Twitter users condemn high heeled shoes for baby girls
US based retailer Pee Wee Pumps has attracted negative attention over their high-heeled shoes for infant girls. The brand describes the shoes as ‘her first fashion statement’. Founder of the company, Michele Holbrook, describes how after not being able to find high heeled shoes for her baby (for some reason) she decided to start manufacturing her own.
Pee Wee Pumps website features various images of babies adorned in pearl necklaces, high heels, lace and feather boas. One image shows a baby girl in red satin with leopard print heels reclining on a couch.
Psychologists, health professionals and child advocates have long argued that our culture is driving childhood out of children, highlighting the ‘Lolita effect’ where girls are growing up too quickly. They describe girls under increasing pressure to be hot, thin and sexy, girls who have been socialized to believe that their worth lies in their sexuality and encouraged to see themselves as objects. There is substantial research indicating that premature sexualisation or ‘adultification’ of children is damaging to children’s natural development and leads to a range of negative physical and mental health outcomes.
One form of sexualisation is the deliberate marketing of adult, sexualized products to children, often to draw attention to adult sexual features girls do not yet possess. This can include clothing and underwear with sexualized slogans, g-strings, padded bras and bikini tops, make up and high heels. Sexualisation blurs the lines between sexual maturity and immaturity and puts girls at risk of exploitation and abuse.
The constant focus on physical appearance and sex appeal from the earliest of ages impacts on girls’ self esteem. As Julie Gale, founder of Kids Free 2 B Kids stated in response to Witchery over their adultifying Witchery Kids clothing line,
“Children do not develop healthy self-esteem if they are encouraged to focus on how they look or what clothes they are wearing.”
It would appear Pee Wee Pumps didn’t get the memo about the harms of sexualisation- or chose to ignore it. Promotional material on their website sums up the phenomenon of adultification as a selling point:
“These days, parents are all about style – not just for themselves, but for their little, ones, too! With companies focusing more and more on fashions for kids, children are quickly becoming trendy little peopledestined to grow up a great fashion sense thanks to their parents.”
How can children and babies develop normally while wearing high heels? How can they learn to walk, run and play freely? Even more so, how can they develop a healthy self-image when they learn from infancy that looking pretty is more important than the ability to move through the world?
Twitter users came out strongly against the store’s high heels for babies as well as their ‘sexually objectifying’ advertising featuring baby girls. Scroll down to view some of the reactions on twitter.
CALL TO ACTION
Research papers on the sexualisation of children
Emma Rush: The Market is eating our children