Calvin Klein and Gender Stereotypes

by V_C_K on February 27, 2017 - 4:25pm

“Ads use visual images of men and women to grab our attention and persuade. They are really projecting gender display - the ways in which we think men and women behave – not the ways they actually do behave (Goffman 1976)”. Calvin Klein campaign ads are reputable for objectifying and hyper sexualizing women and men since the start of the company four decades ago. Calvin Klein’s Spring 2016 advertisement campaign launched with the slogan concept “I ____ in #mycalvins”. This campaign featured numerous celebrities, objectified and sexualized, to promote the company’s new collection. The most problematic one featured a picture of rapper, Fetty Wap with the words “I make money in #mycalvins” juxtaposed with a picture of actress Klara Kristin’s with the words “I seduce in #mycalvins”. This advertisement was posted on a billboard in Soho, New York and on multiple social media outlets, gaining exposure from hundred and thousands of individuals of all ages, promoting an archetypal social construct.

The Calvin Klein Spring 2016 campaign engenders a quintessential gender stereotype where women are sexual objects while men are the ones who make money. The juxtaposition of both Fetty Wap’s and Klara Kristin’s slogan convey a sexual script where women are solely valued based on their appearance and body while men are valued based off of their ability to make money. These two advertisement slogans promote an “ideal” social construct where both sexes should not be forced to conform. A women’s purpose is not merely to seduce, and a man’s role is not only to make money. Additionally, Fetty Wap’s shot is a close up of his face while Klara Kristin is shown in a full body shot, minimally dressed. This advertisement implements a cultural ideal where men do not need to show skin while women need to be highly sexualized to advertise the same product.  

Many seem to argue that the pictures of the Spring 2016 campaign are “empowering”, but they nonetheless objectify and sexualize women. The billboard's problem is not Klara Kristin’s attire but rather, the message being conveyed by the positioning of both advertisements. The picture of Klara Kristin seem to mimic a cliché porn image, degrading her value to simply an object that “acts” for the pleasure of the implicitly male viewer. In comparison, Fetty Wap’s face is enough to satisfy consumers while he shows no skin and is not sexualized in any way.

Furthermore, the Spring 2016 Calvin Klein campaign has featured influential celebrities that many individuals idolize. From Kendal Jenner to Justin Bieber, Calvin Klein has objectified these celebrities with an archaic gender stereotype to sell their products. These advertisements have been exposed to consumers of all age including young teens that look up to these celebrities and therefore will be influenced by gender stereotypes these advertisements convey. The continual subjection of stereotypically gendered advertisements imposes a heterosexual, sexist ideal about gender. Consequently, this “ideal” becomes a permanent social construct that is difficult to change unless the advertising, entertainment or creative field takes action.

Advertisements should portray both women and men in an empowering, equalitarian way. If I were to change the Calvin Klein Spring 2016 campaign, I would shoot both Fetty Wap’s and Klara Kristin’s pictures in a full face shot and overlay an empowering message for their “I ____ in #mycalvins”. If Fetty Wap’s non-objectified advertisement is satisfactory enough for Calvin Klein’s campaign, I do not see why Klara Kristin’s ad had to be portrayed any differently. Conversely, pictures of both celebrities in a full body shot could also be conveyed in a non-objectifying and sexual manner. These pictures would have to embody and communicate the brand’s value which is portrayed with the slogan, “designed to put the power in the model’s and the wearer’s hands”. 



Works Cited

Cortese, Anthony. “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising.” Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising, Third Edition. New      York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008. 57-89.

Miss Representation. Girls' Club Entertainment, 2011. DVD.

"Why the fuss over Calvin Klein ads?" CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 27 Feb. 2017.