Clarks' Children's Shoe Names Are Under Fire For Sexist Connotations Despite Having A "Gender Neutral Ethos"
Today in ways we belittle young girls before they've even left for school in the morning, a UK show company has come under criticism for its regressively named children's shoes, including a pair of school shoes for girls called the "Dolly Babe Jnr."
London mother Miranda Williams noticed the absurdly named shoes when shopping for back to school clothes for her children. She also noted that a pair of the brand's school shoes for boys were called the "Leader Play Inf." And in case those names didn't reinforce gendered stereotypes enough, the Dolly Babes' insoles featured pink, heart-patterned insoles, whereas the Leader Plays' insoles were decorated with footballs.
Williams tweeted screenshots of the offending shoes "before they disappear from your website," and sure enough, Clark's removed the Dolly Babe from its website following "customer feedback."
Many users criticized Clark's for its outdated names, including Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who wrote: "It is almost beyond belief that in 2017 a major company could think this is in any way acceptable. Shows what we are still up against."
"So depressing that in 2017 @clarksshoes could have marketed 'leader' range of shoes for boys and 'dolly babe' for girls," tweeted Sarah Ludford, a Liberal Democrat.
The offending shoes - before they disappear from your website. pic.twitter.com/WYvETanJqa— Miranda Williams (@M_Williams07) August 6, 2017
Following widespread criticism and media coverage, Clark's discontinued the Dolly Babe shoes and tweeted that the company has a "gender neutral ethos."
We have a gender neutral ethos, these lines are being phased out and we are already changing the way we market our shoes for future ranges.— Clarks Shoes Help (@clarkshelp) August 7, 2017
In a statement, a company spokesperson explained that the Dolly Babe is from an "old and discontinued line" and only "remaining stock" is being sold in stores.
"We are working hard to ensure our ranges reflect our gender neutral ethos and we apologise for any unintended offence caused," the spokesperson added.
Others however were not as outraged by the shoe as they were by what they saw as people making an unnecessary fuss over the name.
"Great Clarks are removing one of my kids favourite shoes cos some loon reads to much into a name!" said another.
The names are indicative of a greater problem with Clark's children's shoes though. The company was criticized last summer when a Welsh mother's Facebook post went viral, which accused Clark's girls' shoes of being ""fussy, impractical and prone to scuffing - quite unlike your sensible, practical, durable ranges designed for boys".
As trivial as this issue may seem, research shows that children internalize gendered messages from an early age. As Christia Spears Brown, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky and author of Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes told The Guardian: "Little kids also tend to think in a 'black and white way' and try to be 'very typical for their gender'."
This means that when young children see messages that reinforce the idea that little boys should be more concerned with being leaders, whereas little girls should be more concerned with being whatever a "Dolly Babe" is, they take those messages seriously, and it affects their self-perception and behavior.
So while battles over language may seem nitpicky, they are worth fighting, if for no other reason that someday girls will be able to enjoy at least a brief respite from sexism while putting on their shoes in the morning.