WOMEN
03/22/2016 01:28 pm ET

How One Woman Stood Up To A Sexist Calvin Klein Billboard

Women seduce, and men make money. Totally normal, right?

While walking around in New York City, a billboard ad from Calvin Klein caught the eye of Heidi Zak-- but not in a good way.

Zak, the CEO and co-founder of lingerie company ThirdLove, saw a billboard for the designer's new spring campaign in New York's SoHo neighborhood. The first image features a full-body shot of actress Klara Kristin along with the words, "I seduce in #mycalvins." The image directly next to it features a close-up of rapper Fetty Wap. The phrase on his ad? "I make money in #mycalvins." 

A sexist Calvin Klein billboard sparked an online petition for its removal.
ThirdLove
A sexist Calvin Klein billboard sparked an online petition for its removal.

Zak posted a video on YouTube in response to the ad, calling out the designer for the billboard's offensive message about women.

"I'm personally offended by the Calvin Klein billboard ad in New York City that highlights a dated gender stereotype: that men are the breadwinners, while women are sex objects," she said. 

In the same video (watch below), Zak interviewed people on the streets of New York about the ad and discovered she wasn't the only one who found it demeaning.

Said one passerby: "It's unfortunate that so much of advertising is dependent on perpetuating these stereotypes about what men and women are and what their value is, that women's are totally located in their bodies and appearance and the men's are in their ability to make money and in their brains."

Last week, Zak and the ThirdLove team also started a Change.org petition with the hashtag #MoreThanMyUnderwear to get the billboard taken down, and she personally wrote a letter to the CEO of Calvin Klein.

"It’s striking that almost a century after women won the right to vote, companies like yours are still propagating these offensive and outdated gender stereotypes: Men go to work and make money, while women are nothing more than sex objects," she wrote.

The Change.org petition gathered 242 supporters and is now listed as a "confirmed victory," since the billboard has been removed. However, in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Calvin Klein asserted that a "planned rotation" sparked the move:

This billboard was taken down overnight as part of the planned rotation of our spring 2016 advertising campaign. We take all of our consumers' concerns seriously, and as a global brand, we promote gender equality and the breakdown of gender stereotypes across the world. Our global advertising campaign images feature many different musicians, artists and models wearing all of our product categories, including our underwear products, sharing how they feel about and live in their Calvins.

Still, Zak told The Huffington Post that the ad's removal sends an important message.

"This victory highlights that women can do anything we set our minds to, and we deserve advertising that reflects that," she said. "I believe, and ThirdLove stands behind the fact that women can do much more than seduce -- and we are more than our underwear."

HuffPost

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