Here’s the email I’ve just sent to Melissa Potter, Chief Executive of Clarks Shoes, in reply to her letter to the #letshoesbeshoes campaign which was launched at change.org. If you’re interested you can learn more here. As I’ve blogged here before, this stuff is tough enough to manage as it is. 

Dear Ms Potter

I write regarding your marketing campaign aimed at young boys and girls and their carers in which you assure utility and strength in Clarks boys’ shoes and fashion and style in girls’ shoes. I am one of 20,000 parents who signed the change.org petition and I have read your reply which – over a page and a half of single spaced type – manages to avoid the issue entirely.

We live in a time when young girls are kidnapped from their schools for daring to learn, rape is becoming endemic on college campuses in America, and women are significantly underrepresented in all aspects of public life save celebrity magazines and swimsuit advertising on the sides of buses. While I do not expect Clarks to undertake a campaign of female empowerment, nor do I expect it to engage in the opposite, lazily deploying sexist and outdated notions of femininity which urge girls to concern themselves primarily with how they look. You claim to take seriously your position as a longstanding manufacturer and retailer of high quality footwear. On this issue you are seriously out of step with the concerns of most parents I know.

You refer vaguely to ‘market research’ with the implication that you are giving consumers what they want. Choice is a rather spurious notion in today’s consumer landscape: the most cursory perusal of the children’s section of any shop offers up a sea of blue for boys and pink for girls. It was certainly not like that when I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s, but I understand this binary model allows manufacturers to minimise their risk. Nonetheless, relying on this prototype to support an uncreative and thoughtless campaign simply confirms the circular reasoning that appears to prevail in your marketing department.

Both of my children have a pair of Clarks shoes. As long as I’m paying, these are the last Clarks shoes they will own.

Sincerely,

Juliana Farha

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