Has everyone had a chance to see this? If you haven’t watched it yet, do it now.
I am going to start off by saying this: Skechers Shape-Ups and other shoes with similar styles (such as MBTs) can be comfortable for people who are on their feet for long periods of time, as well as individuals who don’t have the same fat deposit at the ball of their foot that most people have. In terms of their toning capabilities, that’s snake oil. The premise as I understand it is that because the feel of the shoe’s sole is different, muscles in the legs and core will be challenged to work differently and get “toned” as a result. As my older sister pointed out on Facebook the other day, they’re not unlike vibrating belts that are supposed to give you six-pack abs. What’s more is walking is good for your leg muscles, and your heart, and your overall wellness. You don’t have to buy a special pair of shoes to reap the benefits.
It goes without saying that the commercial above is appalling. You can’t even make the argument that they are just a shoe that is styled in the same way as the adult Shape-Ups but marketed differently, because these are very obviously meant to get girls “in shape”–the tag line at the end says so explicitly. And what’s with the boys dressed up as food? Are they disappointed because now that Heidi has a pair of Shape-Ups and is finally taking her diet and exercise routine seriously, she won’t be eating junky foods like them? This commercial just makes my heart ache, because the message is so clear: “Buy these shoes and you’ll be cool and in shape and everyone will love you! Boys will be disappointed because you’ll be too good for them! This product will change your life FOR THE BETTER!” And as a child, I would have seen this commercial and thought, “I need those shoes. I’m fat because I don’t have those shoes. Boys don’t like me because I don’t have those shoes. If I had those shoes, everything would be different and so much better!” I didn’t like myself, so I was always looking for some–any–outside solution.
I first read about this new Shape-Ups ad over on Jezebel, where a commenter pointed out that this whole thing is pretty similar to ‘Get in Shape, Girl’. As you will undoubtedly recall with great clarity, ‘Get in Shape, Girl’ came out in the 1980s, and was essentially workout tools and cassette tapes for girls. There were weighted bracelets, and other things like a ribbon on a stick (for all the budding rhythmic gymnasts, I guess), and I think maybe hula hoops or something? The details are a bit fuzzy to me at this point, but the feeling I had when I saw those commercials isn’t. It was a longing, a need, a feeling that if I didn’t have ‘Get in Shape, Girl’, I would never be thin and pretty and popular. It made me feel almost physically ill because there was such a sense of urgency to it: ‘I need this right now, I can’t wait another minute!’. Seeing the commercial was enough to make me realize that the girls who had ‘Get in Shape, Girl’ were cool and I wasn’t, and the only way I could even hope to come close to being as cool would be to get it, too. So I got it. And nothing changed. And I continued to compare myself to every other girl I saw and think, “If only I were X…” That’s no way to spend your time, especially as a child. Girls should be playing games they enjoy, running and jumping and having fun precisely because it’s fun, and not because they feel pressured to be active and look a certain way.
Skechers really ought to be ashamed for releasing an ad like this, and whatever advertising person or team came up with this should be held accountable for their irresponsibility and forced to explain themselves to girls and women who have disordered behaviors and difficult relationships with their bodies that developed in part as a result of marketing campaigns like this one. The fitness industry is an industry like any other, its priority is to make money regardless of the cost. It’s bad enough that adults have to deal with the falsehoods and unrealistic ideals that come from this industry, would it be so much to ask to leave children out of it?