Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Barbie Parties It Up

Courtesy of Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown, co-authors of Packaging Girlhood; Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketers' Schemes:

This just in from the Drug Free Alliance.

"Some parents may not be aware that Mattel is marketing a Barbie 2-in-1 Party Plane & Ship Playset that 'comes with all the amenities.' Along with the reclining seats, fold down table and laptop computer, this toy, marketed for 3- to 8-year olds, comes complete with martini glasses, bar stools and a disco scene portraying scantily clad dancers holding drinks!"

Those of you who've seen our power point presentation know we've been complaining about the Bratz party plane for a couple of years now. It has a "juice bar" and Bratz CEO Isaac Larian has expressed outrage that critics have said that his dolls come with alcoholic drinks. We asked, "Who is he kidding?" But now Barbie doesn't even call their drinks "juice"?

Is Barbie different though from Bratz? When we were girls, our Barbies had black sequined slinky gowns that we think were called her "nightclub" outfit. What we understood at the time, was that when we grew up we would go to nightclubs in beautiful sexy gowns. The point is, we understood Barbie to be older than we were. And although Barbie presented a pretty one-dimensional view of what grown-up women did and what they are valued for, she still seemed to us to be grown up.

The Bratz dolls are teens and even look slightly pre-teen. So when they party and drink and go clubbing, they clearly suggests these activities to younger and younger girls. Barbie has been following suit, creating a My Scene Barbie who is more teen than grown-up. She's no longer the Barbie we knew -- in more ways than one. Instead of being a trend-setter, she's trying to one-up Bratz. In true wannabe fashion, she's pushing not just a party plane but also a ship! Not a juice bar but real drinks! And explicitly to 3 year olds. Who ever would have thought we'd be longing for Barbie to be, well, Barbie.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shaping Youth - Target Ad

Amy Jussell at Shaping Youth called this ad to Lyn Mikel Brown and Sharon Lamb's attention and asked them what they thought. They said:

"The ad didn't strike us as forcefully as some, but that could be the point here. The innocence and playfulness of making snow angels (with the hat and scarf, the girl smiling, perky--as much as one can be lying on one's back--in that usual over-the-top Target way) is as primary as the sexual availability/suggestion of sexual violence of the spread eagle position on the target (and the camera angle). Could it be that it's this combination that's so disturbing, the blend of innocence and sexualization? We're seeing more of this all the time, whether it's the VS Angel Collection or the Bratz Dolls (with the little halo over the a) or sexy/innocent Halloween costumes for little girls. These are the kinds of images designed to be so subtly suggestive that people are called crazy or dirty minded for questioning them. But of course in reality they normalize these relationships--i.e., between sexy and innocent. The sad reality is that a girl lying on her back spread eagle is more provocative and attention getting (and thus sellable) then a girl snowboarding or standing on the center of the target in another sort of pose. What do you think? Are we reading too much into this?"

Click here to view ad

If you agree with Lyn and Sharon, let Target know!
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New York Times - Politics and Misogyny

According to New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert, the issue of misogyny and the "toll that [it] takes...on women and girls" has been woefully overlooked in the media. Although "sexism in its myriad destructive forms permeates nearly every aspect of American life"--pornography, paparazzi photos, sports games, and the military--it is often ignored. Herbert says that "it’s a big and important issue that deserves much more than lip service": do you agree? Please share your thoughts!

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Guest Blogger - Lyn Mikel Brown on Where the Girls Aren't

Counting is so simple, so basic, so important. In our book Packaging Girlhood, Sharon Lamb and I counted the numbers of boys and girls on sugary cereal boxes, on the covers of board games, in the action section of toy aisles, in Newbury Award winning books, and we reported studies that counted the number of boys and girls in G-rated films, and other forms of media. This was our way of showing where the girls aren't, sure, but more importantly we did this because numbers give a clear and present message to girls (and boys) about who should be doing, wearing, listening to, reading, and playing with what. The results can have long-term impact. Consider a recent article in the journal Psychological Science (Vol. 18, Issue 10) called "Signaling Threat: How Situational Cues Affect Women in Math, Science, and Engineering Settings," by Mary C. Murphy, Claude M. Steele, & James J. Gross. Turns out the kind of low numbers we reported seeing in movies, TV shows, books, and so forth give "situational cues". The researchers found that simply watching a conference video in which women were outnumbered by men made the women-all math and science majors--feel like they didn't belong and feel like not participating. It also made them vigilant of possible threats to their identity. The situation they observed gave the young women that intangible "in the air" feeling that they were unwelcome and might be ostracized if they participate.

If girls see only one girl in a cartoon about geniuses or just one woman in the race for presidency - this gives them a very real and tangible message: you aren't welcome here. It also discouraged them from wanting to do the things they see primarily boys do and to be anxious, isolated, and feel out of place when they break boundaries. This is the reason to care about how media depicts girls and boys. We can no longer accept the lame excuse -- Girls will watch boys, but boys will not watch girls - used to justify the 75% male character rate in G-rated films. Yeah, maybe they will watch. But at what cost to them?

Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D is co-author with Sharon Lamb of Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes. Check out their blog at