Gentle readers, check out this commercial for Skechers’ new “Shape Ups for Girls” shoes.* The shoe is for a spin-off of the adult Shape Up shoe, but now this bogus fitness product is being advertised to girls ages 7-12. Not boys, mind you. Just girls—girls who are “looking good and having fun” while running away from a hot dog, a cupcake, and an ice cream cone.
Yes, just as Big Food markets non-food diet foods to women, here’s Big Fashion marketing a get-fit fitness shoe which scientific studies have shown won’t make you fit and may cause injury. But now they’re marketing to grade-schoolers, because we women are never too young for advertising that makes us feel insecure and want to improve our imperfect bodies with yet another useless product.
Angry posts about the ad and the shoe began appearing everywhere: Change.org, Strollerderby, Babble and the Washington Post‘s OnParenting blog. In a response at Huffington Post, Skechers chair Leonard Armato offers a thoroughly unconvincing defense of the product:
While Skechers agrees these issues are important, we think it is unfair and inaccurate to conflate them with Shape-ups for Girls and its advertising aimed at girls ages 7 through 12. We’d like to set the record straight.
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.
Let’s be clear: at no time has Michelle Obama or her Let’s Move initiative endorsed this shoe. But Skechers is going to try to hitch to that wagon anyway. If I were the First Lady, I’d be pissed.
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.
American children are overweight and sedentary—both boys and girls. And yet…there is no Skechers Shape-up for boys. Concern-trolling about kids’ health is apparently limited just to girls’ health.
Skechers also has received some inquiries from journalists who erroneously thought that Shape-ups for Girls was being marketed to pre-school children. This is not the case. Shape-ups for Girls come in sizes 2-6, which is meant for girls approximately 7 to 12 years old, and some even older, depending upon their size.
Depending on their size indeed. Saying the product is for girls 7-12 but not younger girls undermines his argument that these shoes are about is about exercise and health. If it truly were, they would make the shoes for children that age because kindergartners and pre-schoolers benefit from exercise as well, which is why you can buy soccer cleats and hockey skates for girls that young, for example.
What’s really going on here is that Skechers did their market research. They know that girls start dieting as young as eight, and are under tremendous pressure to look thin and cute from almost as soon as they’re aware of their bodies. Skechers is probably paying close attention to studies like the one Babble cites in which an international survey reported that 77% of young girls between ages 10 and 14 think that they are ugly. 80% of 13 year old girls have tried to lose weight, and 50% of girls between the ages of 10 and 13 think that they are overweight. When faced with all the data on how unhappy and messed-up girls feel about their bodies, someone at Skechers said: Just think of the marketing possibilities!
*You may notice that the comments are turned off on the YouTube page for the ad. Given the number of “dislikes,” I think we know why.