Dear Stride Rite, until you stop gender stereotyping, we’re through

Dear Stride Rite,

Today, I walked by your store on California Street in San Francisco, and I was saddened by how differently you market shoes to girls and boys. What’s with your gender stereotyping? I don’t get it. Aren’t girls and boys feet pretty similar? Don’t all kids need shoes where they can be active? Please tell me why Stride Rite markets shoes to little kids as if girls and boys are completely different species. As author Rebecca Hains writes, according to Stride Rite, girls are pretty and boys are active. This kind of gender stereotyping limits all kids.

Here’s the huge poster selling shoes to girls in the window of the San Francisco store.


According to Stride Rite, girls like pink, purple, sparkles, and princesses.

Here’s your poster selling shoes to boys.


Boys are powerful. They like orange, blue, red, yellow, and black.

The shoes displayed below the girl poster are also– surprise, surprise– pink, purple and sparkly. The shoes displayed below the boy poster feature Spider-Man and Captain America shoes.


Where are the female superheroes at Stride Rite? Not on the socks you sell. Those are my daughter’s hands in the picture. She was looking for Wonder Woman.


Apparently, Wonder Woman isn’t one of the world’s greatest superheroes. Isn’t she a member of the Justice League? Where’d she go? What about Black Widow? Why has she gone missing from the Avengers Assemble? And while we’re looking for MIA powerful females, where’s Leia with her lightsaber? Why isn’t she part of the Stride Rite Star Wars shoes marketing plan?

Here are my three daughters ages 4, 7, and 10 wearing Stride Rite shoes.


Unfortunately, we will no longer be shopping at Stride Rite.The way you guide girls to one side of your store and boys to the other is manipulative and destructive. My youngest child chose her orange shoes from the “boy” side, but every year, my kids get more influenced by marketing such as yours. Their choices become more limited as they repeatedly see that girls are supposed to be so radically different than boys, only wear certain colors, and behave in a certain “feminine” way. For as long as I can, I hope to protect my kids from learning that boys are valued for what they do, while girls are valued for how they appear. That means not shopping at Stride Rite.


Margot Magowan

Please go to Stride Rite’s Facebook page to tell them to stop gender stereotyping.

Update: On Reel Girl’s Facebook page, Lizards and Lullabies posted this email just received from Stride Rite. Guess they’re working hard to snag back to school shoppers. Makes sense, that’s why my family went shoe shopping.


I couldn’t click on the commercial link so I went to You Tube. Ugh, it’s really awful.  As one commenter Tweets:

wish like a princess? They’ve found a way to make a princess EVEN MORE passive!

Here’s the ad:

Update: This comment, posted on Pigtail Pals Facebook page, makes me so frustrated. Diana got way more than a confused look from the sales associate when her daughter dared to step beyond gender limits at Stride Rite:

“We just went into a Stride Rite store for my 4yo daughter and she was drawn to the “boys” side with the Spider Man shoes. The sales associate actually stopped her and said “Oh honey, those are for boys. Let’s get you something prettier over here.”
I told the sales associate that she was free to pick a shoe from whatever side she wanted and that pretty wasn’t defined by pink, purple and glitter, nor was it the only quality we wanted in a sneaker.
We walked out with Spider Man sneakers that light up and are awesome. I did mention to the woman that while we appreciated her friendliness, we did not appreciate her gender stereotyping and making my daughter feel like she shouldn’t be excited about black, red and blue shoes with eyes that light up.”


And one more thing, while I’m here. All that “pretty,” shiny stuff on girl’s shoes gets scuffed up and falls off pretty fast. When it does, parents are likely to buy kids new shoes, which is great for business and also, creating lifetime consumers. Check out this post: Are girl’s shoes designed to disintegrate?


58 thoughts on “Dear Stride Rite, until you stop gender stereotyping, we’re through

  1. I had a hell of a hard time finding a pair of warm socks and gloves recently that would fit me. As my male friend realized when he was shopping with me, girls and women’s clothing is built more for aesthetic appeal and not warmth or activity. He couldn’t believe how hard it was for me to find a pair of plain socks and gloves that were warm and fit me. All the socks/gloves had words, or itchy sparkles or were made of very thin material- and traditional ‘girls colors’. I had this same issue as a child, so I’m use to it. I was a ‘tom boy’ as many family members called me, my mother didn’t care how I dressed though but my other family members tried desperately to force gender roles on me by buying me dolls and princess stuff instead of what I really wanted which was dinosaurs and star trek. Even if this might seem like a minor issue to some, it’s still important to talk about it. I remember how horrible it felt as a child to be made to feel bad for liking ‘boys things’ and feeling like a freak for wanting a Ninja turtle instead of a baby doll. Kids pick up on these details- so it’s important to address them and let them know that they aren’t weird.

  2. What an Idiotic concept. Girls are girls and Boys are boys. They can wear whatever THEY want not what some Imbecilic mothers choose. Wake up people and realize that there are more horses asses than horses.

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  4. Ahhhh I got it. I saw this on Facebook from friends. I Wrote an earlier rebuttal. But after looking around I realize this is a personal blog. You’ve got a soapbox and you’re standing on it. More power to you after all this is what being free to express means. I don’t agree with you or basically anything I saw here but if that’s your thing. Keep banging away at it. I hope you find a shoe place you like.

    • Honestly, a person in the center can find this just as ridiculous as someone on the far right, right, center left or far left. We all have our thoughts on ideas like this. There is no right or wrong answer here…if this woman chooses to avoid the store because of it’s marketing, good for her. I find it completely stupid and that is my opinion just like everyone who posts here has their own.

      • True, but it’s only been right-wingers revealing their political philosophies here by erecting left-wing straw men in place of the author’s actual argument.

  5. OH GOOD LORD…if a girl wants to wear avengers shoe she can be fitted for them…dont get your panties all in a wad…find a REAL issue to stand behind…like the murder of 50% of female babies in their mothers wombs

  6. Are you serious?

    Marketing is based on the MAJORITY not the MINORITY.

    I mean you have all right to purchase any shoes you, your son, or your daughters want but to go after a company for marketing their shoes to the majority is moronic.

    My daughter, along with many others, loves princess, pink, ponies, sparkles, and other “girly” things. I don’t force anything on her. She also loves playing outside, swimming, and running. I’m not going to be offended if another parent dresses their daughter in an opposing wardrobe as long as it isn’t FORCED upon the child and they are happy then “Who Cares”?

    Seriously, if you parents are THAT UPSET then shop somewhere else or SHOP ONLINE. It isn’t a hard concept.

    My point is that you don’t go to a restaurant knowing that they don’t serve food you don’t like and complain to the WORLD about it so why are you doing it with a shoe company?

    You are a MINORITY and need to face it. The product you want can be suggested and IF enough people suggest it then it will be changed but ranting on about sexism based on a small percentage is pretty much ignorant.

    Now don’t get me wrong here… you are a percentage of people but there are OTHER shoe stores that sell exactly what you are looking for. When you go and shop at them you support them which you should do and promote them. This article makes it sound like you don’t want to support those other stores and want the store you shop at convert out of convenience to you. When you don’t support the other stores you then create MORE stores that follow into the image that you hate. So you become part of the problem!

  7. Sorry I don’t agree with you at all. I have 2 girls totally opposite, one extremely sporty who doesn’t feel a bit bad about wearing whatever shoe she wants and yeah she wears lots of jeans and tshirts. She’s a leader on her travel team and has a ton of self confidence. She also likes being able to walk to one side or the other of a store depending on what she chooses to be. She is not dependent on society. Which is what you are saying– omg I can’t instill qualities I want for my kid because the world is intruding.
    My other could out diva a drag queen and wouldn’t be caught dead without a tutu and crown, which she will lay tackle football in. I raise my kids I give them confidence and freedom. I don’t need your help. I sure don’t need complainers making it harder for my little diva to like being a girl — thanks alot. All you are doing is making it hard for another group but you’re ok with it because the other group is bigger.

  8. When I read his I said really, this upset you? Then I saw you were from SF, now it makes perfect sense. Isn’t this the same state that let’s young boys and girls share the same bathrooms in schools?

    You can’t make this s@@t up…..

  9. Wow really…last time I checked a business can market however they want. You don’t like it shop somewhere else. I see plenty of women’s shoes that don’t fit the pink or purple color scheme.

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  16. Sorry , I love the ads. They can not make 100s of ads to appeal to each and every subgroup of people. Face it…Most little girls are going to want the princess shoes and most boys are going to want the super hero shoes. Personally I think shoes with cartoon are tacky and look cheap. I would never and have never let my child wear them but should I get my panties in a bunch because other people like them? No, just move on.

    • Hi ddsprncs,

      Most girls want princess shoes and most boys want superheroes shoes because those are the narratives where they are allowed to play starring roles and Stride Rite’s marketing reinforces those limits. Girls are marginalized or invisible in so many places, the princess role is one of the few where they are allowed to be central. Stride Rite, a shoe store, reinforcing that message, is bad for all kids.

      My 4 year old bought the Star Wars shoes and a 5 yr old kid at her preschool asked her why she was wearing boy shoes. I talked to my kid’s teacher who spoke with the 5 year old, telling her all colors are for all kids. My 7 year old told me that yesterday, a kindergarten boy was playing with a unicorn in a play house and a kindergarten girls said to him: “That’s a girl toy. You like girl toys?” My daughter told her she kept repeating that to the boy until he stopped playing. Gender stereotyping like Stride Rite’s helps to cause bullying and it’s bad for all kids. I won’t just move on.


      • do you understand how silly this is about some shoe’s…. In Juarez, Mexico there are over 8500 children under the age of 14 boys and girls forced in to prostitution. But yet you buy there products made there. so your fight is about a silly add. I just dont get it

        • That’s EXACTLY the point. Exactly. The marginalization of girls and women everywhere opens the the door for second clas citizenship and exploitation on a global scale. If we can’t value girls and women as equals and dismiss them as silly, it’s easy to continue devalue all of us in much bigger fights. It starts small.

        • Let’s not forget about the children dying in Syria. I would rather buy my child a pair of TOMS at least them I know another person who desperately needs shoes, will be getting a pair. That is what both of my girls are wearing back to school this year.

    • No. We won’t move on. We’re not going anywhere. And especially not just because you don’t want to deal with us. Things were NOT always like this. Girls love exercise and play. They need shoes that encourage their participation. Shoes that are meant only for sitting send the wrong message to our daughters. We’re simply demanding a better message. Our daughters deserve that. The real shame is that people like you don’t think that they do. You’re only concern is for our “panties in a bunch” which suggests that you don’t get it at all.

      • My “move on” is a meant as a call to move on to more important things in life. If this is all she has to worry about, I can point her in the direction of many more important, causes. Firs, stop buying shoes made in china. Buy American made shoes. Neil M., and SAS shoes are a good place to start.

    • Hello ddsprns (or ‘dr. spurns’..),

      It seems you are either employed in this company’s PR office or you are a salesperson..? (if neither, I am even more concerned for the state of affairs in this country..).
      That your reply lead with, “I love the ads” after you had read this article initially caught me by surprise (though everyone is entitled to their opinions), but then the subtle attack on the author..”personally I think shoes with cartoon(s) are tacky and look cheap..”, further lead me to believe you must be an employee or a plant..
      I do not condone gun or violent play, young children are drawn to Superheroes, and while 100 ads was not the request (2 or 3 more possibilities could go a long way…), further consideration/dialogue of how to display particular ads and how they are perceived would be recommended.. (also, if familiar at all with Joseph Campbell, will recognized that all cultures and societies are drawn to and perpetuate myth, superheroes, archetypes, etc..).. even for Adults 😉
      While each home and family have different guidelines/rules, etc, and if your children were never interested in Superheroes that is somewhat understandable (particularly if in a home w/out T.V., etc), but feel sorry for them if forbidden to wear shoes or shirts that depicted such if so inclined, or neglected of that choice..
      Finally, that you indicate, “just move on” is another indication of above, or further concern about the complacency of many and keeping heads in sand.. I commend Mrs. Magowan for taking a stand on this issue and continuing this important dialogue. Some may disagree with her stance, but “just move on” does not seem to be in her vocabulary, nor do I believe it should be (for any of us)…

  17. What is striking about these ads is the extreme dichotomy between girls and boys. Gives the impression that girls and boys are so mutually exclusive they seem like different “species”

    • Isn’t this dichotomy something companies want so they can sell more products? By having separate and very different products for boys and girls and promoting them “these are for boys” and “these are for girls” they end up selling more.

      • Hi Mecano,

        Yes, that’s absolutely true, micro segmenting the market to target and sell products. But if consumers don’t like it, and its stops working, they’ll stop. It’s all about making $.


      • Hi Margot.I hear you but the problem is that companies are not in the business to satisfy the consumers.They are in the business to make more $$.If the consumers don’t like it (the micro segmenting ) companies will do everything they can to make them like it.By bombarding kids and parents with ads etc.No matter how you look at it stereotyping and having separate products for boys and girls is more lucrative for them.If a family has 2 children of similar age,a boy and a girl,their parents will have to spend more money to buy them stuff than a family than has only boys or only girls.Thats how things work in a capitalistic society,money rules everything.But boundaries have to be set thats why we have laws.In other words unless there is an actual law that says stereotyping and micro-cementing products for kids is illegal i don’t see how it can go away.

  18. Margot first time i post here but i do read your blog for some time now and find it very very interesting.BTW i’m a guy who has a 12 yo daughter.The Marvel’s Avengers Assemble is a new animated series designed to capitalize on the success of the film.I’ve seen 2 episodes it does has Black Widow as one of the main characters of course but it isn’t very good to tell you the truth.While BW was an awesome woman in the film but her character is downplayed in the series unfortunately.And looks like she is missing from the AA cloths and thats a shame : ( .However there are BW t-shirts around,amazon has them,i bought one for my 13 yo daughter.

  19. Your wonderful post made me think of Jacki Zehner’s push to get a Wonder Woman film made. Thought you and your girls might be interested in the petition:

    I totally remember the Wonder Woman t-shirt I rocked when I was younger (until it finally fell apart from multiple washings!) Totally love that your daughter was looking for Wonder Woman socks… keep looking! One day they’ll be there. 🙂

    • Hi Luna,

      Just Googled images and saw several of Leia with a lightsaber. You are right, she is known for and handier with the blaster pistol. And then I started thinking: why aren’t here more female jedi? Why don’t know any of their names. Then I Googled that. And now I have to get off the damn internet and write my book so I’m leaving “lightsaber” for now.


      • Leia never wielded a lightsaber in the movies. In the Expanded Universe, she eventually begins training as a Jedi and attains a lightsaber.

  20. I am a grown woman and it is hard for me to find athletic shoes that have some pink in them. I was searching for a good, made in US walking shoe a few months ago and, after going to four stores I finally found a pair that were grey and light blue. I am almost 50 years old and I don’t need the color pink somewhere on my body so that I remember I am a female.

  21. I also notice that the girls’ sneakers light up and the boys’ shoes make noises (evidently boys can make noise, but girls must silently sparkle).

    • Hi Susan A.

      I have seen “boy” shoes that light up but you’re absolutely right that’s what they’re advertising here SOUND for boys!!!!! Argh.


  22. I hear you, Margot. This is my last year too. My 5 year old daughter chose white Sauconys with blue, green and yellow trim. “Because that’s what real runners wear, Mom” and a pair of black Børn Mary Janes. The shock of how hard it was to find shoes she could be active in there broke my heart. So many frilly pretty shoes, but not tough things for my active girl. The clear line down the middle of the store between shoes for doers and shoes for sitters was too much for me. I told them that it bothered me. They truly didn’t know how to respond. So they really didn’t. So so so disappointed.

    • Hi Andrea,

      It’s so upsetting. My daughter and I asked about Wonder Woman socks or shoes and we got a confused look.


      • 5 is totally in a Wonder Woman phase! She wants to be Storm from the X-Men for Halloween and our 2 year old has picked Jubilee. Super heroes are a big deal and they do love seeing themselves and you are right. Wonder Woman, Black Widow, Leia and Ahsoka have not just gone missing. They have been eradicated. And the emplyees at Stride Rite are in no way prepared to even consider customer concerns. It’s just blank looks and uncomfortable shifting.

      • if this is the most upsetting thing that has ever happened to you in your life and it gets you on fox new OMG!!!! so sad I just can’t come up with the words to say how very sad for you I am. it’s just pointless and ridiculous. Im even more sad that fox thought this was newsworthy

        • Nobody ever said this was the most upsetting thing that ever happened to us. Your need to troll us tells me we’re exactly where our girls need us to be. Fox News will do it’s best to dismiss Margot and her message but I have every faith that she’ll get her point across and through. Less than 100 years ago people thought women were idiotic for wanting to vote. I’m ok with people thinking it’s dumb that I want better media representation for my daughters. I know what I’m standing for.

  23. I applaud this. I was a girly-girl and STILL wound up buying shoes from the boy’s side of the store, because I wanted orange shoes.

  24. When I was young, around your kids age, I always bought my shoes from the “boys” side of the store. That went on until my teens, when they won because I simply got too tired to argue. I now have pinkish/purple tenis shoes, because I can’t get other colors!

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