Nike's Decolonizing of Feminism and the Exploitation of Women
This article focuses on the way that Nike has exploited women and try to cover it up by making advertisements that are supposed to 'empower' feminism.
Maria Hengeveld brings to light the many ways big corporations can impact feminism. In her article, ‘How Nike’s Feminism Came to Rule the Global South – The Feminist Wire’ she discusses the way Nike has exploited woman, and then try to change their advertisements to ‘empower’ them. In 1987 Nike’s advertisement stated, “It wouldn’t hurt if you stopped eating like a pig.” In 2017, it is hard to believe that they ever got away with that, and I can’t help but think to myself, “As a woman how could any of us ever buy their products after this?” This was not an empowering advertisement, rather it actually put women down. Telling someone to stop eating like a pig is not in any way motivating. After the backlash from the ad, Nike executives came up with a new plan for an advertisement, one that would include some sensitivity.
More Advertising Controversy
In 1995 their ad, “If You Let Me Play” aired on television. “Rather than using some tough preachy love from women icons, the new campaign chose to target men’s benevolence by persuading them to allow their girls to get their swoosh on and get moving” (Hengeveld, 2015). The advertisement included multiple young women stating, “If you let me play: I will like myself more. I will have more self-confidence. I will suffer less depression. I will be 60% less likely to get breast cancer. I will be more likely to leave a man who beats me. I will be less likely to get pregnant before I want to. I will learn what it means to be strong.” This ad was actually proven to be beneficial for the corporation. Feminisms were not pleased because it made it seem like women needed to be saved, but it did justice for the corporation because it was a distraction from the poor working conditions in their factories. Nike was trying to brand the company as one that genuinely cared about women, but the fact that they still had sweatshops in South Korea tells us otherwise. In South Korea the women are judged by their willingness to work, and by work I mean long hours with little pay. These women were exploited and Nike knew that the country had little regulations on wages.
Dusty Kidd, the spokesman for Nike tried to argue that these sweatshops were vital to woman, and were even uplifting and allowed them to have more opportunities. Kidd stated that without these jobs women would only be, “harvesting coconut meat in the tropical sun” (Hengeveld, 2015). According to the International Labour Organization, 88% of the minimum wage workers in these factories were malnourished, and that women would be way better if they left Nike (Hengeveld, 2015). How a company could be so successful even though they are exploited women? This could certainly be due to a lack of knowledge on the exploitation and a lack of feminism.
Fast forward twenty years, Nike has come a long way since telling girls to stop eating like pigs. The new campaigns for the corporation are supported, celebrated, and endorsed by many. Those supporting and endorsing the campaigns include UN agencies, USAID, the British Department for International Development, Save the Children and a large amount of organizations that speak out for the rights of women. The corporation now focuses on helping women ages 10 to 19 years old. In 2008 Nike launched its Girl Effect Theory. It is intended to reduce poverty globally. The theory argues that, “the economic empowerment of poor adolescent girls is the magic bullet to solving global poverty because, according to the theory, 'girls give more back' than boys (apparently a difference of 35% vs. 90%) (Hengeveld, 2015).
While Nike was trying to empower women, teach them more about saving money and becoming entrepreneurs, they still have not quite accomplished enough to impress feminists. What they failed to recognize and take credit for how their labor and tax evasion practices are depriving the global south and actually exploiting them. According to Fiona Ranford of UK Feminista, “It is a system that relies on women’s unpaid caring labor, by seeking a society where government and corporations refuse responsibility for human need and the caring work it requires” (2012). Women are not victims that need to be saved, especially not by NIKE, a corporation in which they exploit women! Women are also more than just a ‘resource’, they are equally as important to society and the economy as are all genders. How do we stop this? Well we can start by educating each other on such issues. Educate your family, your friends, the YOUTH! With the knowledge of the way that women are being treated and used as a campaign device while being exploited behind the scenes, there must be more we can do. We cans top contributing to these corporations. Of course we might want the best workout gear, or the sneakers that will make us look cool, but at what cost? Demanding a corporation to treat women better and give them an income that will make living affordable is important. Finally we must hit them where it hurts, their bank account! According to the World O Meter, there are about 7.5 billion people on this earth, with a female to male ratio of 1:1. If just women alone refused to buy Nike’s products, that is half the population. Even more if men boycott the corporation as well!
Hengeveld, M. (2015, September 13). How Nike's Neoliberal Feminism Came to Rule the Global South. Retrieved April 29, 2017, from http://www.thefeministwire.com/2015/09/nike-neoliberal-feminism/
Ranford, F. (n.d.). Nike's exploitation of female workers – sacked for being pregnant, abused at work…. Retrieved May 01, 2017, from https://leftfootforward.org/2012/03/nike-exploitation-women-workers-bangladesh-uk-feminista-protest/
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