Home Opinion Columns Free Thoughts: The Nike Pro Hijab and the free market’s response to social change

Free Thoughts: The Nike Pro Hijab and the free market’s response to social change

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Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the author and Ohio University Students for Liberty. They do not reflect those of The New Political or its editorial team.

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By Alex Bodnar

Recently, the news and social media have been hit by a furry storm over the athletic wear brand Nike’s recent decision to design and market a hijab that can be worn by Muslim women athletes while performing various athletic activities.

On social media, some opponents of Nike’s newest marketing decision claim the product protects the oppression of women. On the other hand, proponents of the hijab claim it allows for acceptance of other cultures, diversity, and overall equality for women.

For myself, I agree with the latter. Nike’s decision to create this hijab shows the West is opening up to other cultures, particularly those originating from Muslim-majority nations in Europe, Asia and Africa. Further, this new breathable hijab will make training and performing for women athletes much more comfortable, as well as bringing some different styles to the hijab market.

However, I am writing this piece to make a point to my friends and others who stand on the left of the political spectrum. Time and time again, leftists argue that one of the only ways to create a diverse and equal society for all genders, races, sexual orientations, etc. is through government intervention. Many claim that without politicians and bureaucrats to create new laws and regulations, many in the business community and society at large would not care about minority groups and would do little to nothing to promote equality, diversity, and acceptance of other cultures. While I do agree that some laws help (for instance, the 2015 Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage), I also believe that left alone, citizens as well as businesses will push for a more open and equal society.

Let’s take the Nike “Pro Hijab.” This recent design was not a result of a piece of legislation that was passed by politicians to promote equality. Further, it was not the result of a government agency or special commission’s decision to create sportswear for female Muslim athletes.

Although not stated by Nike, much of the reason for the creation of the Pro Hijab likely comes from the company’s goal to expand its product market into the Middle East, a market area that Fortune believes will grow to around “$484 billion by 2019.”

It is interesting that the profit motive that many deem “unequal “and “unjust” is the invisible mechanism that brought the Pro Hijab to female Muslim athletes. Many may claim the reason Nike created the hijab was due to the current political tensions around the world, especially concerning immigration and Nike wanted to show it is a socially responsible company adapting to the times. This very well may be the case.

However, even if this is true, without the desire for a return on their investments, Nike would never create a product it didn’t believe would yield profits in return. It’s a product that may improve female Muslim athletes’ performance, comfort, as well as allow them to feel included with other female athletes at sporting events around the world. Although without a doubt social pressures likely had a large effect on the creation of the Pro Hijab, ultimately it was the free-market and the desire to improve business that brought female Muslim athletes this wonderful new product.

Students for Liberty is a 501(c) nonprofit. While student members do not participate in political activity, they seek to educate people on Libertarian principles.

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