Sexist shoes? 

When I was a kid, we didn’t have much money. Every expense was carefully planned out, every meal thought through, and waste was avoided. Even now, as an adult, I still hear my mums voice in my mind when I get full, “well at least eat the meat”, that being the expensive part. Our clothes were passed down, and as the youngest I had the pleasure of recreating the looks my sisters had sported several years before. But there was one thing that my mum refused to skimp on: school shoes. At the beginning of every term, we would make the journey to the nearest Clarks shoeshop, where my feet would be carefully measured for sturdy yet soft shoes. My mum considered proper shoes as paramount to our development, choosing to do without other things to provide the best shoes that we couldn’t really afford. Unfortunately I probably undid a fair amount of this good work by choosing to totter about on heels in my late teenage years, but I do have clear memories of sitting on the little stool in the shop as a young child, listening to my mum making calculations about how much a pair were, how long they would last, the speed in which my feet were growing, and the scuff potential of each style. 
While I remember all of this pretty clearly, I don’t really remember the style of the shoes themselves. They were always black, always leather, and always designed for support. I don’t believe they were a particularly gendered style. And why should they have been? Clearly, at that age, I was more interested in the experience itself than whether there was an applique flower on the buckle, or embroidered heart. Which is why I was so surprised this morning to stumble upon an article about gendered shoes in Clarks, the very place I would go to as a child. When looking for shoes for her daughter, a mother was appalled to find that the shoes were divided into a boys section, and a girls section. The shoes in the girls section were stylish, unsupportive, essentially ballet flats made to look nice. In the boys section, the shoes were sturdy, and comfortable, and basically the kind of thing I remember from my childhood. As the mother asked reporters, “should she be satisfied with looking stylish whilst the boys are free to play and achieve in comfort?” 
Whilst the mother admits that she could shop for her daughter in the boys section, the apparently “aggressive marketing” is implying, to her daughter, that weatherproof, outdoorsy shoes are not intended for her use. This then, according to her, suggests that activities such as climbing, running, and jumping are for boys, since the ‘girls’ shoes wouldn’t be suitable for such activities. I admit that I’m inclined to agree with her. Issues like this, that seem trivial when compared to other problems, are actually all part of this whole structure of society that divides rather than unites. Yes, it is a small problem, particularly when she could simply buy ‘boys’ shoes. But I like to see it as a little brick in a big wall, and the more little bricks we can take out, the sooner the whole thing will tumble down. Let’s just be people, not genders. 


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