“I #flash in my Calvins,” reads a Calvin Klein ad campaign from the spring of 2016. An airy-hued photo taken by photographer Harley Weir depicts – for fashion purposes, of course – actress Klara Kristin in a less-than-ordinary way. The image was captured from an angle that places the viewer’s focus almost exclusively up Kristin’s skirt. In other words, the ad campaign – which was splashed around social media and plastered on the sides of buildings and walls in many cities as part of a global marketing effort – consists of an “upskirt” shot.
Calvin Klein’s highly buzzed-about campaign quickly erupted in controversy. Social media users slammed it as “misogynistic” and “a disappointing objectification of the female body once again.” Others pointed out that while the image at issue may have been taken exclusively for an ad campaign, no small number of upskirt shots, are taken for exploitative purposes without the permission of the subject.
Kendall Jenner, for instance, made headlines when she spoke out several years ago after a “perv” photographer captured an upskirt photo of her at a fashion event in 2014, and then attempted to license the image to celebrity gossip websites. Several years later in the United Kingdom, another woman shared her own story about how she was “upskirted at a music festival” without her consent.
Gina Martin says that she was at the British Summer Time Music Festival in London’s Hyde Park “when a man put his phone between her legs and took pictures.” Speaking to the BBC, Martin says, “I decided I wasn’t going to brush it off. I was tired of ‘ignoring it.’” Martin, now 26, was shocked to learn – after filing a report with the police in London, only to have the case prematurely closed – that upskirting was not classified as a criminal offense in accordance with English and Welsh laws.
So, the young journalist set out to try to have the amended. “I wanted to change this for everyone, because the least we deserve is to be able to wear what we want without non-consensual photos being taken of us.”
Thanks to a Facebook post-gone-viral, an online petition that steadily racked up signatures, and a widely-read feature by the BBC, Martin attracted allies in the legal field and the attention of members of British Parliament. Liberal Democrat Wera Hothouse, in particular, was compelled to come to Martin’s aid, and introduced a amendment to the nation’s criminal law to parliament last year by way of a private member’s bill. In connection with the bill, MP Hothouse asserted that “there was a gap in the law that needed to be addressed” and recommended the classification of upskirting as a criminal offense.
With an endorsement from British Prime Minister Theresa May, who called upskirting a “hideous invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed,” that bill, having passed through the House of Lords (i.e., the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom), is slated to be enacted into law this month.
Once formally enacted into law, the legislation will make upskirting a criminal offense in England and Wales, punishable by up to two years in jail.
As for Ms. Martin, she says the new development is a demonstration of “politics and society at its best.”