We interrogate Nike’s implication in the developments of 1980s and 1990s popular feminisms by contextualizing and examining the advertising strategies deployed by Nike in its efforts to seduce women consumers. Although Nike is represented as progressive and pro-women, we demonstrate Nike’s alliance with normative forces dominating 1980s America. We suggest that Nike’s solicitation relies on the logic of addiction, which demonized those people most affected by post-Fordist dynamics. While Nike’s narrations of “empowerment” appeal to a deep, authentic self located at the crossroads of power and lifestyle, we suggest that these narratives offer ways of thinking/identities that impede political action. Finally, we consider the relations among Nike, celebrity feminism, and the complex and invisible dynamics that enable transnationals to exploit Third World women workers.
The authors are with the Department of Kinesiology, the Women’s Studies Program, and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, 221 Freer Hall, 906 S. Goodwin Ave., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801.