‪#letshoesbeshoes‬: Anger over sexist adverts for children's shoes

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Clarks window display on Change.org

Clarks has been in the firing line over a window display for children shoes that demonstrates woeful gender stereotyping. On one side in blue text it says 'Because boys test their shoes to destruction, so do we' and on the other side in pink it says "Because girls love comfort and style, we design both into our shoes."

An online petition calling for the signs to be changed has been signed by more than 6,000 people.

The author of the petition, Emma Dixon from Islington, north London, wrote: "These offensive posters suggest that boys are active (testing their shoes to destruction) while girls are passively pretty (interested in style and comfort)." She added: "As an adult, I've made my career in equality law and am all too aware of the damaging effects that stereotypes, whether based on sex, race, sexual orientation or religion, can have upon children when they are growing up."

"Gender stereotyping has an important effect on children's development. To suggest that boys engage in active outdoor play of the type that destroys shoes, while girls are interested in fashion and looking pretty, is to reinforce damaging social stereotypes and to deprive both sexes of the opportunity to become who they really are."

The response on Twitter with the hashtag ‪#letshoesbeshoes has been impressive. One user wrote: "Children are individuals and all like different things. Apparently in 2014 this is mind-blowing news for ‪@clarksshoes‬. ‪#letshoesbeshoes‬", another added: "This lazy sexist marketing has got to stop ‪#letshoesbeshoes‬" while one pointed out that ""‪#letshoesbeshoes‬ - also inbuilt sexism of SHOES THEMSELVES, not just signage. Girls' shoes=*rubbish* for treeclimbing".

Change

Clarks told the Daily Mail: "The wording in these in-store marketing displays was chosen to reference qualities that our customers value in children's shoes. It is never our intention to cause offence." It added that the signs were on their way out, saying: "As part of the regular seasonal changeover of in-store signage, we are in the process of updating all current in-store marketing for Autumn/Winter 2014."

Pressure from groups for these sorts of changes are having an effect. The Let Toys Be Toys campaign has been putting retailers under pressure over stereotyped toys for some time. Recent successes include the withdrawal of gender-specific activity packs from Paperchase. Meanwhile, the Orb Factory was persuaded to change the heading 'Toys for Boys' to 'Toys for Builders' online, and Osborne Books decided to drop books with titles stating they were 'for boys' or 'for girls'.

However, there are plenty of people who think this stereotyping really doesn't matter. One Twitter user wrote: "This ‪#letshoesbeshoes‬ is just political correctness gone crazy. Lets hope ‪@clarksshoes‬ ignores it, its obviously not meant in a bad way." One added: "‪#letshoesbeshoes‬ is such a stupid trend. How about you focus on stuff that actually matters instead of complaining about sexism all the time." And another said: "I think the ‪#letshoesbeshoes‬ campaign is absolutely stupid. Political madness gone mad ‪@clarksshoes‬."

But what do you think?