Clarks slammed for sexist kids' shoes

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 Photo: shutterstock

Clarks in the UK has come under fire for "sexist" kids' shoes, with customers slamming both the gendered names of the range and their overall design.

Miranda Williams, a mother-of-twins and Councillor and Cabinet Member for Children and Young People in London, took to twitter with pictures of the "Dolly Babe" range for girls and "Leader" range for boys, noting that she was "appalled".

Others joined in to condemn the brand, calling the labelling "offensive".

Clarks responded to Ms Williams' tweet 48 hours later, noting that the company has a "gender neutral ethos".

"These lines are being phased out and we are already changing the way we market our shoes for future ranges," a spokesperson said.

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While the shoes are no longer for sale on Clarks' website, they're still available via Amazon. The range does not appear on the company's Australian website.

But it wasn't just the names drawing the ire of customers this week. In a separate post to Facebook, UK mum Jem Moonie-Dalton, wrote that she was "dismayed" by the choice of school shoes on offer for her daughter.

"I understand, of course, that anyone can choose any style," Ms Moonie-Dalton wrote. "But children are not stupid, and my 7-year-old daughter does not want to choose shoes from a section aggressively marketed at boys and clearly not intended for her."

Calling out the difference in comfort, sturdiness and weather-proofing between the girls' and boys' selections, Ms Moonie-Dalton noted that while boys' shoes are designed with "running and climbing in mind", girls' shoes are far less robust.

"[They] have inferior soles, are not fully covered and are not well padded at the ankle. They are not comfortable and are not suited to outdoor activities in British weather," she said.

"What messages are you giving to my daughter? That she doesn't deserve shoes that put her on equal 'footing' with her male peers? That she should be satisfied with looking stylish whilst the boys are free to play and achieve in comfort? That she shouldn't try and compete with boys when they play chase – girls' shoes aren't made for speed, so perhaps girls aren't either?" 

And while Ms Moonie-Dalton also acknowledged that these messages may not be explicit, she added: "They are there, and are insidious".

But while many agreed with Ms Moonie-Dalton's stance, one commenter labelling the shoes "gendered sterotyping beyond belief" not everyone felt as strongly.
"Why not just buy your daughter boys shoes if it bothers you?" one commenter wrote. "There's no law against it! Seems you're more bothered by stereotypes and gender roles than Clarks who I am sure couldn't care less whether you buy 'girls' or 'boys' shoes for your daughter."
"So you want a "boys shoe" for a girl! But it needs to be marketed at girls and not boys," added another. "Well I guess they had also better do a girls' shoe for a boy as we don't want to upset anyone now do we?"
It's not the first time Clarks have been called out for their sexist advertising. In 2014, mother-of-two Emma Dixon launched a change.org petition  and a social media campaign #letshoesbeshoes asking Clarks to remove their outdated and sexists signs, which encouraged boys to be active and girls to be stylish.