An underwear brand has launched a rather controversial campaign which has gotten divided reviews. Dear Kate are known for going against the grain with their campaigns in the past, choosing to use bloggers, dancers and athletes instead of regular models. Hey, we’re all for that! They want to portray real people in action wearing their underwear rather than just a human mannequin.
Their latest offering, called the Ada Collection which was named after female pioneer Ada Lovelace who was the world’s first computer programmer, appropriately features 6 women form various tech companies, who range from bloggers all the way to CEOs, modeling the new underwear range. It has angered some in the feminist community saying these images are setting women back, especially in the tech world where we are still fighting for equality on all fronts.
Others say it is important to support other companies who are supporting strong women, which is what Dear Kate certainly do well.
Founder and CEO of Dear Kate Julie Sygiel, a mogul herself, says she spoke at length with the models about their participation so they felt they were being portrayed in the best way possible.
“I think 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,” she said. “In our photo shoots it’s important to portray women who are active and ambitious. They’re not just standing around waiting for things to happen.”
She also felt it was important to have a campaign out there adding the extra dimension of showing what women do, rather than just focusing on what they look like.
“We believe women should be taken seriously regardless of what they are wearing,” she told The Huffington Post. “This goes for women in any profession, as what someone is wearing has no bearing on their capability or intelligence.”
“If someone views our campaign as perpetuating sexism, it’s because they have certain expectations of women,” she wrote. “The way we see the world is that women can be just as powerful in underwear as they are in a power suit. It’s not fair for women in tech to be singled out and confined to more conservative behavior simply because they work in a male-dominated field.”
The 6 women were shot in a workplace, working on their computers, as opposed to standing and posing, so there was an air of authenticity to the images. It is not the first time a clothing brand has decided to use women in the workforce to promote a collection.
San Francisco-based label Betabrand cast female PhDs for their Spring collection in March 2014, as they felt it was better to reflect real women in the San Fran tech community than ordinary models.
One of the models, Adda Birnir, is CEO and founder of Skillcrush, a website that aims to teach women and girls tech skills initially had concerns about being in the shoot thinking it might hurt her reputation as a serious woman in tech, but realized there were more positives than negatives.
“It’s a feminist company, and I think it’s so important to support companies that are doing work like that. That overshadowed any of my concerns. I speak to a lot of women who ask, ‘Is it possible to be a woman in technology and be happy and like your work and not be sexually harassed every day?’ And showing more images of the women who are working in tech and love it and are kicking ass and taking names is a really good thing.”
“I just don’t think that the photos are in any way demeaning or overly-sexualizing. I think every one of the shots is really beautiful and empowering,” she concludes.
Quiessence Phillips, an information security professional who heads up the development at Black Girls Code—which aims to increase the number of women of color in technology, says the work she does and the examples she sets in real life speaks for who she is.
“Taking a tasteful pictures in underwear which is the same as being in a bathing suit, to me, didn’t make a difference,” she says. “I thought it was showing a positive image. We’re showing that women in tech come in all shapes and sizes.”
Sarah Conley, a fashion blogger at Style IT who was featured in the campaign thinks it sends a positive message to women, and finds the controversy quite laughable.
“As a woman, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. I believe in this campaign. I believe in these women. And I believe that there needs to be serious conversation about size diversity without discrimination. And we’re talking about it, aren’t we? So this feels like a victory to me.”
Exactly! The fact that there is a serious discussion being had about the portrayal of women, and whether they are taken seriously in certain sectors is a great start. There are always going to be differing viewpoints, but the real challenge to feminism and the advancement of women is whether we can (amongst ourselves) learn to respect and accept these differences and support each other regardless of opinion.
Sheryl Sandberg has spoken about increasing the presence of females at Facebook and plenty of other tech companies in Silicon Valley are dedicated to diversity in their ranks in a bid to better reflect their users and customers. What Dear Kate is doing is allowing a different sort of customer base to recognize that the tech industry belongs to women also, and perhaps it will inspire their buyers in a way that a hiring initiative at a tech co. cannot.
We truly believe female empowerment hinges on support, and recognizing that differences don’t mean we need to isolate from one another. Well done to Julie Sygiel and all the women featured in the Ada Collection campaign who are willing to put themselves out there in the hope it will break down some more barriers and allow another dimension to be added to the general way a woman is portrayed in society and the media.
Here are more images from the campaign: