psychological cost, particularly when it is reaching out to an audience that may not yet have the ability to discern what is real and what is fantasy.