Future Implications

Despite recent research and strides in academia, the female stereotypical image has not changed dramatically. In this recent advertisement for Calvin Klein Jeans, Kate Bosworth, a popular actress, is shown baring her stomach.  She is coyly looking towards the camera with strands of hair brushing across her face. Kate Bosworth represents the typical American female stereotype; blond hair, blue eyes, thin frame and Caucasian ethnicity. Calvin Klein has acquired more diverse models; however, this campaign features the limiting image of a female. She is extremely thin which fuels the negative perceptions of body image among average sized women.  

As an active consumer, this ad tells me that I need reevaluate my body image.  Although I am fully aware and educated on the topic of image advertising, this image still leads me to compare myself to Kate Bosworth.  The social comparison theory presented by Festinger (1954) raises the ideology of self worth and body image. When I am judging myself in accordance with the Calvin Klein model, I am participating in a social comparison process.  I am not the only woman who perceives mediated images in this manner. 

  According to a study conducted by the DOVE campaign for Real Beauty, only 2% of women around the world described themselves as beautiful. This shocking statistic traces back to Festinger’s  notion of social comparison and the stereotypical representations of beauty in mediated sources. However, in the DOVE research study, 81% of females in the U.S. strongly agree that “the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most women can’t ever achieve.”  With the acknowledgement of this disheartening fact, images displayed in the DOVE Campaign for Real Beauty help young women to challenge narrow views of body image.




Too much Sexuality?

Calvin Klein is known for sexual explicit advertisements, however this image advertisement in particular is extremely thought provoking. Ideologies of heterosexuality and overt sexuality are brought to the forefront in this racy illustration of Calvin Klein clothing.

The female model in this image is straddling the male model, seductively suggesting that women are open to sexual encounters.  The satisfied man is lying on the bed, and his arms are by his side. This does not suggest that he is intellectually interested in the female.

The woman photographed is pictured in a submissive position. Goffman (1976) first suggested the ideologies of submission and dominant oppression.  The female model represents the submission by physically hunching her shoulders down towards the male model. Despite her arms softly holding him down, he is the more dominant figure in the advertisement. The stark contrast of white and black accentuates the female model’s lack of clothing. She is very thin, perpetuating a false stereotype of women in our society. Overall, this advertisement should not be seen by the younger culture in the United States. Sadly, images like this do not seem to shock audiences anymore. As a culture, the process of desensitization has enabled advertisers such as Calvin Klein to test the boundaries.


Gender Roles


In this advertisement for Calvin Klein Jeans, the female model is depicted lying on vacant beach. This type of advertisement creates many troubled stereotypes and ideologies for our modern day society. She is dressed in a see through white tank top, which emphasizes her chest region. She also has on low rise CK jeans that draw attention to her stomach. Her arms lie above her head in a lifeless manner, indicating that she is extremely vulnerable. The camera angle is pointed downward on the female model, enabling the consumer to feel superior.

This image can be critically evaluated using Goffman’s (1979) model of gender advertising. Goffman claims that image advertisements often place women in subordinate positions.  He also discusses a set of codes called, “ritualization of subordination”.  This concept addresses the physical position of a woman in an advertisement. Women are often seen on their side or lying on their back.   This allows the viewer to identify that the model is sexually available and vulnerable in that situation. Nonverbal messages are extremely evident in gender advertisements.  

Media’s Depiction of Gender


Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg were launched into celebrity status when they were depicted in Calvin Klein’s racy image advertisements. However, the images they created tested the boundaries of media ethics. The selection of Kate Moss as one of the primary models for the Calvin Klein campaign is an issue within itself.  Kate Moss is shockingly below the size of an average woman in the United States.

 Kilbourne (2005) states that women are portrayed as sexually desirable only if they are thin, young, carefully groomed, and made up.  Consumers are then pressured to become sexually desirable by the standards set by the culture. Those standards are created through the creation and acceptance of mediated images.

In this specific advertisement, Kate Moss is picture topless alongside Mark Wahlberg.    They are both pictured in white Calvin Klein underwear; however Wahlberg is shown in Calvin Klein jeans. When analyzing gender roles in this image advertisement, it is important to ask questions such as, “Why does the male model have jeans on in this image, while the female model is pictured in her underwear?”  In this case, Moss in holding Wahlberg around the stomach, symbolizing the need for affection.  She is strategically positioned behind him, putting him in the forefront of the advertisement. However, Wahlberg’s physical position is casual and laid-back.      

 This advertisement creates stereotypical gender roles that are perpetuated in mediated sources on a daily basis. Women are pictured as submissive or in the background, clearly not as important as the male. The male on the other hand is prominent and agressive, fulling the patriarchial duties delegated to him by mass media.




  The Objectification of a Young Girl

This Calvin Klein Jeans advertisement enters a contentious area of criticism.  The female model depicted in this advertisement appears to be very young in age, possibly 14 or 15.   As a communication scholar, it is my responsibility to question the representation of American youth in provocative advertisements.

 The model is pictured with her hair back, symbolic of a young adolescent’s hairstyle. She is also pictured with high socks and tennis shoes, which also leads the consumer to believe she is rather young.  Her socks happen to be pink, which often symbolizes a young girls clothing.

 However, the most disturbing piece of this advertisement would have to be her provocative pose. She is depicted with her legs wide open, allowing the viewer to focus on her sexual orientation. She is sexually gazing into the camera, provoking the consumer to view her as a sexual object. The backdrop for this advertisement is a wood-paneled room that is very similar to that of a basement.

This advertisement for Calvin Klein jeans implies more than the purchase of a pair of jeans. It allows a young girl to be objectified and viewed in a pornographic manner. Advertisements such as these should be pulled before they are even presented to the public. It is the social responsibility of the advertisement agency to realize that these images will have negative ramifications on society.





Fashion or Pornography?

This 2004 advertisement for Calvin Klein Jeans is extremely racy and controversial. This image suggests more than the purchase of designer jeans.  Caputi(2003) suggests the ideology of everyday pornography in mediated advertisements. Caputi uses the term pornography not in the sense of sexually explicit materials, but to address many issues surrounding sexual advertisements.  The concept of everyday pornography is “constructing feminine and masculine subjectivities based in gender inequality, conditioning us to eroticize domination, subordination, violence, and objectification.”

 Advertisements seen in popular magazines, purchased by younger consumers often objectify women and promote gender inequality. Each consumer is not going to critically evaluate every advertisement; therefore they are unconsciously accepting the ideologies that are presented.

The female model pictured in this advertisement is erotically lying on top of the male model. She is arching her body, emphasizing her ghastly thin torso. The shirtless male model in the image is holding her breast with his eyes closed. Similarly to the male model, her eyes are also closed and her head is tilted back in a submissive manner.  This advertisement not only suggests the idea of sex, but promotes an unhealthy image of a woman. Her ribs and her hip bones are prominently showing, and she is graciously submitting to his touch.   



   What is Calvin Klein selling in this advertisement?

This Calvin Klein Jeans advertisement has many subliminal messages that are conveyed to the consumer. According to Williamson (1986), women in advertisements are often pictured in the same manner.  Williamson suggests that women rarely have the command of stare and are positioned in a way where they are seen as just an object of desire. For this specific image advertisement, Williamson’s ideologies are blatantly obvious.  The female model is shown lying on her back, pushing her pelvic region up.  Her legs are spread, allowing the male model to kneel close to her.  She has one arm close to her chest, and the other is placed on her head.  She has her eyes closed, which represents Williamson’s notion of a women’s stare.  She is not watching the male who is aggressively holding her legs; she chooses not to look at all. Her mouth is also open which signifies accessibility. (Caputi, 2003).  She conveys the ideology of submission which inherently promotes negative connotations.  

            The male model, on the other hand, is in a very dominant position. He is positioned over top of her, firmly grasping her legs. The man in this Calvin Klein image looks as if he possesses the female and suggests naïve submission.    He is staring at her in a way that makes her just a physical object.  According to Caputi (2003), this male dominant position can be attributed to patriarchal influences in society.  This advertisement could potentially suggest that women are disposable objects and women are only attracted to “bad boys”. (Caputi, 2003).