I am taking a break from the usual “Whatever Wednesday”‘ post to discuss something I feel is much more important (plus, we all know how much I like to post about controversial subjects!).
How many of you have seen Calvin Klein’s Autumn/Winter 2010 ad campaign featuring the gorgeous (and often controversial) Lara Stone? News has recently broken that images from the campaign have been banned in Australia because they are glamorizing rape and violence against women. Below are the two images in question, and the ruling from Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau:
According to the Bureau: “The Board considered the depiction of the woman with the three men to be highly sexualised and clearly suggestive of sexual behaviour. The Board considered that whilst the act depicted could be consensual, the overall impact and most likely takeout is that the scene is suggestive of violence and rape. The Board considered that the image was demeaning to women by suggesting that she is a plaything of these men. It also demeans men by implying sexualised violence against women.”
Regarding this image (which is pictured with the above on the billboard in question): “the second image, of the woman sitting on the bench alone with her legs apart, is by virtue of its location with the first image, inappropriately sexually suggestive.
There is no denying that this campaign is highly sexual in content. It certainly promotes sexuality, sexual freedom, and group sex. There is also an aggressive aspect to it, but no where in the campaign does it appear – to me – that Stone is being forced into an act against her will. If anything, it seems to be depicting wild, sexual abandon.
Calvin Klein’s stance is the following:
“We appreciate receiving feedback on the image, and take seriously any complaint about our client’s advertising.
Our response to the complaint is that the models are partially unclothed however not nude. The woman in the image on the left is not struggling, not does she look distressed. There is no violence as the men are holding her. In the image on the right, which clearly follows as a narrative from the image on the left, the woman is relaxed and comfortable, clarifying for the viewer that there has been consent and no violence within the narrative and the imagery. This image is in a public space, and this billboard has been selected to target the Calvin Klein Jeans consumer, and is not actively directed towards children.”
I agree with the above statement. Glamorizing rape and violence against women? I just don’t see it. But others do.
According to Australia’s Advertising Standards Bureau chief Fiona Jolly, “The industry standard says you can use sexuality and nudity provided to use them with sensitivity to the audience.” When complaints were filed against this campaign, they had to make a judgment call, and they ruled against Calvin Klein.
In January 2007, Dolce & Gabanna ran into a quite similar predicament. The image below, by photographer Steven Klein, was banned in numerous countries, including Spain and Italy, for essentially the same reason as the CK ad.
According to Italy’s Advertising Self-Discipline Institute (IAP):
“The advertisement showing a woman pinned to the ground by the wrists by a bare-chested man, with other men in the background looking on” [was] been banned [because the ad] “offended the dignity of the woman, in the sense that the feminine figure is shown in a degrading manner. The woman has an alienated expression, with an absent look.
[The woman in the ad is] immobilised and subjected to a man’s will… Because of the passive and helpless position of the woman relative to the men around her, (the image evokes) the representation of abuse or the idea of violence towards her.”
Dolce & Gabbana ended up pulling the ad worldwide due to the controversy it stirred.
These campaigns all do what they set out to do – they get us talking. They invoke emotions. They get us thinking about gender roles, sexuality, violence, and the way women are depicted in fashion imagery.
My questions for you are twofold:
- Do you believe the Calvin Klein ad is glamorizing gang rape and violence? Why or why not
- As a woman, what do you find more troubling, the ads shown above, or these ads depicting clear violence against women, below?