Photo: YouTube/Nike Japan
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Nike commercial about gender inequality in Japan receives backlash online

45 Comments
By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

In recent years, Nike has shown that it likes to move people, both physically with their range of sporting goods and apparel, and emotionally, with their tug-at-the heartstrings advertising.

In Japan, the sporting giant is moving people once again, this time with a new commercial called “New Girl/Play New“, which shines a light on the plight of women across the country. The ad comes with the following thought-provoking statement:

“Growing up a girl in Japan used to mean one thing. Now it can mean everything. So, what do you want to do?”

This is the main theme of the ad, which reminds viewers of some of the traditional expectations and restrictions placed on women in Japan from a young age, while also showcasing some of the nation’s sportswomen and activists who are smashing traditional stereotypes, paving the way for the new girls of the future.

The commercial has English subtitles available, so click the white gear button next to the CC in the bottom right corner to turn them on, and take a look at the ad below.

The clip shows a pregnant mother and her family learning that they’ll soon be welcoming a new girl into their lives. While their instant reaction is joy, they’re suddenly reminded of the downsides of being a girl in Japan, with cut scenes to their future grown-up daughter looking over her shoulder in fear while walking alone at night, and attending a business meeting, where she’s allowed in the room but not allowed to talk. That last scenario is one that recently played out in real-life, when Japan’s ruling party decided to allow five female lawmakers to attend their all-male board meetings…on the proviso that they didn’t talk.

Japan ranked 121 out of of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Index, and the Nike ad reminds us that a report by the World Economic Forum in 2021 showed the average Japanese woman’s income was 43.7 percent lower than the average Japanese man’s income.

However, there is hope that girls really will be able to achieve anything in future, and there are some young sportswomen doing just that right now. Professional football player and female empowerment activist Ami Otaki appears in the ad, showing that women can carve a successful career for themselves by playing a traditionally male sport at a national level.

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▼ High-school sumo wrestler Rizumu Kasai is a member of the men’s competitive high school sumo team.

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▼ And 16-year-old baseball player Ayuri Shimano has played on all-male teams.

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The ad also includes appearances by wrestler Miyu Nakamura and figure skater Marin Honda, along with a scene showing Momoko Nojo, an activist working to eliminate gender discrimination, playing the role of a future Prime Minister.

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While the ad ends with a positive sense of hope for the future of women in Japan, it doesn’t shy away from presenting the problems that exist in the country. In fact, a quick look at the comments section under the video shows why ads like this are sorely needed in Japan, as many of the commenters appear to care less about the message of empowering women and more about the fact that Nike has aired Japan’s dirty laundry on a public stage.

“Currently Nike is hot on making hate speech against Japan.”

“This is a commercial that appeals for the elimination of discrimination against women, but it is a commercial that severely discriminates against Japanese people.”

“You should be aware that the real enemies are not men or women, but capitalists who incite discrimination.”

“Is this really made by Japanese people?”

“Sumo is a culture, and putting a woman in it is just a denial of culture, isn’t it?”

Like Nike’s last commercial, which looked at the problem of bullying and racism in Japan, this new commercial has also received more dislikes than likes, with 2,800 dislikes and 1,300 likes as of this writing.

Nike doesn’t seem bothered by the backlash, though, leaving the comments section open for the world to see, as if to further solidify their point that it’s tough to be a woman in Japan. And with female players continuing to be banned on the baseball field during the major high school baseball tournament at Koshien Stadium, and female sumo players banned from stepping into the sacred sumo ring at the majority of sumo stadiums, it’s fair to say Japan still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality. However, the more it’s brought to light, the more will be done about it, and ads like these are a step in the right direction towards improving the future for the new girls of tomorrow.

Source: YouTube/Nike Japan via Jin, BBC

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Female high school students continue to be banned on baseball field at Koshien Stadium in Japan

-- Japan Sumo Association bans girls from prohibiting in practice event as controversy continues

-- Four things women are banned from doing in Japan【Women in Japan Series】

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

45 Comments

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Japanese like to tout these notions, but absolutely can not take criticism when called out on them.

9 ( +23 / -14 )

Editors:

Repeated paragraph, 4th from the top, beginning “This is the main theme of the ad...”

Moderator: Thank you. It has been corrected.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I wonder what it's like when your masculinity is so fragile and your sense of identity so weak that it scares you to think that women might be given the chance to compete against you on equal ground?

20 ( +33 / -13 )

As a foreign national currently living in Japan, it always surprises me that the country can be so advanced in some areas and yet so far behind the rest of the developed world in others. When it comes to issues of Social Justice, it seems to be thoroughly stuck in the past.

This archaic attitude towards women is simply idiotic and I have no doubt whatsoever that it is holding the country back.

A similar attitude seems to surround listening to the ideas of the young and allowing them input into the running and development of the country.

The rusted-on dinosaurs in the LDP need to either wake up to the fact that we are now living in the 21st Century, or retire to their rural golf-clubs and leave the running of Japan to younger, more forward-looking men and women.

22 ( +27 / -5 )

What exactly is unequal here? Female sumo players can have their own stadium, supported by their large fan base and sponsors. Who would argue?

-16 ( +12 / -28 )

“Sumo is a culture, and putting a woman in it is just a denial of culture, isn’t it?”

No, sumo is a sport. It just happens to be steeped in culture. Culture that has proven to be exclusionary and discriminatory.

Baseball isn't Japanese culture, but "with female players continuing to be banned on the baseball field during the major high school baseball tournament at Koshien Stadium," Japan has found a way to include that exclusionary culture there, too.

11 ( +21 / -10 )

Just leave the culture and tradition alone, Nike.

Not everything needs to be "diversified" or "inclusive".

Don't destroy what you don't understand.

Try to show some respect instead.

-18 ( +8 / -26 )

“Is this really made by Japanese people?”

Probably not, because it actually made sense.

However since there were nothing but Japanese faces in the video, call me crazy, but I’m just guessing here, it seems they also created this with Japanese people involved in it.

It’s amazing how many conversations I’ve had with people arguing to defend certain absurdities in Japan, then when you call out facts that make Japan look bad, they get pissed off.

Don’t blame Nike for spitting out truths. Blame the fools who allow the real life nonsense and that won’t help to stop it.

l’m not an Naomi Osaka fan by any means. But I gotta say I am a fan of this commercial.

Will I buy Nike shoes? Probably not. But it’s good to see them trying to drop knowledge on ignorance.

9 ( +18 / -9 )

I wonder what it's like when your masculinity is so fragile and your sense of identity so weak that it scares you to think that women might be given the chance to compete against you on equal ground?

Do you support transwomen competing against women?

2 ( +10 / -8 )

“Is this really made by Japanese people?”

Made by Japanese people, in Japan. Why is that so surprising?

13 ( +17 / -4 )

Cancel culture at work again.

-10 ( +12 / -22 )

Leaving the comments section open and not censoring the abusive responses was clever. Impressive stuff.

12 ( +15 / -3 )

The fact that so many attack the ad instead of supporting it only highlights the severity of the gender inequality in Japan. Anyone looking at that ought to see it as a wake-up call that action needs to be taken in order to bring Japan into the modern, civilised world.

Just leave the culture and tradition alone, Nike

They're not attacking the culture or the tradition. They're highlighting gender inequality and the difficulties faced by women in Japan. You should also consider that cultures evolve over time, as do traditions, in order to stay relevant. Those that don't, inevitably die out. Some of Japan's traditions are archaic and in desperate need of modernising.

Not everything needs to be "diversified" or "inclusive".

So you're saying it's okay to discriminate based upon gender or nationality? You're saying it's okay to exclude Japanese women from a sport that women in other countries are allowed to play? Please explain why not everything needs to be diversified or inclusive. If you can provide a valid reason, I'll retract this point. However, I must ask if you would still feel this way if you were a woman in Japan, being unable to play sports because of your gender, or being allowed on board meetings but not to talk, or being paid 43.7% less than your colleagues just because of the gender you were born as and have no choice in. Do you really believe these women chose to be discriminated against?

Don't destroy what you don't understand.

They're not trying to destroy anything, and they understand the problem a lot more than you seem to think.

Try to show some respect instead.

Please take your own advice.

Do you support transwomen competing against women?

I do. I think anyone from any race, religion, gender, political persuasion etc should be able to compete against anyone else. Sports are one of the few things in the world that actually brings people together, especially international tournaments like the football (soccer) World Cup, the Rugby World Cup, the Olympics, and so on. People from all over the world getting together and competing in the things they love. It's a beautiful thing, and vastly preferable to conflict and politics.

13 ( +19 / -6 )

Rejoice all you want. Nike and "woke culture" isn't going to make the world any better. Worse, more likely than anything else. I stand my ground.

-21 ( +5 / -26 )

Is this really made by Japanese people?”

Who cares what nationality made it. Face reality and accept the fact that Japan is a machista culture.

13 ( +18 / -5 )

Nike just makes these ads to virtue signal and distract from things like its use of slave labour in Xianjing:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/nike-would-very-much-like-to-keep-its-slave-labor-thank-you/ar-BB1bvibD

It's easy for them to point the finger elsewhere but really they should get their own house in order first

-5 ( +11 / -16 )

You really want women to get crushed by guys by competing in the same sport? Or will you cry misogyny then too?

0 ( +12 / -12 )

Hats off to Nike on this one, I've never really used their products because I am not exactly the exercising type, but I would almost want to start. I don't think it is a big surprise to people who live here how far Japan has to go in terms of gender equality. It has certainly improved over the years, but it still has a LOT of growing to do in that arena. Lots of comments from people who seem to equate inequality with culture (even if it is, that isn't the type of culture we should be preservering) highlight how pervasive this problem still is.

I am not pro-capitalist by any stretch, but every so often a company's pursuit of profits does end up pushing forward good things, and those moments should be celebrated.

@Joe Blow

If they want to compete in the same arena, why not? These women aren't asking for special treatment, they are already playing on all men's teams.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

Regardless of how you feel about the ad itself, the comments, presumed to be written by Japanese people, highlight a worrying tendency: the lightning-quick defensiveness of anything perceived and/or judged to be less than praising of Japan, particularly by "outside" parties.

Of course, not all Japanese people have the same reaction and I've met my fair share of Japanese people who are more than willing to criticize their own country. But as an overall trend, it's worrying that some people don't look at a chance to think why this ad is being aired in the first place, but only that it makes them look bad.

It's a childish mindset at best and does a disservice to the country and its society at worst.

The reactions aren't surprising when the populace is bombarded with how sugoi Japan is all the time on TV though.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

The reactions aren't surprising when the populace is bombarded with how sugoi Japan is all the time on TV though.

Nippon Sugoi propaganda has been around since the early 1930s invasion of Manchuria and shows no signs of abating. It's actually growing stronger now with political indoctrination in schools. There are several interesting articles about it on this website:

https://apjjf.org/2017/03/Shirana.html

7 ( +10 / -3 )

“Is this really made by Japanese people?”

This one always gets under my skin, and I've heard it a lot. It falls under the same category as saying "He must be Korean" when there's news about some guy committing an ugly crime, which I've also heard on more than one occasion. It's this nasty assumption that 1.) all Japanese people are the same, 2.) all Japanese people are good and moral and just, and 3.) problems that foreigners see in Japan are merely caused by misunderstandings of Japanese culture, which is of course mysterious and unknowable to outsiders.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

And yet, the data shows us that Japanese women still report higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction than Japanese men. The opposite trend exists in Nike's home country of America where female happiness has been dropping for decades and is now significantly below that of men. This pattern of greater female happiness is observed in most countries with traditional gender roles. It's an inconvenient truth for those who think gender equality will be some sort of societal panacea.

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

And yet, the data shows us that Japanese women still report higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction than Japanese men.

That must be why they're having so many children.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

I wonder what it's like when your masculinity is so fragile and your sense of identity so weak that it scares you to think that women might be given the chance to compete against you on equal ground?

No fragility here! Let's get those girls in the sumo ring, on the rugby pitch and in the boxing ring and let them play with the boys! I'd pay to watch that!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Usual..American companies forcing American views on other nations.

-11 ( +4 / -15 )

It's odd.. considering there are many women's only restaurants,clinics, gyms, social events , shopping days.

And unlike America , women can get 2 years paid maternity leave.

Now if you mention women get harassed because they take maternity leave. Spare a thought for the men who have access to 1 year paternity but could never take without even worse harassment .

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time Japan accepted foreign ideas was with the postwar constitution, and that was probably under duress…cos they lost.

I always thought that the willingness to hear opposing viewpoints or new ideas was the mark of a healthy society.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

What exactly is unequal here? Female sumo players can have their own stadium, supported by their large fan base and sponsors. Who would argue?

Don't let the fact that they don't have their own stadium supported by their large fan base and sponsors get in the way of your argument there.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Men: Women are happier serving men! They don't want to work or earn their own money, or to have the responsibility of shaping their own lives!

Women: Yes we do! We want to work! We want our own jobs, and our own money, and we want to make our own decision! We also want a divorce!

Men: See??? Look how miserable they are. Damn women, get back in the kitchen.

2 ( +10 / -8 )

“You should be aware that the real enemies are not men or women, but capitalists who incite discrimination.”

Yes, this is correct. However, the history of discrimination against women is not over, and must be addressed. Eliminating capitalism is essential, but it will not end sexism all by itself.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

"woke culture" isn't going to make the world any better. Worse, more likely than anything else. I stand my ground.

What is "woke culture"? How does it make the world worse?

6 ( +8 / -2 )

It's odd.. considering there are many women's only restaurants,clinics, gyms, social events , shopping days.

Uh yeah, they also used to have a similar system in parts of the US for African Americans like that. Its not usually held up as evidence for how equal American society was anymore.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

How about just making good sports clothes and equipment. Don't need the woke messages.

-10 ( +2 / -12 )

You really want women to get crushed by guys by competing in the same sport? Or will you cry misogyny then too?

Huh? What "guys"? You mentioned trans women. Trans women are women. They aren't "crushing" cis women in sports. There is no evidence for that. This discussion has gone over and over. Opponents of sports equality say:

First, men are stronger than women, especially at the athletics level.

Second, it follows that if men competed with women, then they would win every match or race, and hold every record.

Third, trans women aren't really women, they are men.

Fourth, it follows that if trans women and cis women were to compete together, trans women would win every match or race, and hold every record.

Fifth, trans women can and do compete against cis women, and have been doing so for years.

Sixth, we can conclude that trans women are winning every match or race, and hold every record.

Yet, there is no evidence that trans women are dominating in sports against cis women, and they certainly don't hold every record. However, when confronted with the facts, opponents of sports equality say, "my logic is valid, therefore it is reality which is wrong".

Guess what? Reality isn't wrong.

Then, there is of course the matter of trans men.

This is Mack Beggs:

https://www.denverpost.com/2018/02/22/mack-beggs-texas-transgender-wrestler-state-title-defense/

He went 56-0 in 2017. The photo used here is deliberately provocative, I believe, but the article illustrates the point.

A transathelete is dominating a sport and dunking on ciswomen - but only because he is being forced to compete with them, due to his birth certificate. He was in the wrong league for his gender, and no ciswomen competitors stood a chance. This is despite the fact that, as his mother says, the testosterone he was taking was barely enough to help him grow a wispy beard.

He didn't want to wrestle the girls, he wanted to wrestle the boys, as he is one. Some of the girls, worried about wrestling a boy, withdrew from their matches (though it is known that they all respect one another as athletes). When he won the championship, the parents in attendance booed him.

Maybe you can see two people with XX chromosomes wrestling in the picture in the article. But I don't have microscopic vision. I can only see a boy (who was assigned female at birth) choking a girl.

He didn't want to wrestle girls. His opponents didn't want him to wrestle girls. The parents didn't want him to wrestle girls. But Texas' transphobic laws meant that he had to.

This is not good for Beggs, nor for the girls he was competing against, nor sports as a whole. It's illogical, and needs to change.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Some dudeToday 02:13 pm JST

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time Japan accepted foreign ideas was with the postwar constitution, and that was probably under duress…cos they lost.

So ... a commercial written for the Japan branch of an international corporation, using Japanese writers, starring Japanese actors, with a message from Japanese to Japanese on Japanese TV in Japan is "foreign ideas"?

I always thought that the willingness to hear opposing viewpoints or new ideas was the mark of a healthy society.

What if we have heard the viewpoint, rejected it, and now we really just don't want the person to keep harping on and on?

You know what makes for a healthy society? Equality.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Trans women are women.

No, trans women are trans women.

They aren't "crushing" cis women in sports. There is no evidence for that.

Yes there is, and it's a clear denial of reality to pretend there isn't. Male-born humans have stronger skeletal structure, and stronger musculature than female-born humans. This is why we have had to separate male and female sports in the first place. While hormone therapy may weaken the difference, it is not going to eliminate it from a person who has grown up with male skeleton and musculature.

Trans-women should compete with trans-women. It's not reasonable to have them compete with female-born women.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

No, trans women are trans women.

That's right. And they're women. Black women are black women, and they're also women.

Yes there is, and it's a clear denial of reality to pretend there isn't. Male-born humans have stronger skeletal structure, and stronger musculature than female-born humans. This is why we have had to separate male and female sports in the first place. While hormone therapy may weaken the difference, it is not going to eliminate it from a person who has grown up with male skeleton and musculature.

I've tried this before, but: if there is evidence of trans women "crushing" cis women, then why don't they hold all the athletic records, given they have been allowed to compete with cis women for years?

As above, you are saying: "my logic says one thing, reality says another, and I trust my logic rather than reality."

Trans-women should compete with trans-women. It's not reasonable to have them compete with female-born women.

It's actually very reasonable.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

girl_in_tokyoToday  07:56 am JST

I wonder what it's like when your masculinity is so fragile and your sense of identity so weak that it scares you to think that women might be given the chance to compete against you on equal ground?

The ridiculous thing aside from the fake premise you put forward, is exactly the reverse: No one wonders it's like when your femininity is so fragile and your sense of identity so weak that it scares you to think that men might be given the chance to compete against themselves on equal ground with no input from women at all.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

No one wonders it's like when your femininity is so fragile and your sense of identity so weak that it scares you to think that men might be given the chance to compete against themselves on equal ground with no input from women at all.

Correct. No-one wonders this, because what you said is nonsense.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

They're not attacking the culture or the tradition. They're highlighting gender inequality and the difficulties faced by women in Japan.

To be fair, gender inequality is part of Japanese culture, so Nike was attacking the culture.

The idea that we shouldn’t criticize any aspect of any culture is just asinine. People love screaming about cultural sensitivity and how important it is until you being up a few examples of repugnant culture.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

HillclimberToday 05:31 pm JST

The ridiculous thing aside from the fake premise you put forward, is exactly the reverse: No one wonders it's like when your femininity is so fragile and your sense of identity so weak that it scares you to think that men might be given the chance to compete against themselves on equal ground with no input from women at all.

If men are not afraid to compete with women on equal ground, then why do they so often create unequal ground on which to challenge them, or simply exclude them altogether?

1 ( +6 / -5 )

girl_in_tokyoToday  06:07 pm JST

If men are not afraid to compete with women on equal ground, then why do they so often create unequal ground on which to challenge them, or simply exclude them altogether?

You will have to provide an example of "unequal ground on which to challenge them" in order to answer that properly, but to quickly answer your question: To protect them.

I know how that must seem implausible, particularly if you've suffered traumatic experiences that go contrary to that, but given the basic human rights afforded to people in developed countries, these so-called inequalities aren't there to keep men in power.... they don't need it. If men want power they will take it by force. Only other men can stop them. It's only now that the governments can by and large "fill in" for the male roles that women required in order to live a comfortable life, that women start to see things in a way that excludes men entirely, and attack the very thing which enabled them to be able to exist without men in the first place. Ironic, to say the least.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Nike. Hardly an ethical or moral entity. Let alone a harbinger of equal rights or even civility.

Women in Japan. It is enigmatic. There are more truly independent, female small business owners, in Japan than in the USA. And are they fully aware of the inherent inequities in the culture.

Nike is a Portland, Oregon based company that even in its relation to the city where it is located, engages in exploitive practices. I know. I worked there and was privy to the legal machinations.

It's an advertisement. Designed to move product, establish a 'branding' which is merely notional and locked onto an image(s). It has naught to do with any manner of gender equality within the politics and economics of Japan. Which is an incredibly complex issue.

Go talk to the members of the 2011 World Cup Champion Nadeshiko. They are articulate and aware and will give you an actual and very real read on gender relations in Japan. they moved the needle. From Homare Sawa to Dr. Kozue Ando and the entire team.

Nike. don't get your knockers in a knot over meaningless drivel intended to create sales awareness and product movement.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Selling overprice products while using cheap labor in third world countries is not exactly a company that want to preach others. They should instead just do more for the world instead of bothering to appear woke.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

@Express Sister, and girl_in_Tokyo, this Canadian male who participated in many different sports when young, has only one thing to say to both of you: You go, girl! Don't give up!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

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