No, Calvin Klein’s new ad is not sexist

Izzy Lyons

Topics Feminism

The nudey-sceptics are at it again. Last week, Calvin Klein released its new campaign, in which, alongside some peculiar shots of model Kendall Jenner sucking a grapefruit, 22-year-old Danish actress Klara Kristin flashed her CK undies. As expected, scores of people declared the photograph sexist and misogynistic, arguing that Kristin had been exploited by Calvin Klein and reduced to a piece of meat.

My first reaction to the backlash was to laugh – let’s not forget the knicker-shot was for one of the world’s largest lingerie companies. What else do people expect? But I soon forgot the funny side.

Labelling a woman as victimised because she flashes her pants in an advert is just another example of where contemporary feminism is going wrong. Critics seem to be uninterested in the fact that Kristin publicly defended the photo – that a woman chose to show her body apparently doesn’t matter. The fact that we are still having a conversation about a woman’s ability to flash her pants is depressing. And, let’s face it, the same remarks would not arise if it was Brooklyn Beckham following in his dad’s oily, semi-nude footsteps.

In fact, today’s feminism is very similar to the sexism of the past. At the end of the day, those shocked at Kristin’s decision just want to lecture women on what is and isn’t appropriate. But what would be acceptable? Flashing a bit of shoulder? Perhaps an ankle? Contemporary feminism’s anti-nude bent is based on the very prejudices that sparked the women’s liberation movement in the first place.

For decades, men and women have profited from their scantily clad bodies. In magazines, campaign spreads and on TV, the birthday suits of those lucky enough to score big in the genetic lottery have been used to sell products and make money – it’s called capitalism.

But an advert does not have the power to make all young women take up pornographic pastimes overnight. And the idea that the campaign is filth from ‘some old guy’s wet dream’ and ‘fodder for paedophiles’ is deeply insulting to men. Apparently, they’re liable to descend into an army of sexual predators at the sight of cotton undies.

Arguing that sexy depictions of women threaten our ability to make our own choices insinuates that we are all idiots at the mercy of the advertising industry. When will today’s feminists learn that, man or woman, naked or clothed, we all have the ability – and the right – to govern ourselves.

Izzy Lyons is a writer and a student at Cardiff University.

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Topics Feminism


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