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Rite is the latest company to come under fire for pandering to gender
stereotypes. In a recent ad campaign, the children’s footwear company shows a
boy doing imaginary battle with a light saber (“The Power of Darth Vader”)
while an ad for its girls’ shoes shows stars, princesses and a little blonde girl
in “Wish Lights” sneakers.
boy/tough, girl/delicate strategy? Yep. And, sooooo, this is a problem? Apparently.
along the way, moms and dads have become increasingly reliant on everyone else
raising their kids. And by everyone else, we don’t just mean us, plus other
family members, teachers, clergy, friends and neighbors. We also mean TV
networks, advertisers and retailers.
you dreamed of having kids, did you breathe a big sigh with relief that you
wouldn’t have do it alone? Because in addition to your partner, the Cartoon
Network would be along for the ride? In addition to Gap Kids and Rice Krispies?
Or did you kind of know that the job of raising your kids the right way, which
is the way that you think is right,
would be primarily up to you? If the latter is the case, then why do so many parents
continue to be outraged—outraged!—at how products are marketed toward our children?
are we relying on TV shows, food companies and retailers to hand us gender
equality and perfectly balanced nutrition on a silver platter? If Stride Rite’s
shoes rub you the wrong way, don’t buy them. Or walk into the store—without your kids—and get a different
pair of shoes that don’t puke some famous character all over them.
5-year-old daughter was introduced to Cinderella by me when she was about 2-and-a-half. I read her the book, which was followed up soon thereafter with
the movie. Snow White came next, and then Annie, Dora and the rest. She has a big
treasure chest full of dress-up clothes, although it mostly sits untouched
these days. Nowadays she’s more into jumping on trampolines, doing
arts-and-crafts projects and finding ways to torture her 2-year-old sister.
gave her tiaras and plastic high-heel shoes. We also gave her a T-ball set,
musical instruments and a large stack of books. What’s wrong, exactly, with
allowing her to use her imagination and play dress-up? What’s wrong with liking
some princesses emblazoned on her shoes? She also has plain sneakers and
sandals. There’s nothing pink about her snow clothes. She is a girl. We’re not
raising her to be that kid whose parents wanted
his/her gender to be a surprise. Our home is not a sociology classroom
where the merits of waiting for your prince to come is analyzed. Believe me
when I tell you that as bright as my daughter is, she’s not reading very deeply
into these stories.
When did it stop being OK to be powerful and pretty?
they go unchecked, kids have the opportunity to idolize sports stars like Tiger
Woods and Lance Armstrong, who’ve done well in their professions but not in
their personal lives—without knowing who the hero scientists, doctors and volunteers
are. If they go unchecked, my kids would eat plain chocolate chips for
breakfast, and stay up late playing The Crazy Game (which never ends well, BTW)
(or not), though, I’m always in the room or the next one over, which means that
doesn’t happen. Just because this stuff is out there, it doesn’t mean we need
to buy it, show it to them or feed it to them. Stride Rite’s job is selling
shoes. Your job is to choose to buy those shoes for your kid or not.
can be bad and polarizing and misleading—but we don’t need to let our kids
watch commercial TV (hello, On Demand!). Why are we blaming everyone else for
exposing our kids to their evil ways when we're the ones allowing them to digest it
There’s a lot of analysis about what these shoes mean
(“Girls are meant to be looked at, so their play shoes are a route to
prettiness, while boys are meant to be active, so their play shoes are made for
play,” says blogger Rebecca Hains), but it only makes me
wonder how much time these people spend analyzing this stuff as opposed to the
kids actually wearing this stuff.
daughter doesn’t own princess sneakers, but she does have one pair that lights up. She thinks it’s cool, as she runs around on the playground until she falls
down from exhaustion. She doesn’t feel dainty. She feels sparkly. And powerful. Because pixie dust gives you power, duh.
doesn’t have a mirror in her room. She doesn’t primp and preen, but she does
wear dresses. I’m good with that. She plays soccer, does gymnastics and goes to
dance class (where she mostly looks at herself in the mirror). When, exactly,
did the goal become gender neutrality? Because having a daughter wanting to
look like a girl is fine by me. She has two Sofia the First books, and the
lessons in both are about being kind and generous. While wearing a dress, yes. When
did it stop being OK to be powerful and pretty?
with every step” reads the signs in Stride Rite stores. Thankfully (I guess?), my
5-year-old can’t read. But I can. And guess what? They’re still just sneakers. My 5-year-old doesn’t need to
read to know that sneakers are the shoes she wears when she runs around, digs
up worms and rides her scooter. She doesn’t do those things in stilettos.
Why aren’t we going after Stride Rite for telling boys everything they do has
to be superhuman? Why can’t they just be regular-human? Isn’t that equally unfair, and maybe even a little
dangerous to let boys think they’re supposed to be scaling skyscrapers and
holding on by a silk string? If they’re not actually leaping tall buildings in a
single-bound, won’t these boys feel inadequate?
allow these companies do their jobs however they see fit. We can either
buy/watch/feed it to our kids if it we think it’s appropriate or not. Let’s
keep doing our job as parents and stop projecting that responsibility on people
who are just doing their jobs.