On Wednesday, November 30, About-Face interns Kianna and Colleen took to Market St. in downtown San Francisco to protest a disturbing and sexually predatory Calvin Klein ad. At the center of the action was a blown-up poster of the ad which shows an up-skirt shot of a young-looking model with text that reads, “I flash in #mycalvins”.
This image is a part of Calvin Klein’s recent #mycalvins campaign, and it gathered over 50,000 likes on Instagram where it was originally posted. (Read more about the ad.)
Passersby were confronted with the shocking nature of the ad, and were asked to think about why images like this are commonplace and accepted in our culture. This action sought to connect this advertisement with the ways misogyny shapes how women are treated as objects for men to look at, touch, grab, etc. throughout Western culture.
Images like this teach women that their bodies are not valuable and objects for other people’s consumption and criticism. It teaches men that they are entitled to female bodies. Addressing these issues feels even more crucial in light of the 2016 presidential election season.
While many added their signature to the petition, what was even more rewarding and important were the conversations between those who stopped and even amongst those who continued to walk past us. The discussions that started as a result of this action demonstrate exactly why we cannot dismiss the misogyny that is ever-present in our media.
By stopping for just a moment to examine the images we see in media and the norms of our culture, we can begin to understand the connections between these two parts of society. While sexism and misogyny are at the root of images like this, the circulation of dehumanizing* and objectifying** imagery also reinforces the ways women and girls are treated and valued. And this won’t change if we bury our heads in the sand or act like it doesn’t matter.
We are hoping to continue gathering signatures on our petition, with a goal of 5,000. Once we’ve reached that goal, we plan to deliver the petition at the Calvin Klein offices in New York City and stage an event outside.
Special thanks to About-Facers Christine and Paula for showing up with energy and spirit in spite of the rain, and thanks to everyone who took a moment to talk with us. The fight continues.
*to make less-than-human or take away a person’s humanity
**to turn a person into an object
— Colleen Sparks
Colleen was About-Face’s Online Activism and Communications Intern and School and Community Program Intern from June-December 2016. She is a student at University of California, Santa Cruz in Community Studies and Education.