Am I Missing Something? What's Wrong with Skechers Shape-Ups for Girls?

First it was thong underwear; then it was padded bikini tops. Now, another company is trying to seduce our underage daughters into wearing an age-inappropriate product. Yes, the plotting cobblers at Skechers have released a commercial designed to make our girls feel so bad about their out-of-shape bodies that they beg us to buy them overpriced platform sneakers. At least, that’s what some moms seem to think.

In the I’m-not-even-sure-why-it’s-controversial commercial, a cartoon rocker-girl sings about the shoes: "Heidi's got new Shape-ups, got everything a girl wants. Now they’ll never catch her. She's got the height, got the bounce. She's looking good and having fun 'cuz Heidi's got new Shape-ups."

Despite the fact that some Shape-up styles are pretty hideous, I bought a pair because my sister swore that they cured her of crippling back pain. They were originally designed as a woman's shoe, after all, promising to “tone your muscles, promote healthy weight loss and make it easy to get in shape.” I can’t say that I’ve developed supermodel limbs since investing in the things, but I'll admit they're darn comfortable, and my back never bothers me when I wear them. The only reason I wouldn’t buy them for my own daughters is that I’m way too cheap to fork over $50 to $100 for shoes they’ll outgrow in six months.

But judging by the flack Skechers has been getting, what’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gosling. According to the outraged crowd, the promotional video clip is going to make our girls feel bad about their bodies by sending a “thin is happy” message. (I guess because “Heidi” is... thin and happy? You know, unlike all of the other fictional characters our kids adore.) And why don’t they make them for boys?

In a statement on Huffington Post, the president of Skechers Fitness Group, Leonard Armato, said: “The whole message behind Shape-ups is to get people moving, exercising, and getting fit. Skechers' advertising for Shape-ups for Girls contains the same message as the first lady's Let's Move initiative, which is aimed specifically at children. American children are more sedentary now than at any time in our history. Shape-ups' intended purpose is to promote exercise and fitness, which should be viewed as a positive message for kids to get up and get moving.”

Although the kid-size Shape-ups are nowhere to be found on Skechers' online store, the company says their absence is due to an IT issue. Shape-ups for Girls are widely available elsewhere on the web.

I have to admit that I'm flabbergasted by all of the hoopla. Watching the commercial, the message I get (whether true or not) is that Shape-ups give you height and bounce and help you outrun pathetic boys. I don’t see anything about body hatred or fat discrimination or cool-clique cruelty; all I see is a cutesy attempt to hawk expensive, unattractive shoes. Shoes that are, in my rarely humble opinion, a lot less offensive and inappropriate than the microshorts and tiny tops that are all the rage right now. But that’s another post for another day. 

WATCH: Should Little Girls Be Allowed to Wear Bikinis?

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