I was signing into my personal email account the other day, when a news item caught my attention. Skechers Shape-Ups . . . for girls! Now these ridiculous shoes have already made it into the closets of many women, even though there is no evidence they follow through on the leg toning abilities they claim to offer. But really, do young girls really need to be concerned about how toned their legs are? the headline itself kind of got my blood boiling, but then I read the story. These shoes are being marketed primarily on child centered television. Skechers is also not offering an equivalent type of shoes to boys. Do boys not need strong legs? That is what Skechers claims they are offering in the statement they released in response to a petition to get the shoes off the market. They even compared these shoes to Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s Let’s Move Initiative, saying the shoes are about being active. Um, no they’re not. Tennis shoes are about being active. These shoes are about telling women and now girls, that nice legs are toned (and preferably tanned). In related news, the Today Show ran a piece this week about a mom in California giving Botox to her 8 year old daughter before pageants. What possible reason could an 8 year old have for needing Botox?
These two stories have truly made me question what the future holds for little girls. I work with women everyday who loathe their bodies and can tell you exactly which parts are wrong. They have learned their worth is measured by how their outsides look, regardless of what that does to their insides. And these women did not grow up with anywhere near the amount of pressure young girls experience today. I am not advocating that these products be removed from the market (well, except maybe the child Botox), but I am advocating that parents become smart consumers and that they teach their children to do the same. One of my favorite things to do with younger clients struggling with eating and body image is to look through the fashion magazines with a critical eye. Talk about the photo shopping, hours of hair and make-up, and unrealistic expectations being placed on the models. Talk about whether all of that sounds healthy. Educate them on what is realistic and what is simply Hollywood magic. Our children are smarter than we think they are sometimes. Some of these young women that I work with understand the pressure in those glossy pages better than I ever have. Understanding it doesn’t always mean that they can fight it though and sometimes that pressure gets the best of them. The ones who move through that and go on to feel proud of themselves for the size of their heart or brain rather than the size of their jeans, have parents who teach them that looks are not the key to success. Wearing the right makeup or making frown lines disappear will not make you feel good about yourself. And who knows, maybe if more of us felt that way, these products would disappear on their own. We can always hope.