Calvin Klein’s IG post featuring pregnant transgender star stirs up online chatter

Calvin Klein has sparked online chatter among netizens over its Instagram post for Mother’s Day when it featured Brazilian female-to-male transgender reality TV star Roberto Bete and his partner Erika Fernandes. Bete and Fernandes were one of the three families showcased in the post which aimed to spotlight “the realities of new families”.

According to the post, Bete was pregnant with the couple’s son and was expecting him soon. In one of the pictures featuring the couple, the caption said, “We can reproduce biologically or from the heart…our place is to love and be loved.” A quick check by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE showed that the post is currently only available on Calvin Klein’s Instagram channel.

While there were small bouts of praise and support for the brand, the comments on the post were largely critical, with calls for a boycott of Calvin Klein. Several users commented that they will no longer be using the brand, or are tossing their Calvin Klein products. One user said he will be “going out of [his] way to never purchase anything to do with [the] company ever again”, while another commented: “It’s a good thing I don’t own anything Calvin Klein.”

Meanwhile, on Twitter, a user shared the image of Bete and Fernandes and said: “Time to ditch you, Calvin Klein.” Another user said that they will no longer be spending their money on the “‘woke company”.

At the same time, an Instagram user also questioned the true intentions of Calvin Klein, among other brands. The user said: “Does the LGBTQ community enjoy being a marketing tool to attempt to make corporations richer, when ordinary folk just aren’t interested in this and will stop buying their products? I doubt they will be publishing this advert in the Middle East.”

Nonetheless, as one Instagram user pointed out, Calvin Klein’s efforts towards diversity and inclusivity should not come as a surprise to anyone as Calvin Klein himself is ambisexual, and a check by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE found that, according to the book Obsession: The Lives and Times of Calvin Klein, Klein is claimed to be ambisexual.

This is not the first time Calvin Klein has received such feedback. In May 2019, the brand apologised for “queerbaiting” after its campaign video featuring model Bella Hadid kissing popular digital art persona on Instagram, Lil Miquela, offended the LGTBQ+ community. Users called out the video, which garnered more than 160,000 views in less than a week, for exploiting homosexuality to sell products. In a statement posted on Twitter, a spokesperson said then that the company “understands and acknowledges how featuring someone who identifies as heterosexual in a same-sex kiss could be perceived as queerbaiting”.

However, it previously explained that the concept is part of its #MYCALVINS campaign to promote freedom of expression for a wide range of identities, including a spectrum of gender and sexual identities. The statement also clarified that the campaign was challenging conventional norms and stereotypes in advertising, and exploring the blurred lines between reality and imagination. In the video, Hadid kissed Miquela, a 19-year-old robot.

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