ICYM, Nike Mexico has recently released a new commercial that was quite a talking point. The spot is called Juntas Imparables (‘Together women are unstoppable’), and it is full of winks towards feminists.
The 90-second clip is a frantic display of empowered women, trying to overcome several roadblocks within a traffic jam. They encounter many obstacles along the way: the guy who wolf-whistles them, the mother who wants them to stay safe and pretty, the all-men road workers who tell them to go back to their cars. But all of this the women triumph over, and as they move forward many more join the race…or the fight.
Juntas imparables features runner Paola Morán, gymnast Alexa Moreno, soccer player Nayeli Rangel and boxer Mariana Juárez, all Mexican athletes. Needless to say, Mexico is a country with a strong reputation for sexism.
The spot is very energetic, and its ending almost epic – the main character emerges from a cloud of dust, riding a white horse and wearing a green bandana. In Argentina the green bandana is the emblem of abortion rights, and it has become famous all around the world for the same reason. The ad even deals with the issue of street harassment, something that has only started being discussed in Latin America. The women’s images Nike Mexico chose to portray are not the ones commercials tend to show: these girls are neither delicate nor submissive, and that is certainly refreshing.
Once released, the Nike Mexico spot created all kinds of controversy. The public opinion was divided, especially on Twitter. Some cheered Nike’s statement, whereas others considererd it a despicable and opportunistic move.
The first group mainly regarded the ad as a portrayal of strong, beautiful women coming together to shatter that glass ceiling. The second group also pointed out that there is no feminism without class-consciousness, and poor women certainly cannot afford Nike sporstwear – at least not in Latin America. Nike believes that ‘sports enpower women’ but, coincidentally, those in most dire need of empowerment will have to wear something cheaper.
It gets even harder to trust in Nike’s good intentions when you learn that the company has been taken to court because of alleged violations of the Equal Pay Act, and there is a whole women’s revolt going on at Nike’s HQ. Four women who work high-rank corporate jobs claim that Nike blatantly ignores sexual harassment situations and engages in gender pay discrimination (to the detriment of women, of course). Nike certainly does needs a facelift in this department.
But Nike has picked another battle this year. We all remember the national anthem protests that took place in NFL games during 2016, and escalated when President Donald Trump urged owners to fire protesting players. The starter of these demonstrations was former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sat and then knelt during national anthem so not to “show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color”. Kaepernick’s activism might have cost him a job, but it did not prevent other athletes from following his lead. The former 49er is currently battling the NFL in court, because of the league’s alleged conspiration to keep Kaepernick away from the field. In this context, Nike decides to partner with the athlete and designs an advertising campaign that focuses on his activism.
However, it wasn’t all profit for the Oregon giant this time. After Kaepernick tweeted his partnership with Nike, the conservative section of its consumers started promoting the hashtag #NikeBoycott. But the company still backs Kaepernick, along with his ‘Know Your Rights’ campaign.
More support followed suit. African American actress Jenifer Lewis decided to celebrate Kaepernick’s activism in a peculiar way: “I’m wearing Nike tonight to tell them how proud I am of them for supporting Colin Kaepernick and his protest against police brutality and racial injustice,” Lewis told CNN at the Emmys’ photocall.
And this is how Nike sporstwear ended up in the red carpet. Now that’s a fashion statement!
Call me sceptical but I do not think corporations will ever change willingly, especially when this huge or powerful. Times are a-changing, and some issues can no longer be overlooked. We are past the time when companies were advised against taking a stand on controversial subjects, lest they should lose a market segment. When it comes to Human Rights, consumers demand to know the corporative stance. There are no in-betweens here, it’s either ‘for’ or ‘against’, and no being outspoken about sensitive subjects may cost a company the support it was afraid to lose and more.
It seems to me that Nike was able to read the direction in which society is moving, at least when it comes to racism and sexism (child labor is an entirely different thing). If its recent statements in favor of race and sex equality are just a stunt, I really could not care less. I am not saying they are but, even if they were, it is a step beyond.
Advertising has the power to create reality, because of its symbolic imagery and ability to influence and shape the minds of consumers. As this twitter user would say: ‘I wish I’d seen this ad when I was a little girl and not those of women in the kitchen, just cooking and cleaning’. Let’s not forget the importance of showing little girls and boys that there are other possibilities.
Lastly, this is how culture evolves. Fake it ‘til you make it, right? The fact that Nike had to admit that, in order to keep on selling, it has to acknowledge, respect and celebrate the existence and women and race minorities…it’s a big deal. Feminism may not need Nike, but looks like Nike does need feminism. Is Nike really a feminist? Is it even an activist? Hard to tell, since Nike is a company.
And companies only know money.