Asda, GapKids and Next are among the High Street brands who offer heels for young girls.
Justine Roberts of Mumsnet, the parenting forum, said: “Some of the shoes I have seen on sale look more suited to a lap-dancing club than the feet of a young girl. The items in question are prematurely sexualising young children. We are saying to retailers, ‘Have a look at your range and ask yourselves if these items are appropriate. Some of the school shoes Tesco sells have got a two-inch heel. You shouldn’t have a high heel if your feet are developing.
“It’s not about being Mary Whitehouse. It’s about not sleepwalking into a world where this is normal.”
Mumsnet is running a campaign, Let Girls Be Girls, asking retailers to sign up to a code of practice and given an undertaking not to sell products which prematurely sexualise children.
This is not a first for British retailers:
In April, Primark withdrew padded bikini tops aimed at girls as young as seven following criticism that the items were sexualising children. [P.M.] David Cameron described the clothing as “completely disgraceful” and condemned the “early commercialisation and sexualisation of our children”.
You could make the argument that heels are not as offensive as padded bikinis, which are meant to give pre-pubescent girls the appearance of adult breasts. But high heels’ only purpose is to look sexy or—more euphemistically, glamourous—and attract male sexual attention. Adult-looking sexy clothes are never appropriate for young children. EVER. This applies to high heels, padded bikinis or midriff-baring dance outfits with lacy thigh-highs.
In addition, high heels are just plain bad for the body. Last year the British Trade Union Congress proposed that they be banned from the workplace because of they negatively affect health and safety for women employees (and also that they’re “demeaning to women.”) The New York Times also published a (subtly sexist) article in their Health section cautioning women against wearing heels because of the long-term damage they do to the feet, legs and back. Retailers do not seem to care about this aspect of the problem either.
A spokesman for Asda, which is currently selling a pair of (ed: OMG, vomit) Disney Princess children’s sandals with a 3cm heel, said the retailer had received no customer complaints. A Next spokesman said: “Their popularity suggests many parents agree we’ve come up with a look that’s special without seeming inappropriately grown up.” GapKids said their child heels had been tested to ensure safety.
Tested by whom, I wonder?
Nicola Lamond of Netmums, another parenting group, said: “I went shopping with my daughter and was horrified by how many shoes came with a high heel in sizes to fit girls as young as three. These shoes will be harder to walk in than flat shoes so I’d be worried my child would injure themselves.”
Gregor McCoshim, a podiatrist, warned that young children should not wear heels. “The fact children can wear these is worrying. Any heel above 2cm increases the risk of twisting an ankle. Wearing them can cause strains in the back which is a potential problem for their growth and development.”
The backlash has not yet forced retailers to take the kiddie heels off the market. There are apparently still enough people buying kiddie heels for retailers to justify selling them—because anyone in the fashion business knows that the only thing that matters is what you can sell, not what you ought to sell.
But if, like me, you didn’t learn to mince around in heels as a child, the Independent also reports in a separate article that:
The six-week “Sexy Heels In The City” course was offered to 16-year-old students at South Thames College in Wandsworth, Tooting and Merton in South London. (ed: The college is similar to a US vocational or community college.) It claims to prepare young women “for the business world and their social lives”.
Your tax dollars at work! The fact that a school offers classes teaching teens how to look “sexy” for the “business world” flat-out blows my mind. The course’s raison d’ être was explained thusly:
The course is run by Chyna Whyne, a former backing singer, who claims her life was made a misery because she wasn’t taught how to walk in high heels at a young age. (ed: “Made a misery” because she couldn’t walk in heels when she was in grade school? Bish plz. Get some real problems.)
She said: “At some point, girls from the age of 15 upwards will start wanting to wear high heels. The point, if it’s going to happen, the earlier younger ladies learn how to walk in heels, the better it’s going to be in the long run – with business and social lives.
“The statistics of women with shoe-related injuries and foot problems are unbelievable high.”
It’s for your own good! So you don’t hurt yourself! Plus, the sooner you learn to work the sexy look, the better your life will be! Of course, it’s unthinkable for women to avoid injury simply by wearing flats or low heels—flats might keep them from looking sexy.
The school defends the course:
A spokeswoman for South Thames College said the course – which was run as an extra-curricular activity – aimed to teach women “how to walk in high heels, improve their posture, walk lighter and improve confidence”.
At the end of the six weeks, the course culminated in a spectacular show at Liverpool Street’s prestigious Broad Gate Tower, with the girls showing off their walking ability in a ‘catwalk style’ performance.”
Because that’s really what continuing education is all about—teaching girls to get ahead in life by walking like models. You can’t have confidence unless you’re sexy!
Let me point out the obvious: No man is ever told that he should look sexy—or re-learn how to walk—in order to be more successful in business. This school is endorsing the message that being sexy is essential to a woman’s professional life and is actually spending taxpayer money teaching them how to look the part.
This school’s attitude reflects what’s happening in the wider culture. When it comes to teens—i.e. older children—there’s no attempt to whitewash the fact that high heels are all about being sexy, whereas there’s at least token denial among retailers selling heels to grade-schoolers. But the fact that high heels are being marketed to increasingly younger girls is proof that, at minimum, our culture is okay with making “sexy” the prevailing look for all females, no matter what their age.