Nike’s ‘Da Da Ding’ finally shows female Indian athletes at full throttle
- “I don't do it / Unless I go full throttle”
Gener8ion feat. Gizzle
Nike’s ‘Da Da Ding’ ad, which foregrounds female Indian athletes, is going viral in India. It’s being celebrated not only by women athletes but also innumerable other Indian women across the country who have to negotiate many visible and invisible barriers just to live an active lifestyle.
The bronzed up, powerful, self-assured, goddesses of grit and determination keep punching through the stereotypes about female athletes that a patriarchal society offers them. The commercial isn’t just inclusive of women, nor does it attempt to empower them from without. It instead acknowledges their ability as signified by the verse, “Anything they can do, we can do better.”
The men portrayed in this film are on the periphery. Shown as bewildered and marginal, one can easily miss their presence altogether. Therein lies the film’s most powerful statement: showcasing these athletes in the absence of male context, celebrating them for who they are in their own right. The ad successfully evades the male gaze, apart from a few frames of athletes dancing in front of a truck. This is the only sore point in the film as the athletes are out of character, becoming objectified by playing to the gallery, a break with the the tone and body language established earlier.
In a country where sports are seen as a male domain and female athletes drop out of sports at twice the rate of men, women have to navigate social, gender and familial bias before succeeding as athletes. If striving to be an athlete itself wasn’t hard enough, with these additional barriers, women who succeed as athletes need to be extremely determined. ‘Da Da Ding Let’s Go’ celebrates the desire of these athletes to reduce barriers to background noise and stay committed to their goals. Every time a woman athlete succeeds in India, she blazes a trail and reduces the barriers for others to follow in her footsteps.
This film comes at an interesting time in India. A feminist discourse has recently taken shape and, to a certain extent in urban India, women are able to break traditional social conventions. For many women, this film is their fantasy played out in front of them, resonating strongly as they remember the opportunities they missed out on.
Apart from Deepika Padukone, a former national badminton player and now probably the most popular Bollywood actress, the average Indian will be hard pressed to recognize any other female athletes in the ad. It’s a reflection of their struggle to gain recognition in a society obsessed only with men’s cricket. Here’s hoping that through this film, a few of them become more recognizable. More importantly for young women watching this film, hopefully the women in the ad serve as role models, leading them to claim their rightful place alongside men in the pantheon of Indian sport-stars.
- Article by Sriharsh Mallela