Body politics: Get ’em when they’re young

Did you know that there are not only toning shoes for women but there are also toning shoes for … girls? “Toning shoes” are sneakers with rounded soles designed to create an unstable walking surface and theoretically force the wearer to engage different muscles while walking. But not only are the claims that they can give you a tight butt and thighs for doing essentially nothing bogus, the shoes may be seriously unsafe, according to Consumer Reports.

But safety concerns and dubious health claims hasn’t stopped Skechers from branching out from the why-women-should-hate-themselves market into the burgeoning why-girls-should-start-hating-themselves market! It’s all right there in their ad, which features a cartoon of an all-girl band singing about how “Heidi” is doing great because she has her new Shape Ups. Meanwhile, Heidi is seen wearing a mini skirt and running away from three boys dressed as junk food (a none-too-subtle hint about food). And then there’s this gem from the girl-band lyrics: “She’s got the height! She’s got the bounce! Because Heidi’s got new Shape Ups!”

Oh nooooooooo!

And I’m not the only one who’s pissed off about this. Yoni Freedhoff, a doctor specializing in obesity and the father of three little girls, sounded off on his blog yesterday:

The obnoxious cartoon ad aimed at my children is being aired by Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network, and it shows pictures of boys dressed in hotdog, cupcake and ice cream cone costumes that can’t keep up with cool, skinny, uber-made-up, Heidi in her skin tight shirt, mini skirt, and her new Shape-Ups. They even offer a lace-free Velcro version that presumably is meant for my four-year-old.

Do my little girls really need to worry about their butts?

The sad truth is, my girls are almost certainly facing a lifetime of advertisements that will be geared to make them feel like their looks are inadequate. They’ll regularly be made to feel that their bodies are too fat, their lips insufficiently red, their skin too rough, their hair too frizzy, their breasts too small, and their butts too big. Magazines, TV spots, product placements, celebrity spokespeople — there will be no shortage of unrealistic expectations to eat away at my babies’ self-esteem.

Yet somehow I didn’t expect them to start to encounter them before they lost all of their baby teeth.

Recent studies have reported that nearly half of six year old girls worry about “being fat”. According to a 2002 survey, by Grade 9, nearly 30 per cent of girls had engaged in weight loss efforts. Nearly 1% of those girls will develop anorexia, 1.5 per cent bulimia and 3.5 per cent binge eating.

Eating disorders aren’t trivial. Five to 10 per cent of individuals with anorexia will die within 10 years of disease onset.

One of the number one predictors for developing an eating disorder? Poor body image.

Little girls, I guess as far as Skechers are concerned, you’re never too young to feel your body’s inadequate.

Okay, but maybe it’s just me, and Dr. Freedhoff… Nope! There’s this post on Babble by Monica Bielanko representing the collective outrage of many parents, too (who have a petition):

America! What are we doing to our little girls? …

The shoes are featured in a sassy commercial (seen below) starring young girls as pop stars. The girls are followed around by three boys dressed in costumes representing ice cream, a hot dog and a cupcake. In one part of the commercial, a girl wearing Shape-ups confidently walks away from the boys/food.

Dear Little Girls,

You’re never too young to start hating your body.



There is no “Shape-Ups” equivalent for young boys.

The Daily Mail calls the commercial “another example of the confusing message of food, sex and clothing” we’re sending to our youth.

Hey, yeah! Why are Shape Ups only a marketed to girls? (Good point, Monica!) After all, Leonard Armato, president of Skechers Fitness Group says that the shoes are intended to promote exercise and fitness, as is suggested in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. Okay. So, you don’t want to promote exercise and fitness for boys?

Let’s cut the crap, Skechers! This is a product that is marketed specifically to induce feeling so low self-esteem and self-doubt about one’s physical appearance. Your own ad does not depict little Heidi running in a game of tag, playing leap-frog or skipping rope. Your ad shows how Heidi had a problem — she wasn’t attracting the attention of boys! And all good little girls need to attract the attention of little boys, right? And the only way to do that is to be pretty! And the only way to be pretty is to make sure you never, ever get fat! How do you know if you are fat? Well, better not risk it! Better get your lard ass some Shape Up shoes and get moving! Chop, chop kids!

Skechers: Your product sickens me.

Originally posted on The Tired Feminist, as part of its on-going Toy Marketing FAIL! series.

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