I’ve been asked about my opinions on the set of ads featuring Silicon Valley’s top tech women in their panties that’s drawing some controversy. I’ve been sitting on this for about a week now so I could really think about how I feel about this series: as a marketer, as a feminist, as a person aspiring to greatness wanting to believe I can be anything, and as a regular wearer of undergarments.
I usually have a visceral reaction to advertising, but with this, I needed time to think about it deeply before I offered an opinion. How would I present this to my class if I were teaching this semester? Well, I would ask them: “Who do you think the audience is?”
It seems as though this controversy isn’t necessarily looking for the answer to that. The ads aren’t actually ads at all. They’re part of a lookbook for a lingerie company called Dear Kate. And the collection was designed in honor of Ada Lovelace, the woman who created the world’s first algorithm.
We as a society are constantly asking for real models. I want to celebrate the fact that Dear Kate is using real models.
They’re using women in high tech positions, successful women in high tech positions, women who are at the top of their game. These are real women: women of all sizes who are confident both in what they do as a profession and in their own skin. And no one’s mentioned, that aside from these women all having similar professions, this is the most diverse set of women models I’ve ever seen in one series or campaign, from skin color to body shape. Not even Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, which turned 10 this year, has this much diversity in shape size.
I don’t think these photos are degrading or objectifying or sexualizing these women. I think the lookbook is brilliant. This wouldn’t even be a topic of conversation if the women were actual models posing as successful high tech women. So why is it a topic of conversation now? We’ve gotten so far down the rabbit hole in the media that women can either be pretty or smart. But not both. And when we show the prettiness of a woman, we’re sexualizing her.
For me, this series is celebrating the real woman.
It’s both promoting our ability to be soft and feminine while being successful and dominating a field that’s traditionally only associated with men. It’s inspirational to young women who want to be something or do something big. It’s promoting that women can go into technology, too. And that’s something we should all be celebrating.
And as far as who the audience is… I’m the audience. And I’m off to do some shopping.