The day after Moonie-Dalton’s complaint went national, Tesco came under fire for selling boys’ shoes perfect for “active” and “hard-wearing” activities while the girls’ shoes were said to have “sensitive” soles.
This problem is not unique to Clarks and Tesco. My trip to the shoe shop before each new school year is fraught with misery. There is a boys’ and girls’ section and the boys’ section comprises mostly trainer-style hybrids while the girls’ section mostly comprises riffs on the Mary Jane or the ballet pump. It is hard to play football in either, so my daughter wears trainers. (There is more choice if you shop online, even on the Clarks website, but shopping online inevitably involves sending back sizes.) Sure there are unisex shoes – from Kickers, Bisgaard, Camper, Geox, Dr Martens and from Plae, for instance, the model that Moonie-Dalton is now considering – but these brands are more expensive than Clarks. Why should parents pay a surcharge for non-discriminatory footwear?
Buy shoes for girls from the boys’ shelves, some will say. But this misses the point. No child should need to bypass their gender to access active footwear. Consider the dropout rate among girls from sport. Research from UN Women has shown that, at puberty, 49% of girls drop out of sports altogether. In this context, the prejudices of children’s footwear become meaningful and pernicious. By assuming inactivity, retailers connive in girls’ future sporting disinheritance. It’s time to take a stand.
Moonie-Dalton still has a few weeks to find school shoes. So what has her daughter had to say about the furore? Moonie-Dalton laughs: “She’s really happy. She said, ‘Yay! Go Mummy! You’re standing up for me.”