Exactly a week ago, the third floor of London’s Niketown flagship re-opened as the new space dedicated to female athletes and consumers. With exclusive products, services and experiences, from trail spaces to a bespoke Expert Studio for teams – Women by Nike was a long overdue space treating women with exactly the same attention as they do their male customers. You’ve got your glammy mommy stores with Pilates-ready tights on one side of the highs treat and all the mainstream sportswear brands fueled by masculine energy on the other, but there is now Women by Nike, a safe space enabling women to get into sports without feeling like they don’t belong. Even from an early age, men and women are separated in P.E., told they aren’t supposed to be in the same place while doing sports. As our society moves on from these archaic separations, the world of sports trails. There’s plenty of crisis control to be made, and Nike is on a good track.
Furthering the notion of equality, Women by Nike also unveiled mannequins representing women more realistically. Muscular bodies, as well as para-sportswomen and sizes above the standard size 6 – by doing this, Nike endorsed a wide range of women to get into sports, whatever their background. And that’s what we should be doing – giving opportunities and inviting everyone to be part of the community. This move shows progress of an inclusive society who believes in more than just the ideals.
As a child, I was terrible at sports. My parents pushed me into trying everything on the list of the school’s extracurricular activities – ice hockey, handball, karate, football… I had to do it at least three times before quitting, just to prove I tried. And so I did, one after the other. Being competitive meant I wanted to be the best, but I never got to be. Until I found acrobatic rock’n’roll – the only one sport that incorporated everything I was good at. Jumping, dancing, smiling, hanging out with a girl and being crazy energetic. It was thanks to being encouraged by my family and peers that I finally found something I enjoyed doing and felt like I was good at it. But that was after the school bell rang. Back in P.E., I was still terrible at most things, always picked last and sat on the bench, waiting for never to be chosen. Divisive and encouraging of natural selection – in their nature, competitive sports might only award perfection and excellence, but that doesn’t mean others can’t take part. It took a lot of growing up for me to even touch the football again. Actively avoiding it for over a decade meant I became scared of being accidentally touched by it when the kids on the playground kicked it out of bounds. What was I going to do? Was I able to hit it back? Of course I was, but my insecurities which were building up for years told me otherwise.
Now, the mannequins in the Women by Nike space are being shamed for “promoting obesity”, when it’s in fact these same people who are doing exactly that. Discouraging people from buying sportswear equals to discouraging people from physical activity – and that’s where the problem is. Fears, insecurities and self-hate are dangerous tools to manipulate. With the serious issue of obesity actually on the rise, sensationalist news blaming inclusivity aren’t doing any good. In fact, they are taking us decades back, when body-shaming seemed okay. When it comes to doing sports, it’s useful to listen to Nike. Just do it.
by Dino Bonacic
You can find the Women by Nike space on the 3rd Floor of the Niketown, at 236 Oxford St, London.