Why the battle against sexist school shoes is a fight worth having

Why the battle against sexist school shoes is a fight worth having

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It’s time to take the sexism out of shoes.

Are children’s shoes sexist? There have been campaigns over the past few years to stop toys being marketed specifically for boys or girls. But the new frontier is the shoe shop.

This week, Jem Moonie-Dalton was so annoyed after taking her seven-year-old daughter to the local Clarks shoe shop that she wrote the retailer an open letter and posted it on Facebook. “In the boys’ section, the shoes are sturdy, comfortable and weatherproof, with soles clearly designed with running and climbing in mind,” she wrote, unlike the girls’ shoes with their flimsy soles, straps and ornamentation. “What messages are you giving to my daughter?”

The post has been shared nearly 15,000 times and while Clarks initially replied that it has a “gender-neutral ethos”, Moonie-Dalton says the retailer later got in touch to invite her to head office for a chat.

The day after Moonie-Dalton’s complaint went national, Tesco came under fire for selling boys’ shoes perfect for “active” and “hard-wearing” activities while the girls’ shoes were said to have “sensitive” soles.

This problem is not unique to Clarks and Tesco. My trip to the shoe shop before each new school year is fraught with misery. There is a boys’ and girls’ section and the boys’ section comprises mostly trainer-style hybrids while the girls’ section mostly comprises riffs on the Mary Jane or the ballet pump. It is hard to play football in either, so my daughter wears trainers. (There is more choice if you shop online, even on the Clarks website, but shopping online inevitably involves sending back sizes.) Sure there are unisex shoes – from Kickers, Bisgaard, Camper, Geox, Dr Martens and from Plae, for instance, the model that Moonie-Dalton is now considering – but these brands are more expensive than Clarks. Why should parents pay a surcharge for non-discriminatory footwear?

Buy shoes for girls from the boys’ shelves, some will say. But this misses the point. No child should need to bypass their gender to access active footwear. Consider the dropout rate among girls from sport. Research from UN Women has shown that, at puberty, 49% of girls drop out of sports altogether. In this context, the prejudices of children’s footwear become meaningful and pernicious. By assuming inactivity, retailers connive in girls’ future sporting disinheritance. It’s time to take a stand.

Moonie-Dalton still has a few weeks to find school shoes. So what has her daughter had to say about the furore? Moonie-Dalton laughs: “She’s really happy. She said, ‘Yay! Go Mummy! You’re standing up for me.”

Source:-theguardian