In the above ad German model Anna Ewers sits on a bed in tight pants and a bra, her arms awkwardly bent and her legs spread. The text on the picture reads, “I take what I want in #mycalvins.” This particular advert is for Calvin Klein underwear. It is part of an advertising series created by the company which features different people doing things in their ‘#mycalvins’. For example, singer Justin Beiber ‘flaunts’ in his, celebrity Kendall Jenner ‘finds strength’ in hers, and artisit FKA Twigs ‘breathes’ in hers. This advertising campaign was very popular and took off on social media. However, while Ewer’s ad boasts that she is taking what she wants, it is blatantly obvious that she is being sexualized in order to sell the product.
A study conducted by Stankiewicz and Rosselli states that “women are portrayed as sex objects in two of three images” (587), and this ad is part of those statistics. The camera angle used in the ad places Ewers breasts, one of the most sexualized parts of the female body, in the center of the photo. Not only does the camera angle draw attention to them, but so does her body positioning. Her awkwardly bent arm pushes her breasts together while she is leaning forward, making her appear very small and drawing attention to her chest. Additionally, the ad is sexualized further by the ruffled bed sheets and Ewer’s spread open legs which both connote ideas of sex.
The prevalent sexualization of women in advertising, including Ewers, is problematic because it makes it seem as if women are objects, valued for what they look like and how they present themselves sexually. So, despite the text claiming that Ewer’s is taking what she wants, it is in fact the Calvin Klein marketing team taking what they want.
The advertising campaign this image was a part of gained lots of attention. However, the sexualization of Ewer’s body, and the other female bodies used in the advertising campaign, promotes the idea that sex sells and that women’s bodies can be commodified in capitalistic endeavors. Therefore, the attention these ads gathered ultimately was contributing to the continued use of sexualization as a marketing technique and the negative ramifications of such media practices.
In the jammed version of this ad, the text reads “I am sexualized by Calvin Klein’s marketing team.” By changing the text from “I take what I want” to “I am sexualized by Calvin Klein’s marketing team” I hope to make it transparent that Calvin Klein sexualized the female body in their advertising campaign in order to sell their product. Sexualization of the female body is rampant within today’s media. Women’s bodies are used by companies to sell beer, cologne, cars, clothing, and many more products made by many different companies. Due to the normalization of sexualization as an advertising technique society has become almost blind to the frequency with which it occurs, and the subliminal meanings attached to it that reduce women to a commodity. With this ad, I hoped to inspire acknowledgment of the fact that Ewers was sexualized, and that her body was used to market a product. Invoking an awareness surrounding the sexualization of bodies in the media is important because it can help people to be more analytical when viewing ads, and thus learn to understand subliminal meanings and not subconsciously internalize them. For example, when people view this jammed ad, instead of seeing Ewer’s half naked body with the text “I take what I want” and believing that the way for women to take what they want is by displaying their sexuality, they will see the ad and understand that Calvin Klein’s marketing ultimately contributes to the oppression of women and to not take all advertising for face value.
Stankiewicz, Julie M., and Francine Rosselli. “Women as Sex Objects and Victims in Print Advertisements.” Sex Roles, vol. 58, no. 7, 2008, pp. 579-589.