Stride Rite: Shoes that peddle gender stereotypes
Stride Rite is a popular kids' shoe store that garners online scorn for advertising campaigns that offer girls and boys stereotypical products and shopping experiences.
Last April, I posted about how Stride Rite positions girls as pretty and boys as active. After seeing their in-store advertisements and reviewing their product descriptions online, I concluded that according to Stride Rite, girls are meant to be looked at, so their play shoes are a route to prettiness, while boys are meant to be active, so their play shoes are made for play.Skip to next paragraph
Rebecca Hains, Ph.D. is a children's media culture expert. A professor of advertising and media studies at Salem State University, in Salem, Mass., her research focuses on girls and media. The author of "Growing Up With Girl Power: Girlhood on Screen and in Everyday Life," she blogs about children's media and popular cultur and lives with her husband and son in Peabody, Mass.
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Last week, while doing some back-to-school shopping with her young daughters, Margot Magowan of Reel Girl encountered similar advertising at her local Stride Rite store in San Francisco. She was deeply disappointed in how the brand perpetuated the idea that girls are dramatically different from boys–sparkling princesses versus powerful fighters. And she linked back to my post from last year to offer context, showing that Stride Rite’s hyper-gendered marketing is business as usual for the brand.
Her blog post about it struck quite the chord: The Daily Mail, the Huffington Post, and Jezebel all picked up the story, quoting Margot and myself on the topic. Margot also was interviewed by Fox and Friends.
As Margot put it on Fox and Friends: “Feet are not that different. Boys and girls, especially four-year-olds, have basically the same shoes and basically the same feet.” So why such a strong and stereotypical gender segregation?
The Daily Mail connected Stride Rite’s marketing to broader trends; for example, they cited research by Elizabeth Sweet, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of California, whose research suggests that gender segregating and stereotyping of toys is becoming worse with time–so much so that “the world of toys looks a lot more like 1952 than 2012.”
[The Christian Science Monitor editor's note: For it's part, Stride Rite responded to these concerns with the following statement, which focuses on their footwear but not their marketing strategies.
"Stride Rite Children’s Group develops footwear that is specifically designed to meet the needs of growing children while offering a broad assortment of products in a range of styles that are of interest for both girls and boys. We strongly believe that all kids should be active and we provide shoes that enable and encourage kids to play and use their imaginations. Our commitment to quality, style and “kid rite” innovation is at the forefront of our minds as we strive to provide options to all parents and children."]