Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Shoes for the boys

It's a shame I have to write this. Yet another retailer has resorted to lazy gender stereotypes in order to shift more wares.

This time it's high street shoe shop, Clarks.

Signs in their shop windows read: 'Because boys test their shoes to destruction, so do we' and 'Because girls love comfort and style, we design both into our shoes'.

So boys wear their shoes out by running about and having fun in them, while girls just like to sit around being comfortable and looking pretty. I think a lot of mothers of girls would disagree with this. Girls are just as capable of wearing out their shoes as boys, and boys are just as likely to want their shoes to be comfortable and look good.

And of course, the boy sign was in the inevitable blue, and the girl one the usual pink. Don't get me started on pink.


I had a look at Clarks' website (there's no sign of these slogans there), and to their credit, both boys and girls are shown involved in an action activity and something a bit arty - boys on their bikes, and a boy playing a guitar, versus girls with a home-made cart, and one clutching a pile of schoolwork.

It looks like they have tried to get a good balance, and not go all pink princess. So it's a shame they did this.

Maybe they have done some research, and actually have some robust data that tells them that boys generally 'test their shoes to destruction' and girls prioritise 'comfort and style' in their footwear. If they do, then I'd really like to see it.

Online petition

The signs were pounced on by lawyer and parent Emma Dixon, who set up an online petition, asking Clarks to remove them.

There are a lot of online petitions, and you might wonder if they do any good, but this is the kind of simple issue that, by signing a petition, you can send a clear message to a retailer that you don't like what they are saying. And so I think there's a pretty good chance it will succeed. That would be another small victory for feminism, although it's a battle we shouldn't still have to be fighting.

Sign the petition asking Clarks to remove the signs here.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Feminism and peace

This weekend the Leamington Peace Festival rolled around once more.

This is a major annual event in Leamington Spa, the town that I was privileged to call 'home' for 13 years. It's basically a big excuse for a party in the name of peace.

The only tangible presence of feminism at the event was Amnesty International, which took its women's rights in Afghanistan campaign along.

Thinking about the links between feminism and peace, I am surprised that this was the only representation. It made me wonder where all the feminists are.


The moment that a Suffragette first chained herself to a railing began a war against inequality that is still waged today.

The Suffragettes refused to be appeased until women were given the vote. They were successful and a kind of peace followed, but that was really the beginning of women fighting for the right to be recognised as equal to men.

Feminism has a funny relationship to peace: it both breaks it and makes it. Feminism is a disruptive force which shakes up the discriminatory status quo. While women are discriminated against, then they cannot and should not be peaceful. For this reason, perhaps it has no place at a festival for peace.

But at the same time, we will be closer to peace once we have equality between the sexes - on a global scale. And so feminism and peace are inseparable ideas.

I hope, although feminism wasn't obviously in evidence, that the park today was crammed with feminists of all shapes and sizes who expect to be treated equally to men, and don't feel they could be at peace without this basic right.