• Sat, Aug 24 - 1:00 pm ET

Another Ad Calls Our Daughters ‘Princesses’ And Our Sons ‘Powerful’

girlsssss__1377354759_142.196.156.251When will brands get the message that parents are sick of their children being stereotyped? I’m going to go with, “never.”

Stride Rite is the latest brand to piss off parents everywhere. Their new ads have two very different messages for boys and girls. The ad for girls says, “Run, Skip, Twirl, Wish Like A Princess.” The ad for boys says, “The Power Of Darth Vader.” As you may have guessed, the girls ad is awash in pink, purple and stars and the boys ad is all primary colors. Yawn.

After passing one of these ads in a storefront in her California neighborhood, Margot Magowan, wrote a letter to Stride Rite and posted it on her blog:

Unfortunately, we will no longer be shopping at Stride Rite.The way you guide girls to one side of your store and boys to the other is manipulative and destructive. My youngest child chose her orange shoes from the “boy” side, but every year, my kids get more influenced by marketing such as yours. Their choices become more limited as they repeatedly see that girls are supposed to be so radically different than boys, only wear certain colors, and behave in a certain “feminine” way. For as long as I can, I hope to protect my kids from learning that boys are valued for what they do, while girls are valued for how they appear. That means not shopping at Stride Rite.

She’s right (also, her blog is awesome). This type of marketing is destructive. I loved pink, but I also loved superheroes. We need to send messages to young girls that they are also powerful forces – and don’t need to spend their lives “twirling and wishing.” It’s important that we constantly raise objection to this type of marketing so companies get the message.

Of course, the most powerful way to object is by withholding your dollars. Until companies like Stride Rite get the message, the best way to get their attention is by affecting their bottom lines.

(photo: Reelgirl.com)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • jasdfgh

    This is ridiculous. I really feel that all of this PC bull has gone too far. I actually love the idea of my daughter thinking she is a princess, but she also considers herself strong and powerful. Can’t she be all of these things?

    • yup!

      Yes, that’s the heart of the issue. If she is told that she can only be a princess by media and that she needs to look a certain way – read blond, thin and wearing pink – what happens when she wants to be powerful, strong and wear a darth vader costume? We are social creatures and we want to do what the majority is telling us – I doubt any child will break from the message until we stand up to the media and say, it’s okay to be who you are – stop telling our kids that they can only be a certain way!

    • jasdfgh

      But isn’t this showing one way a girl can be? My daughter DOES have a darth vader costume. Isn’t it the parents job to guide their children, not media? Maybe I don’t worry about advertisements like these because I have taken over the main roll of teaching her who/what she can be.

    • Mommy nj

      Shouldn’t the parent be teaching the kids these lessons? Can’t control everything that is out there unless you want to live in a police state.

    • AugustW

      THANK YOU.
      Yes, everybody gets messages from society, but parents are on the front line of that. Teach yo damn kids. :D

  • Emmali Lucia

    Wish like a princess? What the hell would a princess wish for? She already has everything she could possibly want!

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      Good point.

    • meteor_echo

      ~A prince to come and save her~, obviously.

  • Ginny

    I’d rather have the Darth Vader shoes than the princess shoes…

  • Cee

    Hm. I feel that at times we really are putting a lot of responsibility on stores and what they do. When I babysit and happen to take a kid to the toy store, we go through the WHOLE store. I don’t say we are in a girls or boys section. We just look and if they find something they like, we get it. I don’t say it is for girls or for boys. I let them decide what they like. I don’t force them to conform to gender norms, but I also don’t ridicule them if they happen to choose something that falls in their so called gender norms. You can simply go to a stride rite and walk your child through the whole store. If your girl already likes pinks, purple and princess things and is drawn to that, think about the toys she and things she has at home and why she likes those things. Was it because it has been already backed up by all the choices in purchases the parent made and now shoes are the major no no? Or had you always allowed her to walk all over stores, make choices and what fit her interests best and she just happened to still like princess things?

  • Heather Knodel Melson

    Oh for Pete’s sake. I thought Mommyish was anti-sanctimommy. This article, quite honestly, is ridiculous. So they advertise traditional gender roles. That’s okay. These are children. Five-year-old kids are not going to get upset because a girl is wearing princess shoes and a boy is in Star Wars. It’s the parents that create this strife, this struggle. If a girl wants Star Wars shoes, then she’ll pick them out. If a boy wants princess shoes, then that’s what he’ll choose. It doesn’t matter what they play with or what they wear. It’s about the values and morals being taught at home.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      You’ve obviously never been bullied to tears for wearing “boy” shoes instead of “girl” shoes the way I was. And this was well over 20 years ago. I was obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but of course their products were only found in the “boys” section, so that’s where we bought the shoes I wanted. I worse them once and was picked on so bad I refused to put them on again.

      It must be nice to be you if you’ve never witnessed or been subject to gender role enforcement or prejudice. I wonder what magical world you live in and how I can move there.

    • Justme

      I think everyone has been teased, picked on and bullied for something at one point in time. Everyone has had their fair share of tragedy, devastation and tears. But I think that the important thing is that as adults we begin to move on from those experiences and leave the bitterness and anger behind.

    • yup

      Yeah, I had a teenage mutant ninja turtle cake at my 5th birthday party, I was teased pretty hard for it

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      Isn’t TMNT just the best though? Turtle lovers UNITE!

  • Justme

    First of all, Stride Rite shoes are ridiculously overpriced.

    Secondly, this is a poster hanging in the window of a store. I would like to believe that the manner in which I live my life – as a confident, strong, brave, determined, compassionate woman – will have a FAR greater impact on the woman my daughter becomes than an advertisement for shoes.

  • whit

    I agree with this article and the blog about what it is saying about the ideas presented to our kids. I don’t want that crap being pushed on my kids.

    • Justme

      There’s a lot of crap that is pushed on people all the time. You can’t police the world.

    • ElleJai

      You may not be able to do everything, but you still do the small thing in front of you. Make a start at making a difference.

    • Justme

      For me, it’s all about what is in my realm of control. A large corporation and their advertising techniques, for the most part is not anything I can control. But how I react to it in front of my child or the kind of example I set for my daughter as to what it means to be a girl? Definitely in my control.

    • ElleJai

      True. But the corporations do listen when enough of us complain loud enough. I’m not the type of person who can boycott a store I use often, but I can sign petitions. I can have a quiet word to the manager.

      My mum complained at every single grocery trip for a while there because in my state “rockmelon” is actually “cantaloupe” and she’d make them change the signs. Sure, it’s a hassle but nothing CAN change if we don’t point it out as unacceptable.

    • meteor_echo

      Less pushed crap = better.

    • Justme

      As a parent, I’m much more concerned about the immediate things in her life that are going to affect her well-being and perception of the world….the people who are a part of her daily life and the children she will be surrounded by at school. Those things are going to have a bigger impact on her life than a poster hanging in a store. So that’s where I will focus my attention.

    • meteor_echo

      And you’re probably going to miss out some parts of the bigger picture if you think that way. I remember that, when I was a kid, I was ashamed to have “boy hobbies” because everything around me (ads, commercials on TV, even movies and books) clearly made me think that I was a failure as a girl because I didn’t like the color pink, makeup, cute clothes or whatever. Small things accumulate, after all.

    • Justme

      Hmm. I grew up hating dresses and beating all the boys at sports in PE while also having a healthy love for Barbie and Cabbage Patch dolls. My parents never batted an eye and therefore I never thought there was anything wrong with who I was and what I liked to do. They were proud of my strengths and encouraged all my varied interests. I intend on doing the same with my daughter….Whatever those interests might be. The bigger an issue you make of it, the bigger an issue it becomes to the child.

    • meteor_echo

      All kids are different. Some are more influenced by the parents and friends, some – by the small details they pick up from their surroundings. Hopefully your child will be the former, but if she’s the latter, your line of thoughts seriously won’t be of much help. Humans tend to believe strangers more, because those are oftentimes way less biased.

  • hollylou

    My daughter is 6 and she’ll dress in princess clothes, complete with gloves, tiara and plastic high heels while catching snakes and toads in the back yard. My 9 year old son doesn’t care if I give him a pink cup to drink his milk from or if he happens to end up with the plate with hearts. They see Daddy make dinner and mommy mow the grass. I hope my munchkins continue to do what makes them happy and not worry about falling into traditional gender stereotypes.

    • AugustW

      This.
      I think it’s our job as parents to show kids that stereotypes aren’t always exact. We can’t hide them from the world and hope they never get a message we don’t like. We have to show them there are alternatives, and hope that helps.

  • Momma425

    I tried to get my daughter to play t-ball this last spring. She did wonderfully and I was so proud. She was an outfielder and she loved it. She refused to leave! Why? Because “playing t-ball” to her meant sitting in the grass, picking flowers and making daisy crowns for her whole team. It was a beautiful, glorious thing because she was true to who she is- a pink, princess, flower-loving girly girl.

    Have I tried other things? Of course. She has the green leap pad, not the pink one. Most of her baby stuff was neutral colors. I was THRILLED when my husband got her to watch the justice league cartoons with him. I let her play outside in the rain when she wants to. not once have i gotten upset when she gets her shoes muddy. But for the most part, she is not the kind of person who is ever going to naturally gravitate towards Star Wars shoes.

    Sometimes, when you give a kid a baseball glove, they run outside and want to play catch. And sometimes, they say, “why would I want to throw a ball?” And turn that glove into a bed for the Barbie dolls.

    If my daughter wanted to get Star Wars shoes, or orange ones (how is orange boy shoes??) I would fully support that. But I have no problem with her wearing pink and purple princess shoes either.

    • AugustW

      I tend to gravitate toward the “boy” shoes for tennis shoes for my toddler just because they tend to be better made. Maybe that’s what we should be talking about.

  • lin

    Why not brave like a princess? Instead of wishing and twirling? My 2 year old loves to dress all in pink frilly princess stuff. But since she has never watched a Disney movie, she thinks princesses slay dragons, rescue people, dance and do ninja moves. Her favourite shows are Diego, the Octonauts and Thomas the Tank Engine. She got made fun of by a 5 year old last week for her Diego running shoes because they were boy shoes. I think that was her first experience with that. Kids do pick up on stereotypes. My son loved pink until he started kindergarten.

  • Rachel

    They could have at least done a Princess Leia theme to counterpart the Darth Vader advert. Though, if I were a kid (and I still would), I’d have gone for the DV thing.

  • C.J.

    Why shouldn’t girls who love to run, skip and twirl be able to have shoes marketed towards them. I have two daughters and they are very different from each other. When they were smaller the older one had to have everything pink/purple and “girly”, The younger one liked trains, cars and some “girly” things. There were choices in the stores for both of them. Somebody has to market to the girls that like pink/purple princess stuff. There is nothing wrong with a girl liking to skip and twirl and liking princesses. Making a big deal because there is frilly pink princess stuff marketed to little girls sends the message that there is something wrong with a girl if she likes it. Strength doesn’t come from the shoes or clothes you wear, or the toys you play with. It comes from inside. My “girly” girl is one of the strongest kids I know. She has always been the kid who stands up to bullies. If she sees something she thinks is wrong she speaks up. She works hard towards all her goals. She doesn’t think she is weak because she likes “girly” things. Not all parents are going to be pissed off by this. Some parents will appreciate that someone marketed what our “girly” girls want.

    • Muggle

      The problem is that girls aren’t really getting that message. Take a look at the ads again: girls are told to “wish like a princess” while boys are encouraged to embrace the “power of Darth Vader.” There’s no marketing whatsoever for girls who like boy things, or boys who like girl things. There’s no message that that is okay or acceptable. the message is that all girls should like princesses and pink, and all boys should like Darth Vader.

    • C.J.

      My daughter that likes “boy” things has never looked at an ad and said she can’t like something because the ad has a boy in it. She was much more focused on the shoe or the toy than who was in the ad. I have taught her that she can like anything she wants. She thinks it is perfectly acceptable to play with her “boy” toys and often chose “boy” shoes. She doesn’t think she has to like princesses and pink. It is the parents job to teach that not the media’s.

    • Ann B.

      I agree with you on this point 100%. I feel like the problem is that somewhere along the line, parents started devaluing “girly” choices. I think it’s GREAT when a girl loves princesses and wants to twirl and wish and wear pink and frills and ruffles and all that stuff that I was definitely not into as a kid. Coming as a mother of 2 boys, however, I see the place where Muggle is coming from with this. Somewhere along the way (personally, I blame feminism, which is funny, because I agree with the idea behind the movement completely), “girly” choices had less value. As they tried to make a push for girls to not HAVE to be girly, we didn’t remember that it is still okay to be girly if we want. And no one bothered to add the push “hey, it’s okay for males to be feminine if that’s how they’re comfortable.” And therein lies the problem with this style of stereotyping. You DO get the “omg my girl doesn’t like that kind of stuff stop pushing it on them” moms of girls….but more than that, the boys are getting the message “oh, I’m not supposed to like pink, that’s for GIRLS.” (Notice, a girl plays with cars, no one cares….a boy paints his nails with his mom in a magazine, and there’s a viral debaucle over it.)

      I think stereotypically feminine things have a place in this world and should be celebrated as wonderful, because they are. I am PROUD to be a woman! But I think that pushing them as girls only is less okay, because it’s devaluing women.

    • C.J.

      I agree that marketing could be more diverse but I don’t think gender marketing is being done to devalue women. All products are marketed to the largest group of people that the company thinks is going to want to own them. Sometimes they get it right, sometimes they don’t. I actually know a little 3 year old boy that likes to have his nails painted. No one makes a big deal out of it so he doesn’t either. It sadden’s me that girly choices are viewed as less valuable and I absolutely agree with you on how that came to be.

    • Justme

      Then maybe the parents need to be examining what messages they themselves are sending to their children.

  • Ann B.

    I’m okay with girls who want to be princesses. I’m okay with boys who want to be powerful. Both of these things are fine by me.

    What I’m NOT okay with is the idea that either of these things are for girls or boys ONLY, and therein lies the problem with this whole ordeal. My son LOVES Darth Vader and superheroes and the TMNT and all these (semi-geeky) boyish things. Doesn’t give a lick about sports. He also loves Disney princesses and his favorite color is pink. He was VERY torn this last time we went shoe shopping on whether he wanted the Iron Man shoes or the Rapunzel from Tangled shoes. And there is NO reason I should have to tell him he can’t wear one or the other because “those are for girls.”

    And before anyone uses the “but then other kids would bully him” line…perhaps other parents should consider not teaching their kids that it’s not okay to “act like a girl.” Since females have just as much worth as males.

  • http://www.facebook.com/valerisexton.jones Valeri Jones

    I am going to respectfully disagree with this article. I don’t feel that it’s the responsibility of a major corporation to make my child feel comfortable in what he chooses to wear or play with. That’s my job. Plain and simple.

    • AugustW

      Yeah, their only real responsibility is to make a decent product that doesn’t kill people. That’s really it.

  • Hercules03

    I’m so tired of this argument. Girls ARE princesses, Boys ARE super heroes or whatever. Perhaps if we’d move back to those ideas, we wouldn’t have so many people out there confused about their gender… Just a thought. And yes, a princess can rock-n-roll an M-60. And a boy can cook. But that doesn’t give neither boy or girl the right to become identified as the opposite… You have a penis? You are male. Vagina? Female. Don’t fight nature. Don’t fight GOD. Be thankful for what he made you.

    • Justme

      Oh dear. I don’t think many people are going to agree with you.

    • AugustW

      I may not agree 100%, but I am getting sick of this “don’t push any gender stereotypes or anything gender related on a child until they are old enough to decide their gender themselves”.
      I’m sorry, my daughter is a girl. If she chooses to be a boy in the future, that’s up to her, but for now, she’s a girl. I think it’s more gender obsessive to pretend otherwise.

    • Justme

      I think there’s a vast difference between what you said and how Hercules declared that “girls ARE princess, boys ARE super heroes.” And then there’s that whole “don’t fight nature and don’t fight GOD” thing. Knowing this website and the commenters that frequent it, I have a feeling many people will absolutely, 100% vehemently disagree with her statement.

    • lin

      Gender is not determined by sex organs. If “GOD” didn’t want transgendered people, why did he make them? Also, my Batman-caped, tutu- wearing daughter would strongly disagree with you. She is both princess and superhero. I will not take either away from her.

    • meteor_echo

      Aaand here we are with our daily dose of transphobia. Wonderful.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      I think you’re the confused one.

  • AugustW

    My daughter is a princess. Her name actually means “daughter of the king” (my name, although I am a girl, means “royal” and “king-like”, so it worked).
    She is also a kick-butt rough and tumble toddler.
    I’ve seen her tackle a kid twice her size while wearing the poofiest damn tutu you’ve ever seen.
    Wearing pink doesn’t make her girly anymore than wearing blue would make her a butch lesbian.
    Colors are just colors. Sometimes it feels like the people who are upset about the stereotypes, are the ones who keep them going.

  • Mom22

    Didn’t darth vase annihilate a whole community of people in the movies? (I’ve actually never seen Star Wars but when I mentioned this article to my husband he said that). So do we actually want to teach our kids “yeah let’s be super powerful and kill a bunch of people just like darth vader”. That to me is a worse message than the whole gender issue just saying

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  • Moony

    Ugh. I’m so SICK of all these people complaining about the damage this crap does to girls! What about the boys?! Boys are far more likely to get the stuffing kicked out of them for wearing pink “girl” shoes as opposed to the girls who wear blue “boy” shoes. Boys are usually the ones who get sneered at by grown adults when they let it be known that they hold an interest in Barbie or Dora the Explorer.

    As a woman myself, I know full well that girls are victims of sexist marketing, but so are boys and I think that lots of people seem to forget that side of the argument. And, that said, hardly anyone would show concern over their daughter picking out a Spiderman outfit for Halloween, but 9 out of 10 people would adamantly refuse the purchase of a non-descriptive fairy costume for their son. It’s disgusting. LET KIDS BE KIDS!

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