Why has FKA twigs' Calvin Klein ad been banned while Jeremy Allen White's is literally everywhere?

The policing of women's bodies is still alive and kicking in 2024.
Why Is FKA Twigs' Calvin Klein Ad Banned While Jeremy Allen White's Is Literally Everywhere
Dave Benett

By now, I'm sure we've all seen the newest campaign from Calvin Klein, which features The Bear actor Jeremy Allen White. White can be seen prancing in his Calvin’s, walking on the streets of New York, then undressing as he makes his way to the top of a New York city building, before posing, stretching, then taking a much-needed rest on a sofa in front of a sprawling city view.

It is a well-shot campaign, but we are here to discuss the metaphorical elephant in the room: namely, the sexist and racist double standards surrounding how men’s bodies like Jeremy Allen Whites are received as opposed to, say, FKA twigs. Almost a year after FKA twigs fronted a Calvin Klein campaign in April 2023, it has been banned by the Advertising Standards Agency (The ASA), who “found the ad was likely to cause serious offence by objectifying women”. The regulator ruled the “image's composition placed viewers' focus on the model's body rather than on the clothing being advertised”.

The singer herself has spoken out in defence of her campaign, writing on social media: "“I do not see the ‘stereotypical sexual object’ that they have labeled me. "I see a beautiful, strong woman of color whose incredible body has overcome more pain than you can imagine.

“In light of reviewing other campaigns past and current of this nature, I can’t help but feel there are some double standards here," she continued. "So to be clear… I am proud of my physicality and hold the art I create with my vessel to the standards of women like Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt, and Grace Jones, who broke down barriers of what it looks like to be empowered and harness a unique embodied sensuality.”

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FKA twigs is absolutely right. The ban is a stark contrast to the reaction to Jeremy’s recent campaign which has been received with open arms; the newest Klein model and his images dubbed “national landmark”-worthy. In my research, I can find not one article – and very few comments – of anyone speaking about the focus being more on the “models’ body” that the clothing, yet Jeremy is showing more skin than FKA twigs in his campaign.

To me, this clearly highlights the blatant double standards that are forced on women, time and again. As a plus sized model, I have received major backlash for posting my own body in the past. I am aware we live in majorly fatphobic society, so I brace myself for the comments I will undoubtedly receive due to having a big body and a large following. It is to be expected. It's why I wasn't surprised when singer Beth Ditto received immense backlash (which we won't be repeating here) for her Calvin Klein campaign in 2019. Why? She is plus sized and proud, and that is difficult for the media – and society – to swallow.

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In contrast, there are also Calvin Klein campaigns featuring women's bodies that have gone uncensored. Kendall Jenner, for example, has modelled for Calvin Klein on numerous occasions, yet has never received any backlash. I would guess this is because she is a slim, white, able-bodied woman, which is praised throughout the media and society.

The thing these women all have in common though is that they're celebrating their bodies and the female form, on their own terms, and because they choose to – objectivity does not come into question when speaking of women’s bodies and our anatomy. The male gaze, and the way in which society is set up, would have us believe that any sexually autonomous and body- confident woman must be objectifying herself. This couldn't be further from the truth.

On the other hand, FKA twigs is a slim, Brown woman, who by all accounts has a societally “acceptable” body, just like Kendall Jenner. Yet her body was still policed and dubbed ‘offensive’. To me, it feels as though, now more than ever, Black and Brown women’s bodies are being observed, studied and ridiculed for simply existing. It does not seem to matter what our bodies look like; in one way or another, they will be commented on.

To have two Calvin Klein campaigns released in less than a year apart, and to witness the difference in the way in which they have been received, speaks volumes; and is very reflective of the society we now live in.