Were you thinking that advertisements for girls’ shoes are a little lacking these days?
Were you looking for some added weight-loss pressure in the way that they’re marketed?
Yeah, me neither.
Nevertheless, Skechers now carries Shape-ups for girls (ages 7 to 12). Unlike other childrens’ shoes, these Shape-ups feature a rounded sole intended to shape and tone.
That’s right, shape and tone young girls’ bodies.
When a girl sees the commercial advertising these shoes she is announced “Breaking News!” about the Shapes-ups following a song by a thin, all-girl band, singing the praises of their shoes.
Lead singer Heidi, like all the girls in the band, is wearing Shape-ups. According to the lyrics, she “has everything a girl wants,” and is “looking good and having fun.”
Strangely enough, along with Heidi looking good and having fun, she is also able to outrun guys dressed up as hot dogs, cupcakes, and ice cream cones.Â
This commercial sends the message to girls that they need to buy products to enjoy themselves and to look the way they would like to look; while also not so subtly telling them to stay away from certain foods – or at least certain boys in food costumes.
Leonard Armato, President of Skechers Fitness Group, defended the shoe, saying, “American children are more sedentary now than at any time in our history. Shape-ups’ intended purpose is to promote exercise and fitness, which should be viewed as a positive message for kids to get up and get moving.”
Promoting an active and healthy lifestyle for children is a positive message. However, this product is not intended for all children – namely boys.
Surprisingly enough, when I searched for Skechers Shape-ups for boys, nothing came up. Because they don’t exist.
Armato further defended the shoe by comparing it to the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!”Â Initiative which aims for children to get active and healthy.
Comparing the two is like comparing breast implants to a breast self-examination chart.
One is entirely concerned with physical appearance while the other is concerned with overall health.
The “Let’s Move!” initiative gives parents tips on nutrition and encourages them to engage in physical activity with their children, within their community, and at school. It also aims to provide healthier food in schools so that all children have access to nutritious options.
It is a comprehensive health initiative; it is not offering a specific product as a solution to obesity.
We need to recognize that these Shape -ups contain a harmful message to girls. This instills in girls that they need to put a premium on physical attractiveness and that they should look to products to alter their bodies. Alterations which Skechers representatives would probably call harmless shaping and toning.
So what can you do? Tell Skechers to discontinue “Shape Ups for Girls”! You can sign the petition on Change.org.
Megan Soriano is attending The Art Institute of California San Francisco in pursuit of her Bachelors in Fashion Marketing. Her fashion background and exposure to media messages within the fashion industry sparked her interest in media literacy and getting involved with About-Face. Once she graduates, Megan is interested in becoming a visual merchandiser and getting into jewelry design.
Your metaphor about breast implants and breast self-exams is really good. This is shameful.
I wrote to Skechers:
I’m a mother of two young children and I have bought at least one pair of Skechers for my son. Now that I have seen ads for your “shape ups for girls,” I will never buy your products again. It’s Payless from now on, suckers.
The whole message behind Shape-ups is to get people moving, exercising, and getting fit. Skechers’ advertising for Shape-ups for Girls contains the same message as the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, which is aimed specifically at children. American children are more sedentary now than at any time in our history. Shape-ups are intended to get people moving and being fit. We think that is a good thing for adults and kids — and hope others understand the intent.
Then I wrote:
Thanks for responding, but you don’t explain why the shoes are targeted at girls and not all children. Aren’t boys sedentary and fat too? You know I’m not the first person to complain about this, you have already gotten 9000 emails from Change.org.
Then they wrote:
The reason we do not have a Shape-Ups line at this time for boys is simply a matter of how our company’s research and development works for Shape-ups. The Shape-ups line was first created for women and, once it became clear they were popular and there was a demand, the line for men was developed and marketed. The same is true for the kids’ lines. Shape-Ups for Girls were rolled out first. The success of this line and the need in the market will guide us in deciding if we will create a line for boys. Other lines may start with Men’s.
Then I wrote:
I know that you are just doing your job, which is to debate with irate customers in a polite manner while keeping to the party line as determined by your corporate masters. I know there are probably other jobs you’d rather have, but this one will pay the rent for now. But I need to tell you that you and your company are part of a much larger campaign to sexualize childhood, and thus eliminate it entirely. I know that wasn’t in your original job description, but nonetheless you are a small piece of the machine working towards the day when 6-year-old girls exercise compulsively because their butts aren’t the right shape. I am a small piece of the opposition fighting you. So maybe it’s time to switch sides.
I didn’t hear back
one angry girl – your emails to Skechers were brilliant. The sexualisation of childhood is a big problem, and is advancing fast without anyone noticing. Don’t even get me started on Bratz dolls…
Wow, your last email especially is great. I think shape ups are fine, but the way they’re marketed and the fact that there isn’t a boys’ line is troublesome.
Also, “looking good” shouldn’t be a line at all or a selling point at all. Children should learn to associate exercise with feeling good and being healthyÃ¢â‚¬â€not a means to look a certain way.
Wow, I watched the advertisment…really weird to think that this stuff is out there (TV is evil). Another example of companies playing on people’s insecurities to sell products (it obviously works). If I had a daughter in that age group I’d be pissed off. Good job calling Sketchers out on this.