My name is Augusta and I’m actually the person that started the petition on Change.org. I am not a parent, although I have spoken with many (I believe rightfully) outraged parents on the subject at hand. I started the petition not as a parent, but as a 21 year old woman who personally understands the harms of gendered advertising on girls and women of all ages. I was a little disappointed in the commenting responses of this and other articles, so I wanted to take a moment to respond to criticisms of the petition.
I run a feminist blog, and read a post by another blogger condemning the ad, and after watching it, I had to agree. These shoes have no counterpart for young boys, who to my knowledge are not somehow immune to obesity or inactivity. That alone made it clear to me that these shoes were not being marketed because of any substantive health value, but to exploit the insecurities and body image struggles of increasingly young girls. (For some perspective, consider 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 according to an international survey commissioned by Dove.
I’d also like to point out, as most of the articles do, that Shape Ups have been proven to do absolutely nothing for your health. They don’t burn more calories, they don’t make you more active, they don’t teach your kids better nutrition. And I have to say, most of the comments I’ve seen that have greatly disappointed are dead set on commenting on the “size” of kids today. But it isn’t necessarily size that makes people unhealthy, but poor nutrition habits. Skinny people who eat horribly are prone to exactly the same health problems as heavier people who eat badly, just as heavier people can be perfectly healthy with a good diet. If anyone were actually legitimately concerned with the health of this country’s children rather than their futures as thin and conventionally attractive adults, we would be demanding that corn subsidies end, and that corn and its byproducts stop being integrated into absolutely every food item available to us. We would be funding programs that teach children about nutrition rather than about the BMI, and public schools wouldn’t be shutting down gym classes and sports left and right.
And again, allow me to point out that little boys can be heavy too, not just little girls. So why is this product just marketed to seven year old girls and up? The answer is simple: by this age, girls are already self-conscious and used to being bombarded by ads and products that reinforce that they are not good enough, and must fit into a narrow mold.
Finally, I’d just like to point out the double standard that I’ve seen from commenting communities on this issue. Just a few weeks ago, CNN published an article entitled, “Parents, don’t dress your girls like tramps”, and yes, it was as offensive as it sounds. I hear so much about little girls growing up too fast, wearing makeup too young, having sex too early. But from reading these comments, it seems that growing up too fast seems only to apply to individual lifestyle choices, and not to fat shaming and body policing. Keep in mind, safe consensual sex doesn’t kill people, but eating disorders do.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions! firstname.lastname@example.org