2018 NASSS Annual Conference
Sport Soundtrack: Sport, Music, & Culture

Anna Posbergh

University of Maryland - College Park
Nike-Fueled Feminism: Universalizing Women’s Empowerment
Nike-Fueled Feminism: Universalizing Women’s Empowerment
Nike, a company lauded for its empowering women-centered advertisements, frequently releases global advertisements depicting women overcoming gendered structural barriers and stigma as they determinedly engage in physical activity. The globalized image of the empowered (Nike-clad) woman reflects the company’s universalizing call to action which, while emotively representing women’s empowerment through sport, fails to account for the contextual challenges encountered by women athletes within these promotional Nike-scapes. Nike’s transnational advertising thus re-imagines a universalized and universalizing female physicality, reflective of a growing postfeminist sensibility (Rottenberg, 2018; Thorpe, Toffoletti, & Bruce, 2017). Using a critical cultural studies model in a transnational feminist framework, we discursively analyze six recent global Nike advertisements, examining the extent to which Nike sweeps non-U.S. based localized gendered politics into a commodified universal Western message of neoliberal postfeminism. We particularly focus on responsibilitization, individual competition, and empowerment as three connecting themes. These themes superficially account for the localized culture and politics in each represented geo-market, commodifying variously located women in a universalizing depiction of non-U.S. women’s motivations, practices, and experiences: a central critique of transnational feminists. We conclude that Nike fuels a message of white/Western feminism, undermining the realities of the non-white/non-Western women their campaigning seeks to embolden.