Opinion: As a girl asks Steph Curry why his shoes are for boys - it's time to stop the gender divide

30th Nov 18 | Fashion

Prudence Wade thinks children's clothes have an unnecessary and potentially damaging male/female divide.

Trail Blazers Warriors Basketball

A nine-year-old girl has taken basketball superstar Stephen ‘Steph’ Curry to task after saying she was “disappointed” to find out his signature shoes were only available for boys.

Riley Morrison wrote to the Golden State Warriors player: “I know you support girl athletes because you have two daughters and you host an all girls basketball camp. I hope you can work with Under Armour to change this because girls want to rock the Curry 5’s too.”

Her letter went viral after her father posted it on Twitter, and Curry was quick to remedy the problem. He sent back a reply saying: “We are correcting this now! I want to make sure you can wear my kicks proudly.”

It’s a heartwarming story, but it still begs the question – why are clothes aimed at boys and girls still so separate?  Here’s why kids’ gear should not be gendered at all in our opinion…

We reckon girls’ shoes limit what they can do

If you’re a parent hunting for school shoes, you’ll be all too familiar with the difference between the male and female options. Too many girls’ shoes are slip-ons – delicate shoes like ballet pumps. Last year sports correspondent Anna Kessel wrote in the Guardian that out of 30 shoes she saw in the shop, “just five pairs of shoes on display actually covered the whole of a girl’s foot”.

Compare this to boys’ shoes – they’re traditionally sturdy designs, with laces -which are much more conducive to climbing things and running around.

As Morrison so rightfully says, “girls want to rock the Curry 5’s too” – meaning girls want to run about, play sport and be just as active as boys. Needless to say, this is significantly easier to do in lace-up trainers.

It sends obvious and damaging messages

Too often, the boys’ section in clothes shops is awash with traditionally “male” colours like black and blue, whereas the girls’ area is far more light, bright and pink. That’s not withstanding the occasional messages you might happen upon – such as boys’ t-shirts saying things like “future scientist” whereas the a t-shirt for a girl will say something more along the lines of “future princess”.

Every so often a shop will go viral with examples of this. Take Morrisons, which last year found itself the centre of controversy for its shirts saying “Little man big ideas” compared to “Little girl big smiles”, or “King of the castle” vs “Pretty little me”.

Morrisons is by no means the only shop criticised for this, and afterwards it replied to the original tweet: “Sorry you feel this way! I’ve fed this back to our buyer for review.”

The worry is differences in the messages can have an impact on a child’s development, sending potentially insidious messages that boys will go on to become the thinkers and leaders, whereas girls are more valued for their looks than their brain.

Family professor at Brigham Young University, Sarah M Coyne, did a 2016 study into princess culture published in Child Development. She says of the results: “We know that girls who strongly adhere to female gender stereotypes feel like they can’t do some things. They’re not as confident that they can do well in math and science. They don’t like getting dirty, so they’re less likely to try and experiment with things.”

Having these stereotypes confirmed to them – even in ways that might seem harmless, like in the clothes store – could have an impact on their future development.

Curry making his shoes available to both genders is a huge step in the right direction, showing nine-year-olds like Morrison she can achieve just as much as the boys.

It emphasises a divide between genders

We’re getting further into an age of gender fluidity and neutrality. Having separate sections for boys and girls confirms this traditional divide between genders, which could be potentially damaging for a young kid who might be confused about their identity.

As our attitudes towards gender shift and progress, so should the way we’re able to shop.

© Press Association 2018