Under fire from child welfare authorities, leaders of the Catholic league and the conservative American Family Association, Calvin Klein, Inc. announced Monday that it would cease its latest ad campaign for Klein’s designer jeans. The critics, who threatened a nationwide boycott, likened the ads to child-pornography and argued that Klein had gone too far this time in his use of children and erotica to sell merchandise. The company responded to critiques by stating that the ads had simply been “misunderstood by some.”
Using sexuality and erotica to sell products ranging from perfume to jeans is nothing new for the infamously daring Calvin Klein ads. For over fifteen years, the ads have objectified women and treated them as mere sexual creatures. Why is it, then, that in all of that time, we have not seen the backlash against the ads we have witnessed until recently? The backlash against the ads came, not just when they were thoroughly sexist and overtly erotic, but when, on top of that, the ads included what appeared to be children. Unfortunately, this sends the message that its perfectly acceptable in American society to use sex and sexism to sell merchandise at the expense of women, but you cross the line only if you chose to involve kids. This particular campaign, which has effectively done its job given the amount of hype it has created, represents only one of many demeaning ploys used by advertisers to sell products. Would Klein, Inc. have removed the ads so quickly if attacked by feminists for beng sexist as now when attacked by conservatives for being akin to child porn?