Really, Bratz??

MGA Entertainment, maker of the controversial Bratz dolls, introduces its latest addition to the line at the Toy Fair in New York this week. Because the regular Bratz aren’t trashy and offensive enough, now MGA claims to be committed to and supportive of the fight against cancer by rolling out bald versions of the Bratz girls under the “True Hope” campaign.
Bratz girls before:

Bratz girls after:

I thought the pinkwashing of products for breast cancer awareness was bad. Wait, I still do. But this takes the “charitable” marketing scheme to another level. At least the bald Bratz don’t look like hookers. Although the super-short plaid skirts, the over-the-knee socks, and the platform heels come close.

I don’t even know where to start. The blatant misspelling? The idea that being a brat is a good thing? The over-the-top tartiness of the original line of dolls? I’m not a fan of the original Bratz, so it’s no surprise that I’m not embracing the new line, either.

For those who are a fan of Bratz, whether the slutty version or the bald version, you may not get where I’m coming from. I will also allow for the possibility that a pediatric cancer patient may find comfort from a bald doll, albeit one that portrays a completely unattainable version of feminine beauty and one that might suggest to said child that heavy eye make-up is do-able during chemo. Bratz fans may find nothing wrong in the messages conveyed by the original Bratz gang to little girls, and perhaps will similarly find nothing wrong with bald Bratz dolls being sold under the guise of children’s cancer charities. But I have a problem with both.

Bratz dolls, IMHO, encourage impressionable little girls to focus on their image over all else. They introduce little girls to the idea of dressing like women, which is rife with problems and causes little girls grow up even faster. I’m not the only one with this opinion.

“When young girls have an open-ended toy—like a generic baby doll—it encourages creativity,” says Diane Levin, a professor in the early childhood education department at Wheelock College in Boston. “But the scenarios of Bratz dolls tells them how to play—to dress up, do your hair, go to fashion shows. The dolls encourage girls to think about themselves as sexualized objects whose power is equated with dressing provocatively.” While we women have come a long way, baby, in terms of equality, these dolls have the potential to reverse our course and send us back into the “mommies don’t go to college” mentality. If little girls get the message that they must be sexy to be valuable, we’re in real trouble.

The American Psychological Association did some research on this very issue and released its findings in the Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. Girls are bombarded with images and messages that are not age-appropriate, which the APA Task Force says can have a negative impact on self-confidence, body image, self-esteem, sexual development, and mental health.

All that from a doll? You betcha.

Yet MGA’s CEO, Isaac Larian thinks otherwise. Shocking. He says that girls want Bratz because they are “beautiful,” and he denies the idea that there is anything sexual about the dolls. “I’m looking at a whole wall of them in my office, and I don’t see them wearing sexy clothes,” he says.

And from the Baby Bratz line:

Huh. Perhaps Larian needs to get his eyes checked. Or do a quick google images search, which is what I just did. Or perhaps his version of “sexy clothes” is different from mine. Since when are fishnet hose and over-the-knee boots part of the dress code for girls ages 4 to 8, which is the demographic targeted by Bratz? Since when are red lipstick, beauty marks, and adorned, itty-bitty panties cool for babies?

And what of the Bratz Web site, which promotes major superficiality and vapidness? While waiting for the transition from one screen to another, the message flashes “Please wait … it takes time to look this good.” Each doll’s “profile” used to include her “favorite body part” but that nifty little feature appears to have been axed.

More insanity from Larian, who says that “MGA’s mission is to provide joy and happiness to kids around the world. We believe children are our legacy and want them to be healthy, have confidence in their imagination and build their dreams into reality.” Like the reality of the body images of these dolls? And we thought Barbie’s proportions–estimated to be 39-21-33 and without enough body fat to menstruate, were totally whacked. At least Barbie preaches the message that girls can do anything they want to do, pursue a variety of careers, have financial and emotional independence from men, and become who they want to be rather than who society, or Isaac Larian, tells them they should be.

Larian says “We [MGA] have a responsibility to children and we take that responsibility very seriously.  The “True Hope” dolls are designed to support and comfort young girls and boys who so bravely endure cancer treatments.  MGA also wants to be an active supporter in the fight to develop lifesaving treatments for children.”

Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but it seems to me that if MGA really wanted to be an “active supporter” in pediatric cancer treatments and research, they’d donate more than the $1 from the sale of each doll, as currently planned. With a suggested retail price of $14.99 each, that $1 donation amounts to a pittance and reminds me of the pathetically paltry amount (an estimated 19 percent) of Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s proceeds that go toward breast cancer research. If you really want to make a difference, skip the dolls and send the $14.99 directly to a cancer charity. For pediatric cancer, I recommend St Jude or Alex’s Lemonade Stand. For breast cancer, you know I love The Rose, located right here in Houston. If you’re not sure which cause to donate to, check out Charity Navigator.

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong and the True Hope dolls will become a major tool in the battle against cancer. Maybe they will be the linchpin on which cancer research hangs. Maybe I’m cynical from the deluge of pink products purported to help eradicate the disease that kills more than 40,000 women in this country alone every year.  It’s estimated that more than 12,000 kids younger than 15 are diagnosed with a childhood cancer in the United States each year. I’d love to know how many of those sweet babies would want a True Hope doll.


2 friends

Two of my friends got the dreaded call from their OB-GYNs after their routine mammogram. The call that makes you sweat. The call that makes you wish you’d refused to pick up the phone. The call that makes you wonder how the person on the other end of the line can be so calm when you’re freaking out. The call that sets in place a chain of events that have the power to change your life forever.

How ironic that out of all the women in the world, and out of all the women I know personally, and out of all the women I consider friends, two of them got the call. On the same day.

It stinks.

It’s not fair.

I don’t like it.

But that’s the reality of breast cancer.

It’s indiscriminate. It cares nothing for age — both of my friends are under 40. It cares nothing for financial status. It cares nothing for how well or how poorly one treats one’s body. It strikes old and young, wealthy and struggling, health nuts and McDonald’s junkies. That’s the reality. There’s very little rhyme or reason to it. It’s a crapshoot.

I’ve said it before and will continue saying it: I’m so sick of cancer.

The reality of any kind of cancer is shitty. I can’t think of a better word for it. Any cancer is shitty. I speak of the shittiness of breast cancer because that’s the one I know, but I certainly don’t think it’s the only cancer that is shitty. Just a disclaimer and an affirmation that all cancer is shitty. And proof that I really like using the word shitty. And shittiness.

There is of course a good chance that both of my friends will escape breast cancer’s grasp. I’m hopeful that the follow-up ultrasound/MRI/biopsy shows nothing. Calcifications, fibroids, dense tissue, cysts. There are lots of things it could be, and the rate of false negatives is something to hang on to in these situations. The National Cancer Institute puts that false-negative rate at 10 percent. I’m hopeful. “False-positive mammogram results can lead to anxiety and other forms of psychological distress in affected women. The additional testing required to rule out cancer can also be costly and time consuming and can cause physical discomfort,” according to the NCI website. Really? Ya think?

That’s ok. Both of my friends can take the costly, time-consuming, and uncomfortable aspects of the additional testing. It’s the anxiety-causing aspects that are hell. The thoughts that run through one’s mind between receiving the dreaded phone call and getting the additional testing can make one crazy. Then there’s the infernal waiting period between the additional testing and receiving results. It’s a wonder we’re not all stark-raving maniacs popping sedatives every hour on the hour.

This is the reality of breast cancer.

Even when it hasn’t struck, when it’s a mere possibility instead of a certainty. Even when it hasn’t infiltrated your life for real, it has the power to mess you up.  Way before actual diagnosis, the reality of breast cancer is harsh and unrelenting. And guess what? Even after “getting through it” in terms of receiving the dreaded phone call, having the additional testing done, hearing the actual diagnosis, making the decisions necessary, and undergoing surgery and/or treatment, it’s harsh and unrelenting. Coming to grips with one’s new body. Dealing with the mountains of paperwork and bills. Keeping abreast (haha) of the latest research. Deciding what lifestyle changes to make or not make. Navigating the psychological fracas. Coming face-to-face with mortality. Moving through the treacherous stages of emotional distress. Facing the ever-present prospect of recurrence.

This is the reality of breast cancer.

One of my two friends fell victim to crappy insurance. She had some symptoms that caught her attention months ago but waited to get it checked out until the new, better insurance took effect. Even in the suburban bubble, where affluence reigns, insurance hassles prevail.

Which leads me to remind everyone to please take a few seconds out of your day to vote for The Rose in The Pink Well Challenge that I mentioned yesterday. The Rose helps women who don’t live in an affluent bubble get access to the breast health care that can make a real difference in their lives. If you’ve ever spent one second thinking how lucky you are to have whatever version of insurance you have, this is your chance to give back. If you have no insurance and you’ve spent more than one second worrying about that, this is your chance to help others in the same boat. If you have great insurance and have never had a health worry, I don’t want to talk to you right now but you can still help. 🙂

It’s easy to help, but time is running out. Click on The Pink Well Challenge link above or right here, click “VOTE NOW,” enter your email address, check your email for the access-granting link (do it now, not later because I don’t want you to forget), click the link, scroll down to charity #137, enter “10” in the box on the far right, and submit. Tell your friends and nag your family members.

And keep your fingers crossed for my two friends.