British moms are up in arms about an American-made high-heeled-shoe line designed specifically for babies up to 6 months old. The mini-stilettos, called Pee Wee Pumps, have been around for a few years, but a recent Facebook post on the kids’ clothing watchdog page Let Clothes Be Clothes blasted the controversial footwear, thrusting the sexy shoes into the spotlight.
Pee Wee Pumps are essentially soft, cotton slippers; many of the styles come in provocative animal prints. On its website, the brand shows babies sporting the shoes while dressed in pearls, feathers, and leopard-print diaper covers. Many mothers are concerned that the shoes — and the boudoir scenes in which they’re showcased — contribute to the sexualization of babies.
“Creepy and ridiculous in equal measure,” one parent said on Facebook. “You have to be kidding me! Sorry but this is sick! Children should be allowed to be children & not dressed up to look like hookers!” another wrote. Other moms were absolutely incensed at the sexual implications of putting stilettos on small babies. One wrote, “Do they realise that the reason heeled shoes are perceived as sexy is because the heel forces the wearer to walk with chest/buttocks out for balance and an exaggerated arch in the foot mimicking (apparently) feet during orgasm.”
Women were equally troubled by the overtly sexual photos on the company’s website and social media accounts. “Dear god, why is that infant doing a boudoir session?!” chimed in one mom, who was also disturbed by the 1920s flapper costumes that some babies on the website are dressed in. “That’s disturbing. Even without the heels the pics would be not even remotely okay,” another added.
And then there were moms who couldn’t fathom the practical implications of the pumps. “Apart from the tremendously worrying sexualization of children such products contribute to, I don’t even want to know the effects these shoes would have on small, developing feet,” wrote one appalled Facebook user.
But her concerns about the effect on the feet do not necessarily have merit, as the company insists that the shoes are meant just for photo opportunities and are sized only for pre-ambulatory babies. According to an article in Footwear News, “The shoes are not made for walking and sizes only go up to six months, ‘when babies start to crawl,’ [Pee Wee Pumps owner Michele] Holbrook added.”
The shoes have Velcro straps and come with faux heels — extensions of the slipper, which are filled with cotton, says Footwear News. The footwear is “collapsible with pressure” and “poses no endangerment” to the infant, Holbrook told the publication. “To me, my Pee Wee Pumps are nothing more than the cute headbands or adorable baby rompers parents put on their babies,” she added.
Still, parents aren’t buying it, literally and figuratively, asking, “WTF is wrong with people” in as many ways as possible. But Holbrook says this isn’t the first time there’s been an uproar about her precocious product. “They did it last May and it went out of control,” she told Footwear News, adding, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity; if it brings attention, it’ll help you.”
Pee Wee Pumps have even gotten celebrity attention, according to the publication. Coco Austin, wife of rapper/actor Ice-T, shared a photo of her newborn daughter, Chanel Nicole, in a ballerina pink pair of pumps, which matched her pink tutu and namesake top. “Long day for my sleeping beauty,” Austin captioned the (now deleted) photo. Holbrook also noted that the shoes got celebrity coverage on the E! channel after she sent a pair to Real Housewife Tamra Judge.
On the Pee Wee Pumps website, Holbrook is careful to describe her product in this way: “Infant crib shoes are made with care and love for your little princess. The soft, flexible shoe with a collapsible heel will form to your daughter’s foot, whether it’s narrow or wide. Its adjustable strap allows the shoe to stay on and provides a comfortable fit!”
The shoes, which retail for $14.99 to $24.99 a pair, have equally provocative names — yet another issue pointed out by angry parents on social media — such as Glamorous, Wild Child, and Sassy (“She’ll make a statement in this bold, red hue,” the product description reads).
The Pee Wee Pumps hubbub calls to mind other recent incidences in which parents were horrified by clothing marketing toward tots and adolescents. Last summer, parents were appalled by a pair of gold sequined hot pants from the Kardashian Kids clothing line, which were accused of being “inappropriate for a little girl.” Around the same time, Forever 21 dropped a line of boys’ T-shirts that bore sexist phrases such as, “Sorry, girls, I only date models” and “Chicks are all over me,” in response to criticism from Yahoo Style.
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