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Culture Jam Assignment

Original Image

The advertisement is part of Calvin Klein’s series of photos that read “I ___ in #mycalvins” posted on their Instagram page. Since it is shown on social media, uses the Twitter hashtag #mycalvins, and shows a female model behind the text “I mirror you”, the ad targets young women who frequently use the Internet. Calvin Klein tries to associate itself with beauty and community, but reinforces unrealistic beauty standards for women and is not inclusive of diverse females.

The text “I mirror you in #mycalvins” implies women who wear Calvin Klein jeans will be attractive and desirable like Bella Hadid. It persuades women to feel undesirable unless they ‘mirror’ the model, an unobtainable expectation of beauty. The photo highlights Bella Hadid’s “natural beauty” because she lacks dramatic makeup and has messy hair, yet shows a model whose makeup was done by several professionals and image was likely digitally retouched. The model also subtly reinforces female gender roles as she is viewed from the back, is lying down, and wears nothing but jeans. She becomes an example of the male gaze as she serves as an object to be observed, look appealing, and sell the jeans. Female viewers of the ad also learn to evaluate their own appeal as male spectators of themselves, subconsciously wanting to look like what men desire.

Calvin Klein also tries to welcome women into a community but neglects those who are not White or ‘attractive’ based on Western standards. The brand uses the hashtag #mycalvins to tell consumers they are part of Calvin Klein and the phrase “I mirror you” to make women feel connected with Bella Hadid. However, women who have a different skin colour or body shape from her may feel distanced from the brand and insecure with their own appearance. The ad causes diverse women to lack a sense of belonging and homogenizes the female image into a White, slender model. The ad perpetuates the sexist message that women who look identical to Bella Hadid and have a submissive sexual appeal are accepted, but others are not.

Jammed Version

The jammed ad aims to highlight the unrealistic image of beauty, use of Bella Hadid as an object rather than a symbol of empowerment, and disingenuous connection between the model and consumers.

The rotated image places the model’s reflection above her real figure to show the photo is a carefully fabricated, perfect version of Bella Hadid not reflective of her true self. Her mirror image has a pink background to contrast the red background of her own figure, further indicating that the ad is a superficial, artificially enhanced view of Bella Hadid that is far from natural. Her appearance is a vain measure of beauty used to sell the brand.

Additionally, the photo is horizontal to show her face and body are used as a commodity to attract buyers and ultimately sell Calvin Klein jeans. The model is now lying on the floor like a corpse or a doll, highlighting the sexism and female oppression of the ad. Bella Hadid is a lifeless prop selling her appearance rather than a figure whose personality and strength is celebrated. The brand logo on her back, caption describing her as a product, and hashtag #yourcalvins further highlight that she is a prop in corporate marketing. The model wears these jeans in the ad not because they are ‘her Calvins’, but so they can be consumers’ ‘Calvins’.

The altered text “I surpass you” represents the message many females see when reading “I mirror you”. The original ad resonates with females who are uncomfortable with their appearance because they will desire to mirror the model and thus buy Calvin Klein clothing. Hence, the ad implies that different-looking women are inferior, less beautiful, or less desirable. Additionally, women of colour may feel unaccepted and racially inferior to the popular, glorified White female because they are not represented in this ad. Rather than establishing a community between viewers and the model, Calvin Klein encourages women to compare themselves to her and feel sub-standard. This version underlines the female objectification, superficiality, and exclusion of female minorities in the original ad and explicitly displays its sexist messages.