Girl Branded: Nike, the UN and the Construction of the Entrepreneurial Adolescent Girl Subject
With the rise of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and philanthro-capitalism since the early 2000s, transnational corporations (TNCs) have come to play a prominent role in international policy debates on sustainable development and human rights. A key feature of the growing corporate interest in poverty reduction is its faith in feminist ideas as tools for change. Spearheaded by the ‘Girl Effect’ campaign of athletic apparel giant Nike (since 2008), development institutions and aid agencies have largely embraced the idea that ‘rebranding girls’ in the Global South as untapped market potential and training them as self-confident, entrepreneurial market actors represents the key to solving poverty. In an attempt to gauge the growing influence of TNCs on development policy, this article analyzes the principles and the actual effects of the Girl Effect and compares it with Nike’s own interests as a corporation built on women’s labor. It argues that contrary to freeing girls’ potential, the Girl Effect project capitalizes on patriarchy to depoliticize poverty and inequality. Far from empowering women or supporting the poor, Nike’s rebranding project is an attempt to discipline girls, and the NGOs that represent them, into behaviors that support the status quo, distract from corporations’ misbehavior and expand the power of the market.