Friday, March 24, 2006

Why ...

... in the name of all that is holy, is every single pair of women's trainers at my local sports superstore resplendent in shades of pastel pink, blue, and silver? Is there a giant market of off-duty Barbie princesses who long to give their itty bitty princess tootsies with the silver-glitter pedicure a rest from the glass slippers, but still need something to match their eye-watering pink wonderland outfit?

The men's department is wall-to-wall Big Bad Coolness. Everything is designed to look like the kind of thing you'd wear if you were an urban superhero who needed to serve Justice, fast, down wet alleys, in the dark. I want these shoes.


The current Nike Women advertisement, which makes my eyes slitty with resigned aggravation, involves women being very athletic in one way or another with a voiceover that explains how little kudos they get, and closes up with a defensive challenge to "try to tell them that they're not athletes".

The point of the advertisement is evidently supposed to be that the women involved clearly are very athletic, QED. Fie on this supposed end. The assumption is that that real athletes have stadiums of people cheering for them and earn bucketloads of cash, and notably are men, thus, most egregiously of all, women need to defend their status as athletes in the first place.

I'm not an athlete. But I'd swallow Nike's shrill equality message without choking so much if the damn shoes weren't telling me that I'm supposed to be a Barbie princess.


S.L. said...

I spent at least a week ranting about this very thing not long ago. I ended up with trail runners because they at least come in a sort of utilitarian gray. I'm not sure why - it's not as if gray will somehow camouflage me from wild animals or make me feel as if I'm somehow a part of my surroundings. (It's definitely not a gray found in nature.) But it does prevent me from feeling like an absolute idiot every time I put them on. I'm not entirely sure if it means that I've bought into cultural ideas about pink and baby blue (a nice navy would have been fine) and am unable to take them seriously or if I just think I should be able to wear running shoes without being reminded that just because I run doesn't mean I can't also be a girl (yes, I know. While I run, my vagina's still in place.) but it absolutely bugs the shit out of me.

In other words, great post, X.

Xtin said...

Thanks, S. I hear you about not knowing whether this is all because I've bought the cultural shite about pink and blue. I guess the thing that bugged me was that the pastel-wonderland shades were the only ones available. I fon't mind pink trainers in principle. I love my pink Gap hoodie that I always wear out running. It was the fact that there was nothing black or day-glo orange or kermit green along with the Barbie-colourways.

I really want some green ones.

Heidi the Hick said...

Kermit green shoes would rock, and possibly make you run faster. I hate hate hated pink until uh, actually, until my "breakdown" so I guess something in my brain shifted...I have problems with clothes in general. I'll suffer for beauty once a year but that's it. When my daughter was a baby it became very clear to me. Her little dresses all buttoned up in the back. Little girls can't button their own dresses. Granny made dresses that my toddler could do up herself.

You know what, this is like the coveralls. We just don't have enough choices! I haven't seen the commercial, but I think I'd feel the same way about it.

Ancrene Wiseass said...

This is so true. I have the hardest time finding athletic shoes that don't make me feel as though I'm a particularly bad imitation of Alicia Silverstone in Clueless. Look, I don't dress like a Yuppie Princess any day of the week, and I sure as hell don't want to dress like one when I'm working out.

And yes, maybe this does mean that we're all buying into a certain degree of patriarchal crap by reacting negatively to anything that seems too "femmy." But why in the world can't we have, you know, choices? I think I'd get much less het up about even the fact that there clearly are no men's shoes decked out in shiny, pastel splendor if we at least had more chances to avoid looking like somebody barfed on our feet after gorging themselves on Pepto-Bismol and silver glitter.

Thank goodness, I generally get to avoid dealing with this stuff now because we do everything at the dojang barefoot.

The same thing bugs me about t-shirts. For example, any venture into a pseudo-hipster store (I'm thinking especially of Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters here, but there are plenty of other guilty parties) reveals the same lack of options for women. We get the weird retro-nostalgia Rainbow-Brite / Care-Bears / Gem-and-the-Holograms dreck. They get Johnny Cash, Shaft, and Willy Wonka. WTF? If they get Shaft, can't we at least get Foxy Brown instead of the goddamn Care Bears?

Xtin said...


Jennifer said...

But barbie princesses have nice hair and tail an stuff.

Tom Bozzo said...

1. Word seconded. Ancrene Wiseass may not even get at the full horror of a certain type of T-shirt marketed at young girls (i.e., those bearing the message: I am a spoiled consumerist princess living in a culture that presents wildly mixed messages regarding youth sexuality).

2. I would note that some of the Big Bad Coolness on the men's shoes side of the store can appear to some (OK, me) like Lovecraftian terrors trying to eat one's feet. Avoiding such has led me to hold onto my plain-old white trainers with a little midnight blue trim longer than is perhaps optimal.

3. (Off-topic) How's the dissertation-writing going, Xtin? I have a bleg for you, but realize that you are probably as swamped with non-blog stuff as I am.

Xtin said...

Tom, the dissertation writing is excruciatingly slow (relatively rather than absolutely, in all likelihood). However, since securing the job I am not under such a ridiculous deadline as I was before. So please! Bleg away! (I might ping you since this post is becoming rather out of date).