Adidas faces criticism for gender nonbinary models wearing Pride swimsuit
Adidas launched a new one-piece swimsuit on its website to commemorate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month in June. However, some people have expressed their disapproval on social media. Previously, Adidas has marketed and sold Pride Month merchandise without any significant backlash, but this year, the criticism is about who the company chose to model the swimsuit.
The swimsuit, named “Love Unites,” is listed in the Women’s Sportswear section of the Adidas website. But the two people modeling it present as gender nonbinary. Some have criticized this decision, claiming it is an effort to erase women.
One of Adidas’s critics is former NCAA women’s swim star Riley Gaines, who has been vocal about the inclusion of trans athletes in women’s sports. She tweeted her disapproval of the swimsuit: “I don’t understand why companies are voluntarily doing this to themselves. They could have at least said the suit is ‘unisex,’ but they didn’t because it’s about erasing women. Ever wondered why we hardly see this go the other way?” Gaines and others are misunderstanding the inclusion of gender nonbinary models as an effort to erase women.
“Women’s swimsuits aren’t accessorized with a bulge,” another tweet from Gaines read. This claim is both transphobic and disputable. Certain body parts on many women indeed create what could be characterized as bulges.
Historically, apparel companies have chosen cisgender women to represent swimsuits like the one for sale on the Adidas website. This doesn’t mean that men and gender nonbinary people cannot or don’t wear one-piece garments. Instead, it’s that marketers have chosen not to represent such persons in this type of swimwear.
Meanwhile, Adidas offers over 2,000 women’s garments on their website, almost all of which have models wearing them. The fact that the company chose gender nonbinary models for one of their items doesn’t indicate any erasure of women. In fact, the inclusion of a “plus-size” model wearing the same swimsuit hints at the opposite.
To be inclusive of one group of people doesn’t require the exclusion or erasure of another. Those opposing gender-inclusive marketing on the Adidas website likely misunderstand the range of corresponding behavioral and presentation parameters that exist. Furthermore, they need to recognize how including and affirming one group of people doesn’t necessarily erase or exclude another.
Adidas chose to disrupt narrow conceptualizations of gender during the upcoming LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. Other companies may be spooked by the backlash that Adidas is receiving and decide against including gender nonbinary people in their advertisements. They’ll likely view it as too risky. However, it would be great if Adidas and other companies expanded and sustained their inclusion of transgender, gender nonbinary, and genderqueer persons all year long, and beyond one-time Pride Month marketing efforts.