Thoughts on new Nike Women Campaign: "My Butt is Big"

posted by Women Undefined
Saturday, July 31, 2010 at 10:26pm EDT

Writing regarding current women's issues, sports analysis and commentary, with a dash of political posturing!

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I first want to preface this post by stating that I am indeed, obsessed with shoes. My son (at the age of 6) has more than 100 pairs, three fourths of which are Nike/Jordan brand. I own several pair of Nike's myself, although I ultimately prefer 5 inch+ heels. The point is, although Nike apparently hates women, I still love Nike. I couldn't boycott them even if I should totally start doing just that. It just isn't in my nature, I can't throw away my Dunks or custom "Princess" Forces,  and my son will be wearing LA Gear over my dead body.

Seriously though Nike, this recent ad campaign you all  have conjured up is just blatantly sexist. More so than Dove Brand 's attempt to appeal to "normal" women, because although Dove's advertisements are ultimately sexist and depict harmful images of women, at least Dove pretends to care about the way women in the media are portrayed. No such luck for consumers of Nike, for it is now really clear Nike is capitalizing on the current pop culture trend of big booty-ness.

Because right now, more than ever before, everyone wants a nice, fat ass. In my generation Jennifer Lopez; AKA Jenny from the Block; AKA Jlo, started the big booty-ness trend. She still has one of the most recognizable and fantastically large asses in all of Hollywood.  So I don't think I am going out on a limb by stating she  is, at least in part, responsible for the current trend that idolizes fat ass-ness. For most people, men especially, are voicing their attraction to a fat ass, rather than the flat asses seen skidding down high-fashion run ways, with far more regularity now than ever before. 
Further proof of the trend are the women that our culture now idolizes. Hollywood and the sports world contain some of the most famous women in Western culture, who are in part famous because of their fat asses. The ass is big and looks good in a tight dress, no acting skills required and many people, mostly men, say they like it.  Thinking of Kim Kardashian? Scarlett Johanssen? Serena Williams? Any rapper's road chick?  Yeah, these are the women I am talking about. 
And Nike isn't dumb, they know the trend, they know women are now trying to become these famous women with fat asses. So instead of going  blatantly sexist and creating ugly shoes like Reebok and Sketchers did, they just hired a model with a big ass and set her next to text that says, "My Butt is Big". On the surface, Nike is speaking on behalf of the non-skinny women of Western culture (a lot of us)  in attempting to portray confident, sexy, women with fat asses who proudly show off their most prized ASSett. With these ads Nike is saying, "Damn, but she should be proud!" Nike says women should flaunt that ass, and even better, they should be wearing AirMax while doing so. 
The reality is much more sinister. Society likes big butts on women right now, the rates of butt injections and implants for the ass-less women among us have sky rocketed, and famous women don't look like Calista Flockhart anymore. So Nike quickly connects the dots and creates an ad campaign meant to lure in women looking for less dramatic and less expensive ass-plumping products. That is why Nike says  next to that juicy bubble butt- having model, "10 thousand lunges have made it rounder, not smaller". Because they want women to believe getting a big ass is not something only rich, sex-tape making socialites can pay for or something most of us are born with. 
Nike wants women to buy their product to have a fat ass, to be more close to the current beauty norm, to be more beautiful. 
If that isn't sexist, I don't know what is. But we already know Nike is sexist in their steadfast support of pig Ben Roethlisberger and the jump off king, Tiger Woods.  Nike endorses more male athletes than female athletes, Nike employs more men than women, Nike unabashedly supported factories whose conditions and pay adversely effect women in developing countries far more than men. Truly,  the list goes on and on.

This new ad campaign really illustrates exactly how sexist Nike is.  Think less of female athletes breaking down barriers, and more of Mad Men's Don Draper. Yes, Nike is that sexist. The shameless ads featuring naked women in Nike gear, the obvious nod to women-oppressive norms of  pop-culture, and reification of beauty norms for women reveals a company ( which on the outside tries to advertise as the "just do it",  groundbreaking, all-gender inclusive brand) that really is no different and just as sexist as the rest of the advertising world.

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There are 19 comments on this post. Join the discussion!

robm says:

The Nike ad is no doubt opportunistic and self-serving--no surprise there--and perhaps even a bit silly. But it isn't particularly offensive or sexist, supposing, that is, one doesn't find images of the human body that have any sexual connotation whatsoever disturbing.

For centuries male athletes have benefited from a harmonious relationship between aesthetics, eroticism, and athleticism: the athlete who built his body for better athletic performance was also deemed beautiful and sexually desirable. With very few exceptions, no such luck for the women, which has hampered their ability to succeed in athletics.

Nike's campaign, and here I do not ascribe any altruistic motive on their part, attempts at least to batter this roadblock for athletic women.

Lastly, I should add, with regard to the backsides of Serena Williams and Nike's patently athletic model, the adjective "muscular" might be more precisely used than simply "fat".

Sunday, August 1, 2010 at 10:48am EDT

WomenUndefined says:

I don't think the points you make are without merit, in fact I actually agree with much of what you say. Except that whereas men who are athletic and beautiful are seen as virile and strong people (meaning they'll garner higher social status and notoriety) women portrayed as strong , athletic and sexually desirable are demeaned and socially speaking, are more likely to be portrayed as "slutty" or something like that.

the issue here with nike is that sexualization of a female athlete is working to degrade her and reinforce harmful sexual stereotypes, which is totally different than when a male athlete is portrayed in the same campaign.

Sunday, August 1, 2010 at 3:51pm EDT

robm says:

We clearly do agree up to a point, because you have, in essence, repeated much of what I said. Society holds the male athletic physique in high esteem, and pretty much always has. This much we agree on. But the female athletic physique has seldom been in any way desirable. In fact, more typically it has been judged manifestly repulsive--rarely if ever sexually alluring; nor, that I'm aware of, the trappings of a "slut".

Only recently has this broken aesthetic begun a slow change toward the better. But there is still a long, long way to go.

Sunday, August 1, 2010 at 5:04pm EDT

beth9754 says:

I think its interesting that the woman who wrote this starts off by saying that she prefers 5 inch heels. Heels are often considered sexist in that they are unrealistic, made for sex appeal, and men don't and aren't expected to wear such uncomfortable, unhealthy, nonpractical items. I agree that this ad is self-serving. But this is the first time in a long time that something other than super skinny is appreciated mainstream. So... it could be worse.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 3:28pm EDT

WomenUndefined says:

Beth: you certainly raise a great and valid point, high heels are a constricting beauty standard that has historically been used to categorize women . For example: if a woman were to wear very very high heels, she's categorized as a street walker or exotic dancer.

The norms have shifted however and while the historical aspect is still present, wearing high heels are not seen as particularly different anymore.

With that being said, I still reserve the right to wear what i want, and it doesnt make me sexist.

My critique of NIKE is through an academic and sociologica lens; I don't spend a ton of time tying my piece in with more real life examples. THe experiences of female athletes will most certainly be different than those of an academic/sports fan such as myself. I respect the fact that women can look at this ad and say "she looks like me" , rather than seeing a model whose body type doesn't match American height/weight averages. But the advertisements , particularly those selling things to women, still use sex appeal - this isn't the same in advertising to men and I think that is wrong.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 11:20pm EDT

robm says:

"But the advertisements , particularly those selling things to women, still use sex appeal - this isn't the same in advertising to men and I think that is wrong."

Please don't tell this to my Inbox, so full each morning with products promising larger, more powerful male genitalia.

Advertisers peddle sex appeal incessantly to men, albeit not always quite so forthrightly, and this isn't a recent phenomenon. There is, however, one noteworthy distinction: men are sold the allure of strength; women, frailty.

Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 10:18am EDT

FFMag says:

I've seen much worse ads. I'm with you Beth, at least it's not pushing a size 2 "just do it" campaign. Both men and women's bodies are objectified, look at the Old Spice commercials. We can at least say there has been a shift in what society conceives of a healthier female physique and be pleased with the step in the right direction.


Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 11:00pm EDT

Coach Dawn says:

As a coach of female athletes, I appreciate Nike's effort. So many times, my athletes hop on the bus with InStyle or Cosmo or Vogue...and there ain't nothing "big" or "athletic" being celebrated there.

Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 11:01pm EDT

Gogogrrl says:

You keep losing me when you say "Fat Ass." I don't thing that ass is fat. I don't think the ad is saying fat. It is saying Big. Its muscular as are her legs. I don't thgink just any model has a body like that, she has to do some serious working out. OR just a bit of airbrushing and we can make anyone look like we want.

Saturday, August 7, 2010 at 7:27pm EDT

WomenUndefined says:

Gogogrrl: I say "fat ass" because that is my rhetorical flourish, so to speak. It is also my way of saying "I HAVE A BIG BUTT , and I still don't like this add".

Sunday, August 8, 2010 at 11:27pm EDT

tmhollins says:

I think the point would have been made better if the girl didn't look like Kim Kardashian.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 2:56pm EDT

robm says:

Better still if the ad wasn't a fake.

Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 2:19pm EDT

Trkgal08 says:

I saw the "I have thunder thighs" ad and beside it said from running marathons and it made me laugh a little that marathon legs would be considered thunder thighs. I am a strength athlete and I have large legs, but I teasingly call them Gold Medal thighs. I'm all for embracing an athletic look and muscles as feminine since masculine terms are usually used for women who have muscles or exercising is for getting skinny and not for being athletic or healthy.

I agree with much of what is said about the ad. But I wonder how we can strike a balance of getting woman to have healthy goals (not everyone can be twiggy or J Lo), appreciate their bodies (and whatever shape they get), without objectifying them completely?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 1:51pm EDT

latingirl says:

Celebrar la belleza no me parece sexista y la belleza tiene diversas formas puede ser maravillosamente curvilinea o etereamente esbelta, tambien puede tener infinita variedad de colores y rasgos...lo que no me parece saludable es imponer un solo estandar cualquiera que este sea.
Celebrar a una mujer que se siente saludable y orgullosa con la forma en que se ve, que se quiere y se cuida me parece refrescante. Me encanta la publicidad de Nike, siempre me he sentido contenta de tener un cuerpo curvilineo, rasgos africanos, orientales e indoamericanos, feliz de poder hacer las cosas que de verdad disfruto (los deportes que me gustan, la carrera con la que me va maravillosamente) sin importarme si el resto del mundo piensa si son apropiados para mi; los textos que figuran en estas publicidades son cosas que yo diria (yo diria mucho mas)
De todas maneras es interesante leer opiniones tan distintas como las de WomenUndefined aunque no comparta practicamente ninguna de sus opiniones (solo el hecho de que esta publicidad no tiene ningun fin altruista)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 9:19pm EDT

latingirl says:

Celebrate beauty does not seem sexist to me; and beauty has many forms, can be wonderfully curvy or ethereally slender. May also have infinite variety of colors and features ... which does not seem healthy is to impose a single standard whatever it is.
Celebrate a woman who feels healthy and proud with the way she looks, who love herself I think is cool.
I love this ad and the entire campaign, I have always been happy to have a curvaceous body, proud of my ancients (African, Oriental and Native Americans), happy to do the things I really enjoy (sports that I like, the career that goes wonderfully to me) no matter if the rest of the world thinks they aren't appropriate for me. The texts presented in these ad are things I would say (I would say much more)
However it is interesting to read opinions as diverse as those of WomenUndefined which are so different than my way of think

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 9:26pm EDT

yostk321 says:

This is an affront to traditional family values.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 2:34pm EST

thruthetrees says:

5" heels = 25% more height in the buttocks for a period of time without all the work and none of the cardio/muscular gains.
10,000 lunges = the gain in shapeliness and sexiness; IS all the work and results in cardio/muscular health.
I have to agree with WomenUndefined's dissenters. Nike IS moving the needle. They have gone from only portraying athletic men and non-athletic model-type women to celebrating diverse body styles as well as how much hard work goes into being a "natural" beauty as opposed to the made up fluff we get from most of Sports Illustrated.
I view this blog as a call to action to Nike and the rest of western society- that even though they have moved the needle, it's still not far enough.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 12:37pm EDT

DemonMaser says:

Listen, they aren't showing average joe's for male advertising either, trust me, my husband doesn't look like the men in Nike ads. I applaud seeing a woman who has an ass that looks like mine, and I am an athlete! So what if it's the current Hollywood trend, when it swings to another fad, I am still going to be a muscular white girl and my ass is still going to be large. But it's not fat, because I am an athlete, and it does serve me well from behind in a skirt too.

I think you have to draw the line at calling everything sexist, I am sorry, all advertising is opportunistic, it's the nature of the business, are you serious? That's what it is. Don't blame the advertisers, blame the consumers. If that approach wasn't working, meaning if everyone wasn't supporting it by following the ads and buying the gear, the campaigns would change. Get it? We are a sexist society, but I feel like we are at the point where we are sexist both ways, so does that make it even? As someone who grew up looking at skinny supermodels and never feeling I could measure up and hiding my body, with a mother who didn't know what to do but buy me a gym membership and tell me to follow her weight watchers plan (and the ass still didn't go away), this is a job for parenting, not advertising. Embracing your body, whether it's in the mirror or glorified in a Nike ad starts with the messaging at home.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 10:37am EDT

orionoir says:

i can't think of any other company (except for, perhaps, apple computer) that manages its image as well as nike. the leggy blonde waif stereotype has been run into the ground; it's about time that marketers acknowledge that there are other body types out there, and that they're consuming a whole lot of sports and fitness products.

this model's "bubble butt" reminds me of the typical sprinter physique. since our elite sprinters tend to be african-americans, you could mix race into the discussion, too, but that would would be taken as a call for everyone to name every great white sprinter they've ever known.

as for whether it's right to objectify women's bodies, well, it's a little bit late in the game to protest. men (and, surreptitiousnly, women) have been ogling women's bodies since, well, the invention of bodies. only recently have buttocks gone out of fashion... if fashion photography is to be believed, the most beautiful butt of all is one that's not even there.

Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 9:29am EDT

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