September 30th 2006

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Debate simmers over Australian values

EDITORIAL: Learn from America and the EU!

NATIONAL SECURITY: Is ASIO the Achilles heel of counter-terrorism?

MERCHANTS OF SLEAZE: Raunchy lingerie for young children

EMPLOYMENT: Guest workers accepted at economy's expense

QUEENSLAND: State election a no-show for Coalition

HUMAN CLONING: U.S. feminists warn on cloning risks

UNITED STATES: Pro-choice feminism's NeW rival

CLIMATE CHANGE: 'An inconvenient truth?' ... or pseudo-science?

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Quadrant reaches 50 / Grassroots journalism / And another flies over the cuckoo's nest / Howard, Beazley and friends - the next 12 months

ASIAN AFFAIRS: China's missile build-up threatens Taiwan

Queensland election: why the Coalition lost (letter)

September 11 remembered (letter)

Behind the Montreal shootings (letter)

BOOKS: THE BEST OF ANDREW BOLT: Australia's most controversial columnist

BOOKS: THUNDER FROM THE SILENT ZONE: Rethinking China, by Paul Monk

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Raunchy lingerie for young children

by Catherine Keane

News Weekly, September 30, 2006
Red Hot Rockin'

Sexually suggestive dolls and lingerie, specifically targetted at 6-10 year old girls, are on sale in Melbourne's major retail stores.

They are marketed under the brand name of Bratz (also Lil' Bratz and Bratz Babyz), part of the Californian-based company, MGA Entertainment.

Bratz baby dolls - with their pouting lips, bare midriffs, "tween skank" clothing, eye make-up and pierced ears - give every impression of sexual sophistication and promiscuity. They carry milk-bottles, provocatively slung over their hips on chains.

One doll named Roxxi poses with her pelvis thrust forward, thumb in her red-laced black lingerie panties. She wears a red and black striped tank-top with a black leather jacket. On one arm she carries a "Li'l Devil" handbag; on the other, a horned red "lucky" mascot.

Spicing it up

On the back of the box in which she comes runs the sales pitch: "Hi! My name is Roxxi! My twin calls me 'Spice' because I like to spice it up!" Her "signature style" is Red Hot Rockin'.

She comes with a twin who is portrayed as the "good" girl in pink. The packaging states that these dolls are for girls aged 4 and upwards.

More mature versions of the dolls are the "tweens" aimed to look like 10-12 year olds. These are even more sexually provocative. One doll, Yasmin - dressed in what can only be described as prostitutes' clothing - sports the slogan: "Create a scene in extravagant evening attire, and go behind the mask - 'cuz you're the guest of honor for a party by moonlight that's sure to go all night."

The boxes containing these dolls state: "In control and outa sight, they're dynamite - flaunt a fearless new attitude, and show off your strength in style as you knock 'em down in the most explosive fashions around."

These dolls are available in all major retail outlets - Target, K-Mart, Big W, Myer and David Jones.

The company behind the Bratz brand name is the Californian-based company, MGA Entertainment. The products themselves are manufactured in China.

Also retailed by Bratz/MGA Entertainment are size 6-8 miniature padded bras - "bralettes" - aimed at 6-10 year olds. Advertised as "exclusively designed for Target", they come with matching underwear.

When this News Weekly reporter took photos of Bratz baby dolls and lingerie on sale in a Target store in the Melbourne suburb of Chadstone, a security guard warned her that taking photographs in the store was unauthorised and demanded to know if she had a visitor's pass.

However, at another Melbourne Target outlet, at Maribyrnong, a sales assistant, when approached for a catalogue featuring these products, announced that the catalogue had been recalled.

Other brands of bralettes and matching underpants have been found on the shelves of major retail stores such as Myer, David Jones, K Mart, and Big W. The range of brands include not only Bratz, but also Jockey Girl, Co-Ordinates, Saddle Club and Mickey Mouse, as well as in the Big W, Target and Myer generic brands.

It is noteworthy that smaller, independent retailers of children's clothing, such as Osh Kosh, Pumpkin Patch, Tic Tac Toe and Cotton On For Kids, do not stock these products and have no plans to order them in..

Freda Briggs, professor of child development at the University of South Australia, has condemned the recent appearance, in major Australian retail outlets, of the Bratz line of baby dolls, padded bralettes and lingerie.

She feels that such products are "playing into the hands of paedophiles" and fears that paedophiles will use them as "grooming tools" as they prey on young girls.

She warns that "Australian children are rapidly losing their childhood" and that they are "exposed to sex" in a way that their parents' generation never was.

Australian Family Association spokeswoman Angela Conway has expressed concern at the failure of large business to see the significant risks such sexually suggestive products pose for small children.

She says: "The ambiguities of the Bratz products images are creepily reminiscent of the kinds of fantasies and warped perceptions of women and girls so central to the pornographic genre. The Bratz doll range echoes the fantasies and common core beliefs of paedophiles.

"Such marketing and merchandise are teaching young girls to flaunt their bodies, with a sexualised language that they cannot possibly understand."

She asserts that this merchandise is a "marketing push to inculcate young children in raunch culture".

However, not everybody has condemned these new children's fashions. An internet retailer of children's clothing, Jelly Deal, declared recently: "Gone are the days of voluminous, bulky and cumbersome underwear meant to be worn under layers of clothing. These days, underwear has got briefer, bolder and stylish, and there's even underwear to complement the different moods you wish to portray: frisky, seductive or mysteriously alluring."

- Catherine Keane is a research officer for the Australian Family Association.

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