Dear Kate #FemaleCEO Underwear ad = MISSed Opportunity

Dear Kate has a new line of underwear that attempts to depict strong, intelligent women.  Here’s a pic below:


There are two main camps in this controversy.

One camp thinks that showing female CEOs in their underwear is like taking one giant step back from leveling the field of perceived status and capability when compared with male counterparts:  ”Presenting yourself undressed has inherently sexual overtones, and undermines being seen as a serious technologist” -Elissa Shevinsky, CEO of Glimpse Labs

On the other side,  people like the CEO of Dear Kate, Julie Sygiel, believe that “a lot of traditional lingerie photo shoots depict women as simply standing there looking sexy. They’re not always in a position of power and control.” The idea being that Dear Kate’s use of women with different skin color and body type, working on their tech devices, negates this stereotype.

Here’s what I think. Really cool idea, but missed execution.

I love the idea of bending gender expectations, and I think that it’s imperative to change the way we depict women in any profession and level – not just the C-suite – if we’re to narrow the wage gap and set a new expectation for how our daughters and sons view themselves and each other.  One great way to do that is to depict women as powerful – Julie Sygiel said it well when she said that women in your typical lingerie ad look like they’re “waiting for something to happen.” Unfortunately, I think that the photo of women (above), most of whom are leaning back on their arms, are doing just that. Waiting. And looking happy about it.  *Hand to forehead*

And then there’s the use of props.

Holding a computer or showing lines of code is not enough for me to be convinced that the women holding the computer knows what she’s doing with it.  If you look at any ad showing a powerful man, any man, his posture is strong from the base of his feet up to the way he holds his head, to the gaze he gives the camera. Let’s use David Beckham’s underwear ad as an example. Perfect body aside, it doesn’t matter what his profession is, he looks like he’s a badass – his stance is sturdy yet relaxed, his gaze is direct yet calm.


Like I said, compare this to women leaning back on their arms, sitting, looking down and smiling – and it’s the same old story in different clothing (or in this case, underclothing).

Lastly, a note on diversity. I don’t think it’s enough to say that because you’ve used women of different body types and color, your ad is showing diversity. Anymore, that’s not enough. What about age? What about nuance? For instance, every model in this ad is young (under 35?), and has longer hair. Where are the older women? Where are the tattoos?  I’m guessing this wasn’t pre-meditated, but it also doesn’t appear that anyone really considered the nuance of diversity either. So, the target is young girly girls? Hmmm.

My guess is that someone had a great idea, a bold thought on how to depict strong smart women.  And that idea was trumped by a safety play and poor overall creative direction and planning.

So, for these reasons, I’m calling this a miss.

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