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.
▼ High-school sumo wrestler Rizumu Kasai is a member of the men’s competitive high school sumo team.
▼ And 16-year-old baseball player Ayuri Shimano has played on all-male teams.
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.
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
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