Princesses, Heroes & Stride Rite


The other day I read this article on HuffPo Parents  about a line of shoes at Stride Rite.  Some folks are up in arms about the way Stride Rite is making sparkly pink ‘princess’ shoes for girls and Star Wars ‘power’ shoes for boys.   As a momma to 10 kids, I can tell you a thing or two about kiddos in that preschool/early elementary age group.  Poll a cross section of little girls, and a huge number of them would show great interest in sparkly pretty shoes.  Ditto for little boys and anything that sounds powerful and strong.

Delighting in her new twirly skirt

I believe those traits are inborn — a girl’s longing to be beautiful and a boy’s desire to be strong and capable. Sure, that’s a stereotype;  there are always exceptions.  Of course girls can be strong and capable, and boys can be caring nurturers.



But none of that is about the color of the vinyl on a person’s feet. There are smart, capable, powerful women all over the world who wear heels to work, and run marathons on weekends.  And there are wonderful kind, gentle men who rock their little ones to sleep, who also enjoy being transported by the power and excitement of a good superhero movie.

Folks, it’s not about shoes.  It’s about parents seeing what’s in their kids, noticing their interests and their likes, their strengths and their weaknesses, and helping them reach their God-given potential. And it’s about us being the kind of people we hope our children will become, so that they have examples to follow in their lives.

 Helping our children become capable caring well-rounded adults is the job of the parents.  If you and your child don’t like the color selections at any given shoe store, by all means shop elsewhere.  But don’t for a minute think that raising well-balanced kids is up to some poor beleaguered sales team at Stride Rite who happened to notice that little girls like princess shoes.



The cookbook winner is commenter #11, Robin.  Send me your address and I will get a copy of Family Feasts headed your way!



  1. I completely agree that companies are going to make whatever makes them money. In this case, that’s pink shoes targeted at girls. But, it does make me sad. It brings me back to when I was a little girl and I HATED pink and wanted to wear other colors (namely red and black) and play with non-princess-y/Barbie toys. It really starts to weigh on you after a while of noticing that NOTHING is targeted to you. Frankly, it made me feel like maybe there was something wrong with me for liking cars more than dolls, and red more than pink.

    I guess I just wish that stores wouldn’t so blatantly say that these pink aisles are the “girl” aisles and these blue ones are the “boy” aisles, and just let kids pick what they want. It’s not like boy shoes and girl shoes for little kids need to be sex segregated anyway (not much anatomy difference in feet at that age). Maybe if stores mixed everything together and let kids pick what they want, then it wouldn’t really be an issue.

  2. Such a good point! 🙂 wearing/liking pink/princesses/sparkles does not mean you’re going to turn out like…say… Miley Cyrus (Poor girl). A lot more goes into a well-rounded human being than the shoes they wear or the things they enjoy.

  3. YES! I completely agree!

  4. Aunt LoLo says:


  5. Your post reminded me of a time, before I had kids. I wrote and researched a paper all about how as parents we place our biases on kids, giving boys trucks to play with and girls dolls. By the time I had 5 children, I ran across this old paper. Boy did I feel foolish! Sure it is our place to help shape and mold them, but these little guys are already hard-wired by God with the genders and personalities. What a blessing to see each ones uniqueness.

    • I agree with you Joanne! Before kids I thought the same thing you did! I realized they came hard-wired when I gave a truck to my young daughter, thinking I was such an unbiased Mom. When I saw her a little bit later she had wrapped the truck in a pink blanket and was taking it for a walk in the stroller!! I gave in to the pink thing and just took her to college with pink sheets and blankets!

  6. Amen Mary! Totally agree. Thank you!

  7. It’s actually not about pretty or nurturing vs. power. It’s about “wish” vs. “power”. Boys are being told in the campaign to harness the power. Girls are being told to wish for things like a princess. This embraces the notion that boys should make things happen with their “power” while girls should sit back and “wish” for things to happen to them.

    Yes, most girls want to be princesses and most boys want to be action heroes but why support the notion of a princess that is passive? Especially with a *shoe* that allows her to take action?

  8. In general, stereotypes exist for a reason. There are exceptions, but general tendencies are just so accurate. I tried doing the gender-neutral thing with my son. Big fat lot of good that did me. Sticks on the ground became guns, anything that moved was a truck, anything remotely concerning a doll or something not blue or black was summarily ignored. I volunteer in the 2yo room at church once a month, and for 18 years I’ve seen the little girls go find the baby dolls, and the boys find the trucks. When they find the gender-neutral items, they play with them, and then the girls wrap them up in blankets and walk them around in a cuddle. Including the ferocious dinosaurs that spend equal amounts of time as fighting animals and baby dolls, even by the same girls. The vast majority of little girls like sparkly things. That’s a living reality, not a forced generality. I can somewhat object to said sparkly things tending to be pink, but past that? It’s hardwired, not social teaching.

    As a child, I liked pink but had no patience for girly things like Barbie dolls. My sister played with Barbies all the time. As adults, neither of us much care for pink, she is a total tomboy, and while I barely rank on the girly meter, I’m the only one in the family that likes to wear makeup, jewelry, or nail polish. Go figure.