Friday, May 13, 2022

How does Calvin Klein do Mother's Day?

Calvin Klein marked Mother's Day in the US this year with an ad featuring a "pregnant trans man". As one news outlet reported:

The caption to the ad read: "“Today, in support of women and mothers around the world, we highlight the reality of new families”, the brand wrote in its description, along with a carousel of photos riddled with images of single mothers and interracial couples.

It's liberal modernity on steroids. We are to be "liberated" from the constraints of nature. A woman can become a man but still be pregnant, her husband can be a woman. Something as straightforward as Mother's Day becomes a statement about "men" being pregnant, or women not needing a husband.

Patrick Deneen, in his book Why Liberalism Failed, notes that traditional societies saw the human person as being part of a natural order:

Premodern political thought...understood the human creature as part of a comprehensive natural order. Humans were understood to have a telos, a fixed end, given by nature and unalterable. Human nature was continuous with the order of the natural world, and thus humanity was required to conform both it its own nature and, in a broader sense, to the natural order of which it was a part.

What a strand of liberal modernity asserts instead is that we are free when there is no given nature that might constrain our will to do or to be as we choose. If you follow this strand of modernity, then talking about "pregnant men" on Mother's Day will seem edgy in a positive "progressive" way, rather than denatured or disfigured.

Who is responsible for the ad? The current CEO appears to be a woman named Trish Donnelly. She says of herself:

My family is everything. My husband and I have been together for 25+ years and our two kids are in college. I’m a big Premier League fan, love swapping Spotify playlists with my kids

Trish Donnelly
You'll notice that she herself is relatively conservative compared to the norm defying role models pushed by the company she leads. She is in a position where she can safely advertise the dissolving of natural categories because she herself has a stable, supportive family life and because the upper classes are more likely to have the resources to prevent dysfunctional individuals from sliding down into a social underclass.

I'm not sure that the members of this class understand the real world effects of this kind of liberalism on more marginal people. A loss of stability in identity or family relationships can have devastating effects lower down the social scale. It doesn't look trendily edgy anymore. Nor is it usually a status game of "say one thing and do another". It becomes instead a real life question of whether individuals can still hold together.

1 comment:

  1. It's possible she is lying about how important her (traditionally conservative) lifestyle is to her, or, maybe, it signals that the HR department is more powerful than she is in certain aspects of running the company.