The issue of female empowerment has seemingly never been more prevalent. With the Harvey Weinstein accusations that began in October, snowballing into the #MeToo campaign and the naming and shaming of numerous high profile politicians, TV anchors and directors, the cause of gender equality is one of the most important in current debate. And this is why the 2017 LOVE Advent Calendar is a smack in the face to the headway made this year.

For those who aren’t familiar with the calendar, it features a number of models (majority white, majority skinny) who pose in their underwear in a series of videos released every day of December and on into the New Year. This year’s calendar comes under the umbrella title ‘stay strong’ – a title that it perhaps referenced by the fact that some of the women shown are doing something athletic: Ashley Graham goes for a run, Kendall Jenner does a half-hearted Rocky impression, Bella Hadid throws a tyre. In general, not an overly impressive display of female strength (physical or otherwise).

Perhaps one of the strangest things is that LOVE is not even an underwear brand; their choice of shots would perhaps make more sense if this were for Victoria’s Secret, but it isn’t. It’s for a fashion mag, The LOVE Magazine, that attempts to settle itself somewhere between Vice and Vogue, presenting itself as an artistic publication but in reality doing nothing particularly original. It is aimed predominantly at women, and it chooses to continue the steady stream of commodified and sexualised women in the media that has become so much a part of society that it’s just boring.

It is a classic example of a commercial brand taking a genuinely important issue and using it to thinly veil their own attempts to sell more of their product. Think Pepsi jumping on the bandwagon of social activism, condensed down to a model passing a glossy can of Pepsi to the police. Only this time it’s a series of women gyrating on tables covered in spaghetti (see Emily Ratajkowski’s video) under the label of female strength and empowerment. It’s essentially soft porn set in a social backdrop of women coming forward with often very saddening stories of their own sexual assault.

There is a way to show the female body in a way that doesn’t pander to the male gaze: these models could be stark naked and it wouldn’t have to be objectifying. It’s just the lack of real thought behind the videos, the decision to simply emphasise the women’s bodies that shows LOVE haven’t quite got the point. While a handful are shown in something other than lingerie, for the most part they have chosen to fall back on generic shots of Instagram-famous models in an attempt to rake in the likes and cash in on their popularity.

It’s entirely out of tone with all the good that’s come from the numerous stories of sexual assault and harassment, moves that have led to women start to be listened to, represented and united in a way that has been so long overdue.

The way the videos have been talked about in the media is almost as annoying as the videos themselves. Heralded as a ‘celebration of womanhood’ by Forbes, it’s alarming to me that few people who have a platform have said anything against it. In contrast, the YouTube video promoting the calendar show the majority of comments expressing some kind of outrage at its representation of women.

Is it really so much to ask for an advert that shows women who are genuinely strong, and brave, and empowering ‚Äì women we can look up to for a reason more than looking good in underwear? Of course, we‚Äôre still in a time of flux where we’re beginning to see things change, but there’s still some way to go. I hope soon that adverts such as these will not be heralded as a view of female empowerment and I hope that soon women genuinely will be seen on the same level as men. But we clearly aren‚Äôt there yet.

-Scarlett Evans
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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