If you’ve been away from all technology (and nestled comfortably under a rock) since Sunday afternoon, you should know that the US women’s soccer team dominated Japan in the final match of the World Cup 5-2. It was a big deal:

Soon after the end of the match, a Nike ad released back in early June began to circulate on social media amongst my conservative lady friends. When I clicked on the video and saw that it was, in fact, an official Nike Soccer promotion, I immediately flashed back to this past March’s feminist freakout over Nike sports apparel that was a little too pretty for those friendly social justice warriors to handle. Would this latest spot lick the wound, or diverge from the comfortable PC path?

Neither, really. Watch:

Perseverance. Strength. Fight. They’re not ideas that apply just to women, but I wish that those who insist upon gendering (see how progressive I am? I used “gender” as a verb!) conversations about the state of our society would use them to describe whatever it is that “feminism” has become.

This ad has subversive undertones that Nike’s promoters probably never intended, and that the world that exists outside of the news bubble will never consciously notice. In 2015, it’s almost unheard of for people to think of the protected classes doing much of anything outside of the context of politics. Women don’t succeed at work; they “break the glass ceiling.” Black students don’t achieve; they “overcome adversity.” Gay people don’t write books; they “offer the gay perspective” on things. It’s maddening and tiresome and it’s making us all progressively stupider, just by way of exposure.

My friends and I started passing this ad around because it does none of that. It’s about women succeeding, but it doesn’t pander to our gender. It shows struggle and failure, but it resolves the struggle and failure by showing a strong, sweaty, powerful woman getting out of her own head, figuring it out, and getting herself going again.

Funny—I thought all that was impossible in today’s America.

(There’s also the matter of the very problematic shot of a whole line of female athletes putting their hands over their hearts. Pearls, prepare to be clutched.)

At the end of the day, this ad is just that—an ad. It was created to sell shoes and sports bras, and will eventually fade into the ether and out of our minds. Still, I think it’s important to use these fleeting moments of apolitical clarity to remind ourselves that while the meaning of “feminist” has been perverted beyond recognition, the meaning of “strong woman” is intact, alive, and well.


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