There’s no end to the madness of sexualizing young girls, and apparently no age is sacred. Parents can now purchase their tots Pee Wee Pumps, plush crib shoes with a collapsible heel designed for babies ages 0 to 6 months, so your little girl can make her “first fashion statement,” as the company puts it – or, counters Salon, take her “first steps into sexualization” before she can even walk. To me, the pumps look like accessories that belong on the set of the wacky Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
The Pennsylvania-based company’s website claims, “With the safe collapsible heel and adjustable Velcro closure, these crib shoes will have your little wild child looking and feeling fabulous with each and every wear.” Creator Michele Holbrook sparked this “fun and zany trend,” as she calls it, after her own daughter was born in 2012, according to her Etsy page profile.
And there are plenty of zany options. The “Wild Child” leopard-print shoe description, for instance, urges you to “show off her fierce side” with this “ultra feminine” choice. You can also snap up “Diva,” “Glamorous,” “Swanky,” “Pretty in Pink” and “Sassy” for about $34.99 a pop ($29.99 on sale).
Wet-Naps and burp cloths don’t scream fabulous to me, and since most babies hang out in their cribs, they’re unlikely to need or want shoes whose makers claim will make “your little princess … the belle of the ball.” Mothers seem to agree – in pretty blunt terms.
“I think it is not only awful and a part of princess culture, but (also) dangerous,” Leslie Kendall Dye, mother and writer, says in that Salon article. “I studied the development of crawling and walking very carefully when I had my baby daughter, because I am a dancer with a torn hip. I came across numerous books that pleaded with parents not to put any shoes on children before they needed them for walking outdoors, and to keep them walking on bare feet to develop their tiny foot muscles as much as possible.”
And Martin Haines, a biomechanics coach and physiotherapist who works with Start-rite Shoes, located in England, agrees that the pumps can prove hazardous to bodily development.
“A young child’s foot is flexible,” he says in a Daily Mail report. “This is because the muscles have not yet developed and their ligaments have not yet stabilized, and so their walking pattern is such that their weak and unstable foot is not overloaded. A heeled pump is completely inappropriate for a young child at these early stages of development.”
You might be thinking: What’s the real harm when baby’s not even walking yet? Rebecca Hains, author of The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, had something to say on Salon, too.
“It’s worth remembering that high heels are meant to be sexy,” she says. “Girls’ sexualization has been harming girls’ self-esteem and academic performance at ever-earlier ages. … Putting soft high heels on a baby girl is a step in the wrong direction.”
While a 6-month-old tot won’t remember wearing satin high heels (photos aside), is being a mini sassy diva something we want to encourage? Women have their entire lives to battle stereotypes – the least we can do is give them six months of crib time free of gender norms.