In 2017, the feminist movement has been at the forefront of social issues in the United States. Women across the country are standing up for their natural born rights and not taking no for an answer. Immediately following the inauguration of President Donald Trump, an estimated three to four million people gathered across the U.S. to protest. Coined the Women’s March, the goal of the event was to ensure the protection of women’s rights under the new presidential administration. This event set the pace for women’s progress in the new year.
Fast forward to Women’s History Month in March and sportswear giant Nike decided to do something big: as a way to support Muslim women’s participation in athletics they announced the Nike Pro Hijab.
The Nike Pro Hijab will be a womenswear alternative to the traditional headscarf. The intent behind it was to create a performance oriented hijab suitable for women competing in athletics. Nike recruited the likes of professional figure skater Zahra Lari and Olympic weight-lifter Amna Al Haddad, both practicing Muslims, to test the prototypes. Nike intends to have the product hit the shelves as soon as spring 2018.
While many are praising the brand’s decision to support women and create the exercise wear, others believe it normalizes the oppression of women. Upon the announcement of the product, the athletic brand faced a bit of backlash on social media.
Although the hijab has become ingrained in the culture of many countries in Southeast Asia, in America it is often mistaken as a symbol of oppression. So at a time in the U.S. where the fight for women’s rights is a major issue, many do not understand why, if not forced to, a woman would don the garment.
While there could be a multitude of reasons as to why a women chooses to wear a hijab there is one simple reason why many do: they want to. By a woman wearing a hijab and covering her body it does not mean that she is oppressed.
America is a male-dominant society. The sexualization of women is something that is ingrained in the media. Many women wear a hijab to take back control of their bodies and keep the focus on what they have to offer besides their appearance. Wearing a hijab is essentially a powerful statement of feminism because it symbolizes choice.
The introduction of the Nike Pro Hijab is definitely a big deal in the sports industry, just not for the reason many are referring to. By releasing this product, Nike is not backing the mistreatment of women. It is simply creating a way for more female Muslim athletes to be comfortable and competitive in the sports they play.
It should be noted that Nike is not the first brand to attempt to make a sport hijab. There are other companies that have launched sportswear hijabs; Nike is just the first big name. This paves the way for other companies and competitors to follow suit in the near future.