Underwear Brand Called Out for 'Sexist' Ad -- but We Think It's Secretly Feminist

It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, uncommon to see sexist advertisements. Everywhere we turn we're bombarded by messages with skinny girls with big boobs telling us to, like, go clean the kitchen or whatever. But the latest Calvin Klein billboard getting attention for its "sexist" message doesn't really deserve the flack, because it's not ... really that sexist. 


The woman who first called out Calvin Klein for its ads is Heidi Zak, the CEO and cofounder of the lingerie company ThirdLove.

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Zak's argument is that in this ad, Calvin Klein is reducing women to sex objects and men to breadwinners. But here's the thing: I'm not so sure that they are.

Yes, the juxtaposition of this particular pair of ads seems a little dated, but as a whole, I've actually found this spring's #MyCalvins campaign to be really great.

Zak makes the argument that Klara Kristin's whole body is shown while Fetty Wap only has to show his face, which is clearly true here. But that double standard doesn't apply to the rest of the campaign. Let's take a moment to appreciate Justin Bieber:

I flaunt in #mycalvins. Introducing the @CalvinKlein spring 2016 campaign

A photo posted by Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) on

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Or Kendall Jenner's head talking about strong women (no boobs in sight):

With the Fetty Wap and Klara Kristin ad at hand, it's probably worth pointing out that Fetty Wap's "make money" line is most likely a reference to his part in Lil Dicky's "$ave Dat Money." And as for Kristin's "seduce," I'm kind of in the "why the hell not?" camp.

I mean, what's wrong with seduction? It's far more valuable to make the argument that a woman should be able to choose and to control her own image -- whatever it may be -- than to label any sexual image of a woman sexist. There's more power in controlling and using our sexuality than in giving it up in the name of feminism.

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Overtly sexual ads bother me more when the power is taken away from the women in them. But here, it doesn't seem to be the case. To me, the fact that Kristin is a known actress who's using and naming her seduction in the context of a broad and diverse campaign puts the power back in her hands, and I think that's great.

Of course, when isolated next to Fetty, Kristin's ad does seem to call back to a time when women didn't have that control. But when I look at it, I see it more as a reminder that we live in a time where Kristin gets to choose to seduce, if she wants. She can also choose to do more, and she does:

As do the other strong and successful women in the campaign:

A photo posted by FKA twigs (@fkatwigs) on


A photo posted by @saskiadebrauw on

A photo posted by Calvin Klein (@calvinklein) on

A photo posted by Calvin Klein (@calvinklein) on

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In a statement to Racked, Zak asked, "Is the message of Calvin Klein that women are only good for seduction?" I can't answer for them, but I think no, not at all. I think the message is that women are good for seduction, but not "only." We're good for anything we want to be. And if seduction is on that list, that's awesome. Seduce away.

Anyway, Calvin Klein did take the ad down after Zak's Change.org petition got a whopping 242 supporters, but the company told The Hollywood Reporter that the ad was removed because of a "planned rotation," and insisted that it actively promotes gender equality.

This time, I'm inclined to believe them.


Image via heidizaks/Twitter

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