Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nike... Offensive Ad

Because I'm still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I'm still in love with you
On this Harvest Moon

Neil Young, Harvest Moon from the album Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon is the most tender love song ever written. Perhaps Neil is on my mind today because of the hype surrounding Kelvin High School's 100th anniversary (yes, Neil attended Kelvin High and yes, he did visit on the 75th anniversary). But I don't want to talk about love songs. 

But if I did want to talk about love songs, I'd say the song is a statement of commitment to the ones we love.  The ones who support us as and nourish us. The ones that still love us and still want to see us dance again, and again. I was thinking of Jennifer while dancing Fargo Marathon last weekend. In fact I paid her a silent tribute. All about people were focussed on their pace and engaged in the charismatic glow of the day. I gave her thanks, thanks for supporting me, thanks for nourishing me, and thanks for helping me realize my dreams.  I am here because of you and I run because you believe in me.  I can run and dream.... because I'm still in love with you I want to see you dance again... Yes, that's what I would say.  

But I'm not here to talk about love songs.  

I had a wonderful 10 mile run with friends this morning.  It was wet, very wet, sheet rain in fact.  And the wind, cutting and relentless. But I don't want to talk about today's run.

But if I did want to talk about rainy day runs, I would tell you how child-like it is to run splash, splash through the puddles, how invigorating, how alive I feel with the wind in my face.  The elements laid out before me like an offering of beauty. An offering there for all that care enough to accept it, the beauty of the moment. The elements are hard in my face, strong on my chest. Wet, thoroughly and not quite warm, but my heart pumps strong, and I dance with confidence. Yes, that's what I would say.

But I'm not here to talk about rainy day runs.

What I really want to bring to your attention is this offensive Nike ad (see below for legible text). 

Fortunately the Air Dri-Goat features a patented goat-like outer sole for increased traction so you can taunt mortal injury without actually experiencing it. Right about now you're probably asking yourself "How can a trail running shoe with an outer sole designed like a goat's hoof help me avoid compressing my spinal cord into a Slinky on the side of some unsuspecting conifer, thereby rendering me a drooling, misshapen non-extreme-trail-running husk of my former self, forced to roam the earth in a motorized wheelchair with my name embossed on one of those cute little license plates you get at carnivals or state fairs, fastened to the back?" 

I'm not sure what's worse, Nike executives endorsing this horribly offensive ad campaign or the eleven outdoor magazines (with a combined readership of 2.1 million) that allowed the ad to run in their publications. Nike pulled the ad after being deluged with complaints and made things worse -if that's even possible- with their condescending apology.  

Nike attempted to win browny points by stating in their apology that they employ people who are 'confined to a wheel chair' as if to suggest '...hey, what the big deal, we like the disabled, we even have a couple on the payroll'.  As if that makes it all good.  Sheesh, patronizing at its worst.  

Rick Hanson, Man in Motion... confined, drooling, misshapen, non-extreme?
Ask a person who uses a wheelchair if they feel confined and you better duck or you'll get a poke in the nose!  Steven Hawking, Itzhak Pearlman, Rick Hanson and millions of other average Joes and Josephines ...confined, drooling, misshapen? When we use words like 'confined' or 'disability first' language we unintentionally define the person by their disability and suggest they are less of a person than their differently abled peers.

(June 4) The above has been revised to reflect relentlessly positive language... When we use affirming words such as strong, driven, focussed and 'people first' language to describe individuals, we begin to see the real person and consider their character and strengths as defining features, not their limitations.  Martin had a dream... judge me by the strength of my character... 

The highlight of the MB marathon for me is running along side that fellow, about 10 years my senior, who's zipping along in a wheel chair. He's a regular dude, he's not an elite athlete, his chair is nothing fancy, and he's dressed in cut-off jeans and a tee-shirt. He's cheerful and shoots the breeze with anyone who has the energy to match his pace. Confined my foot!  

And at this year's Fargo Marathon I ran along side a runner with a visual impairment who was supported by a sighted runner.  Their pace and confidence was inspiring.  I told them both that they were amazing and he replied I too was awesome and not to forget it!  Confined my foot!

Beyond the difficulties of doing certain things, the main barrier for people using wheel chairs is discrimination and negative attitudes portrayed in the media (see Nike ad above). This is what keeps people with disabilities confined. As long as we continue to see the disability, not the person, we discriminate and exclude.  

Well friends, looking out my window I see the wind is blustery and dusk is settling in nicely.  I'm on dinner deck so I best be going.  

It's a good day to be alive.