Friday, August 5, 2011

Collage: Nike & The Slender Amazaon

Nike is one of the most well known corporations in existence when it comes to makers of athletic clothing and sporting equipment.  It’s swoosh logo is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world and could be considered a part of modern American culture.  Recently, Nike has launched a new advertising campaign for their women’s clothing line, designed to encourage women to go out and “make” themselves.  At first glance, it seems that these advertisements are meant to encourage healthy life choices in women.  However, when looking closer at these advertisements, it can also be deduced that Nike is trying to sell their products by using an image of a specific ideal woman, “the Slender Amazon”.

Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber defines the “Slender Amazon” in her book, The Cult of Thinness, as the new feminine ideal brought up in the 1980s.  Before, the ideal woman had a small layer of fat on her, representing the “softness” of females, but now this “has been rejected in favor of large, hard muscles”.  (Hesse-Biber, pg.92-93).  This new ideal conveys a message to women that places an immense emphasis on being not only thin, but on being physically fit as well.  Each of the ads in the collage portray young, attractive, athletic women wearing Nike apparel.    It is not surprising that Nike would use this ideal in order to market athletic apparel to women.  Another noticeable tactic used by Nike in these ads are the use of positive words like “proud” and “strong” to describe the woman who are portraying this “Slender Amazon” ideal.  This sends a message to women viewing these ads that all you need to empower yourself is a lean, toned body.  Using this conveyed message, Nike can convince women to buy their products in order to achieve this ideal.

Sut Jhally explains in his article “Image-Based Culture” how advertisers use images to sell a product to potential consumers.  He claims that “the advertising image-system constantly propels us toward things that as means to satisfaction.” (Jhally, pg. 252)  He also likens this image-based advertisement system to means of propaganda system for products.  In this cause, this propaganda system is for women’s athletic apparel made by Nike.  The sense of satisfaction being conveyed in these advertisements is a feeling of self-empowerment from fitting into the “Slender Amazon” ideal.  According to these Nike advertisements, the road to becoming a strong and proud woman is one that can only be traveled in a pair of Nike running sneakers.

Works Cited
My Fav Nike Ads. Digital Image. Web. <>
Advertising, Gender & Sexuality. Digital Image. Web. Dec. 12 2010. <>
A Glam Slam.  “Nike Women Launches New ‘Make Yourself’ Campaign” . Digital Image. Web. <>
A Glam Slam. “Annie Leibovitz Shoots New Nike Women’s Ads”. Digital Image. Web <>
Fit Perez. “Nike Hired Annie Leibovitz To Do Print Ads”. Web.  July 5 2011.  <>
Nike Blog. “More Nike Women Ads”. Digital Image. Web. August 8 2010. <>

Jhally, Sut. "Image-Based Culture. "Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 249-257. Print.
Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy. The Cult of Thinness.  Oxford University Press, 2007.


  1. Interesting choice for the collage. I didn't even realize that Nike was running this huge campaign. I especially liked how focused the collage pictures are on specific parts of the women's bodies. From their butts to their legs, Nike is telling women exactly what's right for them and what they should be doing. I think this is a great company to look at how they are shaping the ideal woman and how they are combining that with the ideas of respect and pride. You found a very specific brand which was good and allowed you to really focus your analysis.
    There were a few typos here and there, nothing serious. While Nike is certainly pressuring women to fit into a specific body type, I'm not sure that it's all that bad. (Relative to other advertising campaigns.) It's healthier to be strong and powerful both physically and mentally than to starve yourself and become weak and malnourished. So on the one hand it's shady that Nike is shaping what women should be, but it could be worse. Either way that doesn't make it right, cool post.

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