Nike markets “pro hijab,” goes after Muslim women’s sporting franchise

According to the New York Times, in 2018 Nike will begin marketing a “Pro Hijab”: a hijab made for Muslim women to compete in sports while still remaining “modest”. Featuring the prominent Nike “swoosh,” it’s made of a light and breathable fabric that can be tucked into clothing. It’s expected to cost about $35.

Aaron Hewitt/Nike

Recognizing the increasing number of women from Muslim countries who are participating in sports, Nike will undoubtedly introduce other “modest sportswear” in the future. After all, there are about 800 million Muslim women, and that’s a big market!

To accompany the hijab, Nike has released a video called “What will they say about you?” (There are English subtitles.) The company’s description:

Nike’s “What will they say about you?” campaign launches with a new film highlighting five remarkable women who have achieved personal success through competitive and amateur sport.  Despite concerns or criticism, these women hope that the world will say they’re pioneers, role models and strong voices for their region.

The film features both professional and everyday athletes from the Arab region, including Parkour Trainer, Amal Mourad; Figure Skater, Zahra Lari; Pop Singer; Balquees Fathi; Fencer, Inès Boubakri; and Boxer, Arifa Bseiso.  Narration is done by Fatima Al-Banawi, a Saudi Arabian social researcher, artist, and actress.

Of course I have mixed feelings about this. While other companies already market sports hijabs, putting a company logo on one won’t necessarily endear it to more traditional Muslims. On the other hand, maybe it—and especially the video, which sends the message “Screw your antiquated morals”—will inspire Muslim women to participate more in sport, and that gives them more freedom.

The part that saddens me is that all of this caters to a religious dictate that women must cover themselves to avoid inciting the lust of men. In short, it’s to keep women from being raped by revealing either a wisp of hair or a bare forearm or ankle. Non-Muslims in sports have evolved a style of dress that gives them the most comfort for competing, and that doesn’t include either head coverings (except for fencing) or full-body covering.  Women, whether in sport or not, should be able to dress as they want, not to be bound to religious dictates catering to misogyny and oppression of women.

And we know that many women who now wear the hijab and full-body covering wouldn’t do so if it weren’t mandated by either their government, their parents, or their peers. (Look at women in Iran and Afghanistan in the 1970’s, or see the My Stealthy Freedom campaign.) There’s no avoiding the conclusion that if Muslim women suffered no social opprobrium for dressing however they wanted—for sports and otherwise—the hijab would largely be deep-sixed, along with all those arm, leg, and body coverings.

And if revealing a bit of hair incites lust, what about those women in the video who reveal a lot more? What good is it to cover your hair yet reveal lots of other parts? Won’t that incite lust, too?

I’d say “kudos to Nike” for giving Muslim women a chance for some kind of freedom, even if it’s limited, but somehow I can’t escape the conclusion that the Almighty Dollar is behind it all.

h/t: Jerry

37 Comments

  1. Posted March 14, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I look forward to what Nike might come up with for the Muslim beach volleyball players 🙂

    • Posted March 14, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      I think full body coverings except for the feet (see photo here). I’ve never been able to figure out whether women’s beach volleyball has settled on the optimal configuration of clothes for the sport. If it has, then it would be even more optimal to play nude.

      • jrhs
        Posted March 14, 2017 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        A sport bra is a must.

      • Posted March 14, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        ‘Gymnastics’ is from the Greek ‘gymnos’ meaning to train in the nude.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 14, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        No you get sand in your nethers.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted March 14, 2017 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

          Is that from experience? 😉

          cr

          (Sorry ’bout that – couldn’t resist)

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted March 15, 2017 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

            You forget that I don’t go to beaches because I hate my body.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted March 16, 2017 at 2:38 am | Permalink

              Oh I know, but what do facts matter when you post a set-up line like that? 😉

              (Anyone wants to get rid of me, all they have to do is plant a land mine in my driveway with a ninepin on top bearing a little sign “Do NOT on any account knock this over!” My life expectancy would be measured in milliseconds)

              cr

  2. mikeyc
    Posted March 14, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    You’re last paragraph sums it up. A mixed bag – a thing of small importance derived with a profit motive which, while catering to an oppressive religious mindset, encourages and facilitates some kind of freedom for women, all jumbled together.

    • Bruce
      Posted March 14, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      I agree it does seem a jumble. When we take away religion, the modesty aspect is revealed for what it is – false and justified through religion by men – the entire enterprise is shown as petty, falsely inclusive, and laughable.
      I would bet that no one in sport feels that the body is a thing of shame to be hidden away, after all the efforts they make to be the best at what they do.
      This isn’t a way to promote inclusiveness for all to join sports, it eats away at what sport truly is.
      It is a false conceit and oppressive, as you say.

  3. Frank Bath
    Posted March 14, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    How about burqas with go faster stripes?

  4. Posted March 14, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I ref sports. When I did a game late last week, one of the 8th grade girls struggled at times to keep her hijab tucked into her uniform top while she played basketball. It will definitely, as a practicality, improve their ability to participate. This is not the first time I’ve run into situations like this on a court or diamond.

    From that standpoint, the fact that Nike might make a few bucks seems like a company responding to a market driven need. Hard to fault them for that. I leave aside entirely the morality or lack thereof of wearing the hijab in the first place.

    • Posted March 14, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

      Reminds me of that scene in Django Unchained where the Klan can’t see a damn thing because their eye-holes keep slipping, but they feel obliged to wear the hoods anyway because one of their wives went to the effort of making them.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted March 14, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        I think that scene was an anachronistic, in that Django was set in the antebellum South (and West), and the Klan was formed by former Confederate officers during Reconstruction.

        Still, pretty funny with the eye-holes.

    • somer
      Posted March 14, 2017 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

      fair enough

  5. Kevin
    Posted March 14, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I should get one for early spring commuting on my bike. My balaclava is more for sub-freezing, but my ears still get cold in 2-12 C mornings and that looks like it’s lightweight, but gets the wind off one’s ears.

  6. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 14, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Ali A. Rizvi (via Twi##er)

    Will @Nike also produce branded Confederate flags?

    ( Pic of Alishba Zarmeen quote):

    ^^^hopefully can read this longer quote I didn’t track down.

    • somer
      Posted March 14, 2017 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      +1 Its all about money

  7. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 14, 2017 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    As nobility vs. crassness of motives go, money is IMO in the middle of the bell curve, as long as it is within reasonable ethical bounds.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 14, 2017 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      Agreed.

      If it’s going to cost just $35, that sounds remarkably fairly-priced for sportswear. The prices charged for most brand-name sportswear (at least in NZ) are a total rip-off – as is almost anything ‘sporting’ for that matter.

      cr

  8. Posted March 14, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Surely, another tension is that Nike would be deemed a decadent capitalist entity.

  9. Posted March 14, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    This is next:

    • Posted March 14, 2017 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      + 1

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted March 14, 2017 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Perfect for competitive “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” or “Blind Man’s Buff.”

  10. Alpha Neil
    Posted March 14, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I look forward to seeing the matching sports-turban for the male relative that must accompany them when they work out in public.

  11. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 14, 2017 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    The woman in the picture would be whipped in hijab mandating countries because her clothes are tight around her arms.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 14, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      And legs. You can actually see the shape of her legs!!

      • Alpha Neil
        Posted March 14, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        Tell me about it. I was almost overcome with uncontrollable lust when I saw the photo. I think the fact that her hair was covered is all that kept me in control.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Yep!

      However, I don’t have a problem with Nike making these for women who want to wear them. What I do have a VERY BIG PROBLEM with is the fact that it’s called “modest”-wear. The obvious implication is that all women who aren’t hijabi aren’t “modest”. Who gave them the right to judge and what does that mean anyway?

      What I want is for them to stop calling it modest-wear!!!! It’s religious-wear and calling it anything else is utterly dishonest.

  12. alexandra Moffat
    Posted March 14, 2017 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Nike is an enabler. yes, follow the money. All the fuss about head wear fashion when the world is threatened by war, nuclear weapons, global warming, over population seems a strange priority.

    • somer
      Posted March 14, 2017 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      Attitudes like put women in a sack and proclaim your religion everywhere is part of the reason for war (sectarian havoc in ME affecting superpowers, nuclear weapons (India/Pakistan nuclear arms race), global warming (sparked a rise of religious intolerance world wide with attendant global warming denialism), Overpopulation (organised religions all advocate population maximisation)

  13. Posted March 14, 2017 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    I agree with your assessment.  I am ambivalent about the overall effect of Nike’s actions.  Just follow the money, as you said.

    From: Why Evolution Is True To: imlieb@yahoo.com Sent: Tuesday, March 14, 2017 11:00 AM Subject: [New post] Nike markets “pro hijab,” goes after Muslim women’s sporting franchise #yiv4886168959 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv4886168959 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv4886168959 a.yiv4886168959primaryactionlink:link, #yiv4886168959 a.yiv4886168959primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv4886168959 a.yiv4886168959primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv4886168959 a.yiv4886168959primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv4886168959 WordPress.com | whyevolutionistrue posted: “According to the New York Times, in 2018 Nike will begin marketing a “Pro Hijab”: a hijab made for Muslim women to compete in sports while still remaining “modest”. Featuring the prominent Nike “swoosh,” it’s made of a light and breathable fabric that can” | |

  14. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 14, 2017 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    “I’d say “kudos to Nike” for giving Muslim women a chance for some kind of freedom, even if it’s limited”

    That’s what I felt about Marks & Spencer’s burkini, though I think I may have been in a minority on this site.

    But I’m a bit puzzled by the video – most of the women in it are NOT wearing hijabs. Good for them, but I can’t quite see how it relates to the product.

    cr

  15. madscientist
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 3:01 am | Permalink

    Don’t worry – a self-proclaimed mouthpiece for god will eventually say that the swatch is the devil’s mark and that will put a quick end to sales.

  16. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    Yes, it may encourage more muslim women to try out sports. Trouble is, the fanatics are still likely to respond in the same way they did to the young lady dancing in a hijab.

  17. Posted March 15, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    This *might* help moderates participate. But it might also cause a backlash in the others, so …

  18. CJColucci
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    somehow I can’t escape the conclusion that the Almighty Dollar is behind it all.
    Well, yes. Would any Nike executive dispute this? Nike is in business to sell sportswear. It is catering to a potentially big market using tried-and-true marketing techniques.


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