My beat column in today's Star Tribune recaps the controversy that surfaced this week over Skecher's marketing its Shape-Ups shoes -- specifically designed to "tone buns and thighs -- to girls and offering the shoes in sizes as small as youth 2.
The add itself is somewhat innocuous -- never mentioning the purpose of these round-soled shoes or suggesting that girls need to tone their legs. And Skecher's argues that its product is promoting health and fitness in an era when childhood obesity is rising. But take a look for yourself and voice your opinion in the comments below.
The end with the boys dressed in junk food costumes is kind of weird. Does it imply that girls who wears these shoes will have boys chasing after them? Or does it imply that girls should walk away from junk foods?
If it's the latter, then Park Nicollet psychologist Marci Mueller-Theisen has a concern: "The bigger issue is that the girl in the ads is being chased by a hot dog and ice cream cone and a cupcake. It's sending the message that certain foods are bad for you. I think our philosophy here is that all foods fit in moderation and in balance."
Mueller-Theisen, who specializes in the mental health aspects of eating disorders, said the ads are problematic because kids take messages from adults and marketing quite literally: "They'll think 'I need Shape-Ups because my thighs are going to get bigger (without them).' They take everything just as adults say it."
"Exercise for a certain shape or weight as opposed to doing things to be fit or healthy?" she added. "There's a big difference there."