Daisy Pope
Gender, Labels and Clark's Controversial Shoes
5 mins

Daisy, from our Junior Board, has something to say about Clark's new shoes for boys and girls.

Who’s ever heard of sexist shoes? No one...until now.

On Sunday the 13th Clarks newly released shoes were seized upon by the media; the leading children’s shoe brand had launched two new types of shoes. One intended for boys named ‘Leader’, and one intended for girls named ‘Dolly Babe’. These shoes obviously play up to the out-of-date stereotypes of young girls and boys (the girl's shoes sporting love hearts and the boy's adorned with footballs). Seeing this made me think ‘It’s 2017 isn’t it?’ and I am sure most of us thought a brand such as Clarks, who have been in the business since 1825 (when it would be understandable), would have the Emotional Intelligence to realise that these names are not only sexist but also demeaning to girls and BOYS everywhere.

Of course, we notice straight away that the boys' shoes are called ‘Leaders’ and the girls' 'Dolly Babe' and of course all this does is compound the age-old battle women have had to face. 'Dolly Babe' - really? Should we really have to face prejudice in something so simple as shoes? Unfortunately, we forget it is also debilitating to boys because from a young age they are taught they have to be strong, in charge and enjoy all the ‘perceived-to-be-male' sports like football from products just like these… and I strongly believe this is an issue with society(don’t forget that England’s women’s football team does better than the men’s).

Undeniably lots of children will want these shoes because they love football or adore love hearts and we must respect this because sometimes these decisions are driven by the parents too. If a brand I frequently use or like came out with such an implausible product it would make me sick that they thought this was okay. But, does this show that it is a matter of age and upbringing? My brother hasn’t been brought up in a family that likes football so he does not like football, but his best friend has been brought up with two older brothers who adore football so he loves it too. This means he would like these shoes, but a boy of the exact same age, my brother, would not. I have been raised in a very pro-feminist household but at the age of six I would have fallen head over heels for shoes like the ‘Dolly Babe’ whereas by the age of ten I would have despised them for being so girly and most of the girls I know would say exactly the same.

Gender is a big deal, we all know it and we all have different ways of showing our own, so why should girls have to wear dainty shoes and not be given the option of ones like the boys? We need to remember that male and female are not the only gender identities present in our world, non-binary, agender, bigender, transgender and androgynous people all need shoes too - but which would they choose? How about the one that they like, not the one the company says they should like?

Clarks have now removed the shoes from sale, clearly taken aback by the media storm. Actually, the shoes are fine. It's what they are labeled that is the problem. What do you think? Shoes are shoes...but what you call a pair of shoes is clearly a very delicate matter. Tell me why can’t a boy have such pretty shoes or a girl have such tough shoes? One thing I know for sure is that Clarks might want to think about what they call shoes a little more carefully next time.

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