Why People Are Freaking Out Over This Calvin Klein Billboard

Calvin Klein is taking heat for a billboard in downtown Manhattan which juxtaposes two of the celebrities involved in their #mycalvins campaign. The billboard placed an image of actress Klara Kristin, accompanied by the sentence “I seduce in #mycalvins,” next to an image of rapper Fetty Wap, whose accompanying sentence read, “I make money in #mycalvins.”

Offended, lingerie brand ThirdLove’s CEO Heidi Zak took to the streets to find out what other women thought of the campaign. The results can be viewed in her video, “More Than My Underwear,” here. She also wrote an impassioned letter to Calvin Klein’s CEO Steve Shiffman and started a Change.org petition, in which she wrote: “The billboard propagates an archaic and offensive gender stereotype that women are nothing more than sexual objects, while men are the breadwinners. Calvin Klein has a vast assortment of content for this campaign, so we find it appalling that the company chose to put these two images side by side in one of the most highly visible intersections in the country. “Is the message of Calvin Klein that women are only good for seduction? Are we stuck in the 1950s? Are these the values of the Calvin Klein brand?”

Earlier today, Calvin Klein, Inc. sent the following statement to Racked regarding the controversial billboard: “This billboard was taken down overnight as part of the planned rotation of our Spring 2016 advertising campaign. We take all of our consumers’ concerns seriously and as a global brand, we promote gender equality and the breakdown of gender stereotypes across the world. Our global advertising campaign images feature many different musicians, artists and models wearing all of our product categories, including our underwear products, sharing how they feel about and live in their Calvins.”

The New York billboard was indeed just one small part of the campaign, which also features talents like FKA Twigs, whose images are accompanied by the decidedly less divisive sentences “I win in #mycalvins,” “I dance in #mycalvins,” and “I create in #mycalvins.” With this in mind, it’s possible the billboard’s juxtaposition of imagery was more of an unfortunate misstep than an outright sexist statement. After all, there’s nothing wrong with a woman being sexual, as long as that’s not the only attribute for which she is portrayed as being notable.