Nike Middle East recently released a feminist ad campaign meant to tug at women’s heartstrings — and then make us want to go out and kick some serious ass. Featuring Muslim female athletes like fencer Ines Boubakri, parkour freerunner Amal Mourad, figure skater Zahra Lari, and boxer Arifa Bseiso, the ad was shot around Dubai and shows women soldiering forward in various athletic activities despite dirty looks from passersby.
A voiceover by Saudi actress Fatima Al-Banawi asks: “What will they say about you? That you shouldn’t be out here? That it’s unladylike? That you’re not built for this? Or maybe… they’ll say you’re strong. That you can’t be stopped. That you always find a way. That you make it look easy. That you make it look good. Or maybe… they’ll say you’re the next big thing.”
The ad is very much in line with Nike’s typical “girl power” marketing strategy and is part of a companywide push to display more diversity — a lofty, very necessary goal. Unfortunately, the video, which has been viewed over 1.7 million times on YouTube, has many in the international Muslim community up in arms, arguing via social media that the ad is not a realistic depiction of how women in predominantly Muslim countries actually live their lives.
“This is not the true representation of Arab, Muslim women. We do not wear a hijab and go running in the streets, shame on Nike,” wrote commenter Nada Sahimi on the brand’s Instagram page.
Nevertheless, the ad has garnered praise from a spokesperson for the International Red Cross in Iraq and thousands of others for its empowering depiction of women and its showcasing of successful Muslim athletes. While it’s true that in many parts of the world, women running in public or going to gyms is not commonplace, the idea behind the ad seems to be that Nike — and the Muslim female athletes who partnered with them — would like to see this amended, ASAP.