Clarks removal of “Dolly Babe” demonstrates the power of speaking up. Your voice matters and as a collective, we can end sexploitation of women and girls.
The well-known British shoe brand, Clarks, came under fire after naming a pair of girls’ shoes “Dolly Babe” and a pair of boys’ shoes “Leader”, enabling sexist stereotypes. Clarks are withdrawing the school shoe for girls called “Dolly Babe” after it provoked accusations of sexism, however, the equivalent version for boys called “Leader” have not been removed. Despite Clarks choice to keep “Leader”, their actions demonstrate successful corporate responsibility and accountability.
Clarks is notorious for designing shoes for boys that are thick soled, sturdy and durable, while their girls equivalent are thin and impractical for running or climbing. This type of design assumes that boys are outside and active while girls and inside and inactive - an outdated and saddening assumption.
Clarks successful attempt to enact corporate responsibility is another clear example of how major brands can be held accountable when spoken out against; the very philosophy Collective Shout is fighting for.
Clarks’ choice of naming and designing these shoes has created a clear division between boys and girls, forcing them into stereotypical and ridiculous roles from a young age. Gendered stereotypes create a dangerous and uneven playing field for girls and boys. They grow up under the misguided belief that they must fit into society's gendered profiles. Not fitting into these profiles leaves both boys and girls vulnerable to feeling they do not belong, are strange or have something wrong with them. These feelings can cause an abundance of mental health issues, such as depression, eating disorders and anxiety.
Clarks’ choice of naming children’s shoes “Dolly babe” very clearly sexualises the young female wearers. Girls are all too often forced to take on the role of a ‘dolly,’ - flawless, conventionally ‘pretty’ and submissive. To assume a girl is a ‘dolly’ is to assume she does not have a voice - something that is all too often assumed in our society.
The word ‘babe’ is highly sexually charged. In modern slang context, it is often used to categorise women who are deemed attractive and sexually available, from those who are not. By conjoining this with a play item (a doll), “Dolly” suggests the wearer is a sexual toy, something that is completely unacceptable and offensive, especially in reference to a child.
This daily sexualisation of children through marketing and advertising has had a huge negative effect on the safety of our children. The sexual abuse of children is scarily under-reported as a result of the normalisation of the sexualisation of children.
Dr Emma Rush co-wrote a report entitled "Corporate Paedophilia", which states that corporations who sell products to children in a sexualised way are producing damaging material that is harming girls and boys.
"The analogy with paedophilia is this idea of stealing of childhood. Children are losing that important period of childhood between early childhood and adolescence because they're being pushed from a very early age into adolescent interests and concerns" says Dr Rush.
Until large companies such Clarks stop producing dangerous sexist and sexualised marketing and advertising, we cannot hope to live in a world where both sexes are treated equally, and our children and women are free from oppressive sexualisation.
Clarks has been at the forefront of such complaints in the past, with people upset by the designs Clarks release. Clarks' heeding to the concerns of its customers and removing this line of shoes proves the battle against sexploitation by our supporters is important.
Huge success has been made in the UK and Berlin, where sexist adverts are now banned. It’s time for Australia to follow suit and have advert standards regulated to prevent sexualisation of our girls.
We would like to invite Clarks to sign our Corporate Social Responsibility and refuse to objectify women and sexualise girls.
Please join Collective Shout in our commitment to protecting girls and young women from sexual objectification by signing up today.
About the author: Paige Ann Taylor is an English Literature, Media & Culture graduate who is soon to pursue a masters in English Literature after travelling Australia and Asia whilst freelance writing.