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Clarks’ catastrophe

16 August 2017 | Pic PR

Intern Rose takes a look at Clarks' sexist stereotyping blunder...

In more ways than one, it’s been a typical week in 2017. Unsurprisingly, another business has been accused of sexism for inadvertently promoting outdated ideals. This week’s victim was the popular shoe retailer, Clarks.

The footwear giant has sparked outrage for continuing to sell a girls’ shoe range named ‘Dolly Babe’, with the boys’ equivalent being called ‘Leader’. True to fashion, the girls’ range features a heart print insole, whereas the boys’ equivalent sports a football pattern.

Clarks has faced significant criticism from politicians and the public alike for this misdemeanour. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among those to speak out against the company: “It is almost beyond belief that in 2017 a major company could think this is in any way acceptable. Shows what we are still up against.”

Surprisingly enough, even Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg criticised the line of shoes: “To call a pair of shoes for a girl Dolly Babe is dreadful. It’s wrong in all sorts of ways… this is just really silly.”

In response to its “customer feedback”, Clarks removed the Dolly Babe line from its website and withdrew the name from its products instore. The Dolly Babe range is supposedly “an old and discontinued line”, with the only remaining stock being sold instore. Duly apologising for any offence caused, Clarks claimed: “We are working hard to ensure our ranges reflect our gender-neutral ethos.”

Sturgeon is right; it’s almost unfathomable that Clarks thought they could get away with such blatant gender stereotyping today. When corporations tell girls that they are destined to be a babe rather than a leader, we can hardly wonder why there are still so few women in positions of power. ‘Dolly Babe’ and ‘Leader’ undoubtedly represent the gendered typecasts that we should all be striving to distance ourselves from. The traditional heart and football patterns tell their own sad tale.

That said, I can’t help but think that we have more to worry about this year. Gender stereotypes should simply be a non-issue at this point. We can only hope that the media furore currently damaging Clarks’ reputation will encourage other brands to think before they sell.