Peer bullying on the rise when preschool girls wear ‘boy’ shoes

Yesterday, I posted this video of my 4 year old daughter talking about getting bullied at preschool for wearing ‘boy’ shoes.

I’ve gotten so many comments on Reel Girl’s Facebook page about kids being bullied by their peers when they step out of these gender norms that surround them like shrink rap, I’ve started asking parents if they would video their children telling their stories. Meanwhile, I Googled ‘bullied for wearing boy shoes’ and found some stuff that is making me cringe and want to scream, so I’m going to blog about it instead.

From Coupon Cilpinista:

Yesterday my 4 year old wore her waterproof slip-on shoes for boy or girl to school (they are black Timberland moccasins) and she told me this morning, “The girls would not play with me yesterdays because they said I was wearing boys shoes, can you please put sparkly shoes on me ???”

I was in shock. Are you serious? Is this something I should address with the school??? BULLYING starting THIS YOUNG??? I don’t know what to think– my daughter loves those shoes and her sparkly shoes are not comfortable or for winter weather but she wants to wear them to appease the bullies in her classroom.

What would you do?????


Here’s some advice she got from 8 different fans of hers, without irony, each confirmed with multiple likes:

Cover them in glitter. Change the shoelaces to a girlie style.


Bedazzle her moccasins


Add something to moccasins to make it more “girly”


This is so sad – I’d talk to the teacher for sure. I also like the ideas of “girling up” her boots with shoe laces, etc. Good luck CouponClipinista


put sparkles on the shoes…that should do it.


Yep. I would bedazzel the crap out of em. I can tell you from experience, the school wont do anything!!


I agree. Bedazzle them. glue on a few rhinestones or a bow.


Bedazzle her shoes :o)


Note to parents: Gender stereotyping CAUSES bullying. Bedazzling shoes? Not a solution here. What is that teaching your kid? To do whatever the bullies say to do. And what is it teaching the other kids? Keep bullying. Is that the lesson we want to be teaching here? I honestly don’t even think these 4 year olds know they are bullying, because not enough parents and teachers are telling them that. I think these kids believe that they are stating a fact.

Some parents tell Coupon Clipinista similar stories:

At 4 my daughter LOVED Spiderman. There was no talking her out of getting the Spiderman tennis shoes. She wore them to school and was told they were “boy shoes” (They were.) When she came home telling me about it, I told her, “do you like them?” “yes.” I told her to tell the kids when they said that again that anyone can wear Spiderman shoes. She had the same situation about the same age about wearing the color blue (still her favorite color 6 years later.) Her PreK4 classmates told her blue was for boys. We talked again and I told her that she can wear ant color she wants. And if the other kids don’t like it, too bad for them…they are going to miss out on wearing lots of cool colors. She went to school confidently and told them you can wear whatever color if you are a boy or a girl. I liked the idea of teaching her to be confident about her ideas even if they were not always “girly”


Another mom/ teacher:

As a teacher, sad to say, yes, bullying starts this young. My son, at 4 loved his pink t-shirt. Wore it to preschool once, and will not wear it out of the house (so sad) due to peer’s comments – at 4!!!! Yes, speak to the teacher, so he/she knows what is going on in their classroom and can address it. Then talk to you daughter. Don’t let her give in to peers. Point out how to be an individual and to take pride in that. When all is said and done, I woud let her wear the shoes of her choice. Unfortunately, it will be the choice peers, unless she is strong and willing to be her own person.


Apparently, there was a whole controversy around this post:

Yesterday my mom posted a picture on Facebook of my 5-year-old brother … wearing a pair of shoes he picked out for his first day of preschool. She explained to him in the store that they were really made for girls. [The boy] then told her that he didn’t care and that ‘ninjas can wear pink shoes too.’

However, my mom received about 20 comments on the photo from various family members saying how ‘wrong’ it is and how ‘things like this will affect him socially’ and, put most eloquently by my great aunt, ‘that sh*t will turn him gay.’


From that story come links about “gender non-conforming camp.” Seriously? We’re talking about shoes here. Shoes. Preschoolers. Bullying epidemic. The solution is not sending the kids off to some camp. The solution is to stop buying into the gender segregated marketing that is so aggressively targeted at kids and parents from multinational companies.

A Reel Girl Facebook fan posted a great link about the Miller Mix story: 

My daughter, fresh from day one of a much-loved and progressive preschool, announces her sporty blue Toy Story sneakers — once adored — are for boys
and no one at her school likes girls who wear boys’ shoes.


Finally, a great solution posted from Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals: A Letter to Bella and Other Girls with Blue Shoes.

I heard from your mom that someone at school said your shoes were for boys. Maybe because they were blue or maybe because Buzz Lightyear was on them. At our house, we say, “Colors are for everyone.” Sometimes people get mixed up about that because they don’t think about it very hard. That makes me feel frustrated. All you have to do is look around the world and know that colors are for everyone.

But Bella, isn’t that silly! How could your blue Buzz Lightyear shoes be for boys if colors are for everyone and Buzz Lightyear is from a movie made for all kids and you are a girl standing in those shoes! I think people get confused about that, because they think something is only for boys because they never took the time to consider girls. I think people should consider girls.

Since you are four years old, you know a lot of stuff, and you know that girls can like or do anything boys can. And boys can like or do anything girls can. Things are kind of silly right now because grown ups keep getting in the way of kids, and some grown ups who are in charge of the companies that make stuff for kids like toys and clothes, they don’t have good imaginations like you and I do. These grown ups try to fit kids into little boxes that are labeled “Boy” or “Girl”, and then they only let certain colors or ideas into each box. They do that because it makes it easier for them to sell their stuff. Since boys and girls don’t grow in boxes, you can see how really goofy this is. But I have to be honest with you, there are a lot of grown ups who don’t question these pink and blue boxes, and then they teach that thinking to their kids, and then their kids lose their imaginations.

I couldn’t agree more. Here’s an ad I saw in a window of a Stride Rite in the neighborhood where my kids go to school. I also speak about one of the times my daughter was teased for her shoes.


Here’s me on Fox and Friends talking about the gender stereotyping in this ad and what kinds of damaging messages that’s sending to kids. I also speak about one of the times my daughter was teased.

Here’s my letter to Stride Rite Until you stop gender stereotyping, we’re through.

Once again: What happened to my daughter is not an exception. This kind of bullying is happening to kids in preschools all over America. It’s on the rise, because gender stereotyping kids is on the rise. Check out these pictures of kids toys/ clothing from the Seventies and now. What are we doing to stop this? Oh, that’s right, bedazzling.

In Europe, they’re trying something else. Due to a campaign in Europe by Let Toys Be Toys For Girls and Boys, stores in including Toys R Us, stopped segregating products by gender, and instead, are organizing them by type. Here’s what Toys Will Be Toys reported on Toys R Us.


The retailer today confirmed that they would draw up a set of principles for in-store signage meaning that, in the long-term, explicit references to gender will be removed and images will show boys and girls enjoying the same toys. They promised to start by looking at the way toys are represented in their upcoming Christmas catalogue.


But what are we doing in America? Been to a Toys R Us lately? Or a Target? Or a Stride Rite?

 A Mighty Girl has started a similar petition in the U.S. to the Let Toys Be Toys petition in Europe, hoping to stop stores here from selling kids gender segregation. Please sign. Don’t be a passive bystander. Do something to stop the bullying and these limits placed on our children.

If your kids have stories about being bullied for not conforming to these caricature gender stereotypes, please share them. I’d love to see the videos of your kids telling their stories if you would like to post them here.


6 thoughts on “Peer bullying on the rise when preschool girls wear ‘boy’ shoes

  1. I can’t believe that someone was saying that being gay is bad. SAME LUV PPL!!!! SAME LUV!!!! And yea, that’s really disturbing that a grown women believes in stuff like that.
    Not meaning to offend.
    ~Nikki Roseworth

  2. My 5 year old daughter and I were reading a comic book which had an ad for Avengers shoes. She excitedly pointed them out.

    I asked her if she would want to wear Avengers shoes. She said yes, and then she paused for a second before adding that her friends would say that they were boy shoes. I asked her how she felt about that, and she said that she would tell them that clothes are for everyone.

    It’s so messed up that she’s aware that wearing something she thinks is cool is… a political act. It doesn’t faze her but she knows it’s screwed up.

  3. We first ran into gender conformity when our 3 1/2 year old son went to kindy, and was told his purple hat was a girl’s hat. He was confused and we had a talk about it and he told the offending child the next day that it was his hat and he was a boy so it’s a boy’s hat.
    In school he’s faced being called a girl for choosing to have a butterfly painted on his face on fair day (instead of a spider or something scary like the other boys). He’s recently (at the age of 8) started getting into painting his nails, so he had to deal with being told that he was a girl for doing it. But he stuck with it, with support from home and understanding teachers, and now everyone in his class enjoys seeing what colour his nails are this week, and he has boys telling him that they think it’s silly to say some things are for girls and not boys.
    There’s a lot of pressure on both girls and boys to conform, but with the right support just one child can start to change the way their friends think. Ripple effect!

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