Merve Emine Serbetci
Nike made a hit on social media and Youtube with “What will they say about you” commercial video last year. The video is, without a question a breakthrough one, promoting Muslim female to do sports in a more liberated manner, without caring the idea of society or their image on others mind, seems deep and profound. But, as a Muslim woman in a rather Muslim society I have few words to add that commercial.
Initially, doing any sport in public is really a taboo in many Muslim communities. It has nothing to do with women mostly, you don’t see many man on the street doing push-ups or similarly man at the parks doing back-flips. Some sociological assumptions or theories may be used to explain this phenomenon, I will let them to do so. Yet, I would like to speak to head of the Nike advertorial department; Middle East is not so easy. It takes way more than a video to change people’s opinion around here. Good luck.
If I have known women a little bit, they buy Nike-Pro Hijab, they wear them to the gym where they will make sports in a separate area with other women, with a female trainer. Why? Because, it is not easy to be a woman in Middle East. You know the oldish lady giving mean looks to the skater girl in the video; she can solely ruin her life. I don’t say she would but in many cases, she could. Of course there are groundbreaking examples when it comes to women, but I am afraid they are very minor. I literally wish more women to do sports, not as a hobby or to shape their body but as an expression of a life and body movement. But we should understand that, the obstacle about that is not “finding suitable outfit”. The obstacle is major, it includes women rights, emancipation in all manners, people perception about sports, and moreover taking a person as an individual and letting him or her to persuade a dream. Women have to fight with them all to choose a branch of a sport as a profession and I don’t think they will rip off rights through purchasing items. Patriarchal relations are way more stronger around here.
Yet, I believe in women. They are more capable to change comparing to men and open to possibilities. If, the world is in labor pain to a new era and we hope it will be better than we live in, women will have huge part in that fluctuation. The path is not in an intersection at big Nike stores, but it is in your hand. Talk. Talk to your husbands, talk to your fathers and definitely talk to your sons. Write. Make your voice heard. Pray. Pray in the mosques. Be part of the community. Spare yourself and yet be aware of the politics. The emancipation is in your hands, wearing a fancy hijab while going to the gym is an illusion. First, you have to educate yourself and then make your statement.
Hijabs are nice though…