I know, I know. Heels for little girls?
Well, according to TODAY Moms and Britain’s Daily Mail, among others, trendy designers like Michael Kors are currently marketing high heels to young girls. How young? His 3-inch wedges are apparently categorized under “toddlers/youth” (toddlers?!), and are available in sizes appropriate for girls ages 6-10. Target has apparently followed suit by offering little girls’ shoes with 2.25 inch heels, and Kenneth Cole and Jessica Simpson Kids now sell 2 inch heels — thank goodness they lopped off that extra quarter inch — for very, very young ladies.
The source of this alarming trend? None other than 6-year-old Suri Cruise, who has apparently been wearing heels since the age of 4. Yes, you read that right. A heel-wearing 4-year old. I, a 28-year-old teacher who kicks off her 2.5 inch heels (maybe 3 inches on a good day) and pads around in flip flops before her next class, have been out-heeled by a kindergartener for the last two years. Her mother, actress Katie Holmes, sees her daughter’s affinity for high heels as “just a harmless dress-up game…” But I’m not so sure young children clomping around in high heels as part of their daily footwear is as innocent as Holmes makes it out to be. Why?
1. Health risks
According to a study in the the Journal of Applied Physiology (summarized by the Huffington Post), habitually wearing even 2 inch heels can cause permanent damage in more than just feet. Researchers found that women in their 20s experienced issues in their knees, hips, back and various tendons. From a Huffington Post interview with Podiatrist Dr. Jacqueline Sutera:
Heels can also permanently shorten tendons and ligaments, including the all important Achilles’ tendon, which connects the heel to the calf. “It happens rather quickly–you might not be symptomatic, but I will say that with every step, you’re causing damage.”
Dr. Sutera is presumably talking about women, so just imagine the effects on children, whose bones and muscles are still developing. Little girls allowed to wear heels on a regular basis may look “adorable” in the short term, but could be at risk for serious health issues later in life.
Why do women wear high heels? Anyone who has seen an episode of TLC’s “What Not To Wear” or read an issue of Vogue or Cosmopolitan can likely rattle off the go-to explanation without even thinking: heels elongate your legs, making you look taller, more powerful and ultimately sexier to onlookers.
What 6-year-old needs to look tall, powerful and sexy? Height shouldn’t be an issue, as girls continue to grow into their teens. Power isn’t necessarily something I think of when it comes to children 6-10, male or female. They’re in a learning stage, soaking up examples and life experiences from those around them and aren’t even close to being in a position to control their own lives. And sexy? Quite frankly, if I were a mother, I would be terrified at the idea of my 6-year-old daughter being seen as sexy. For whose benefit? That of pedophiles and sex offenders everywhere? No thank you.
3. Body image
Girls — young and old — are increasingly shoved into a very narrow definition of acceptable body types. Think about magazines, movies, advertisements, television shows, music videos…almost any form of media depicting women and girls. More likely than not, they are thin, have been airbrushed to flawless perfection, and are posed in some alluring, come-hither way.
Little girls are exposed to these images, and unless there is someone explicitly teaching them otherwise, and sometimes even when there is, start to assume that this is how they need to be when they are older. High heels at a young age definitely play into that. Granted, heels aren’t single-handedly turning little girls into recruits for “Toddlers & Tiaras,” or morphing them into the next overly sexualized teen star (Lindsay Lohan or Miley Cyrus, for starters). They do, however, help send a message that to be a girl is to be sexy, pretty, and sophisticated. Unless popular culture radically changes in the next few years, today’s 6-10-year-olds will unfortunately have enough insecurities about their bodies in their teenage years. Is it fair to saddle them with this added pressure at such a young age? Considering they shouldn’t even be concerned with — let alone interested in — what the word “sexy” references, I think not.
What do you think? Leave your comments below.
Photo Credit: wakachan via Flickr