‘Tis the season to be jolly – and watch the Internet divide over women expressing themselves in The Love Magazine‘s annual Advent Calendar.
Featuring Emily Ratajkowski, Slick Woods, Kendall Jenner, Ashley Graham, Bella and Gigi Hadid, as well as Winnie Harlow and Rita Ora, among others, the series looks a little like the music video to Satisfaction, by Benni Bennassi, circa the nineties.
Here’s the latest instalment, featuring Kate Upton:
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, admittedly, and most women would argue playing tennis in heels is just mad, but it’s got everyone asking the same question: Can the LOVE Advent Calendar really be considered feminist?
Under the umbrella hashtag, ‘Stay Strong’, the army of active wear-clad social media influencers and activists have demonstrated, in a tongue-in-cheek way, their own personal take on female strength and sexiness – something they’re now allowed to do since the weight of patriarchal oppression was lightened thanks to the feminist movement.
Between Kate Upton playing tennis, Gigi Hadid (and her unshaven armpits) boxing through the glass ceiling, and Emily Ratajkowski carb-loading, the message this year has an extreme – and quintessentially LOVE – ‘fitspo’ fashion aesthetic.
Besides showcasing the stylists’ work, in its seventh year, it has done the unthinkable: Got feminists questioning whether women doing what they want with their bodies is actually feminism?
The LOVE Advent has united Piers Morgan and certain feminists together in an unhealthy admonishment of the magazine and the women who participated in the shoots.
After Emily Ratajkowski’s offering on Day 3 was published to social media, Piers continued his sad, long-standing but one-sided diatribe against Emily Ratajkowski, when he said her contribution to the magazine’s series didn’t constitute feminism – even though Ratajkowski never claimed it did.
Calling her a ‘global bimbo’ on Good Morning Britain, Morgan continued:
The self-proclaimed feminist was quickly schooled by the model and scholar, who tweeted him, explaining 'telling women what to do with their bodies & sexuality is actually just classic sexism'.
Yet his comments seem to have taken hold and since, a number of feminist writers have questioned the motives of the LOVE Advent Calendar, with one claiming it was distinctly 'un-feminist' for its appropriation of the gender equality agenda.
In this day and age, shouldn't the feminist agenda serve all women and all of their choices - whether they involve spaghetti and red wine, or not?
A new wave of feminism, in case you missed it, is gloriously sweeping the globe and dominating discussion, from social media posts to political pub debates.
The F-word is no longer relegated to dusty decades-old literature, left up on library shelves for those who actively seek out an answer to everyday sexism.
Feminism is accessible. It's sexy. There are feminist memes. All men and women who value equality want a slice of the pie and perhaps, there's no person who better represents the modern feminist – as well as the conflicts and complexities modern feminism evokes – than Emily Ratajkowski?
Of her LOVE appearance, the 26-year-old activist said:
To me, female sexuality and sexiness, no matter how conditioned it may be by a patriarchal ideal, can be incredibly empowering for a woman if she feels it is empowering to her.
The way I dress, act, flirt, dance, have sex - those are my decisions and they shouldn't be impacted by men.
Being sexy is fun and I like it. I should never have to apologise for that. My life is on my terms and if I feel like putting on sexy underwear, it’s for me. Personal choice is the core ideal in my concept of feminism.
Critics have chastised the LOVE advent calendar and admittedly, it's by no means perfect, in a socio-political sense and certainly uses the forces of gender equality for capitalist gains.
Its racial diversity is almost non-existent, with predominantly white women chosen to participate by Editor-in-Chief, Katie Grand.
The female forms presented as desirable, are severely lacking in shape differentiation, even if the models appear undoctored and unedited.
Moreover, if the campaign was truly feminist through and through, The LOVE Magazine would have enlisted a woman to shoot the series - not Phil Poynter, however great his talents.
Others say the series 'undervalues' women and makes anyone who fails to perpetrate the narrow standards of beauty 'uncomfortable', but this argument only stands if you buy into the idea womankind is constantly competing among ourselves.
By its very nature, LOVE, a bi-annual magazine which put Beth Ditto on the cover of its first issue in 2009, absolutely starkers, has always been a loud, brash, extreme portrayal of femininity in all its guises.
By extension, the LOVE advent calendar is art and fashion and humour at its most silly and - as Ratajkowski puts it - fun.
To degrade the women who partake in the calendar, or call their actions out for being damaging to the feminist movement, goes against the pillars of the very movement people claim to champion.
Why waste our energies in-fighting about what feminism is when gender equality means something different to every woman and each and every one of us picks their battles for a more balanced society specifically in relation to our own experience?
Katie directed us to say ‘Stay Strong’ at the end of each video and I think it's a message from one woman to another. You're watching a video of a girl grinding in lingerie or whatever else and she's looking into the camera at the end saying, ‘you do you, however YOU want to, fuck the rest’.
In the wake of the Harvey fallout and women coming forward with incredible amounts of sexual harassment cases, I have been so disappointed to hear women talk about 'modesty' and 'our responsibility' as if we need to, yet again, adjust to make it 'easier' for the rest of the world.
I'm tired of having to consider how I might be perceived by men if I wear the short skirt or post a sexy Instagram. I want to do what I want to do. Feminism isn't about adjusting, it's about freedom and choice.
Moreover, what people fail to see is, a woman can work out in the gym, at the same time as being sexy and fun, all the while satirising the fitness and fashion industries with a humorous smirk on their faces. We are very complex beings, don't you know?
There's a moral to the story here: If you don't like it, don't watch it.
But don't degrade the women who do.