Culture shift

2016 Pirelli Calendar features role models instead of supermodels

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(L-R) Serena Williams, Amy Schumer, Patti Smith, and Tavi Gevinson will all be featured in the 2016 Pirelli Calendar. (All photos: Getty Images)

While the Pirelli calendar is usually known for its artsy photographs of seductive, semi-nude supermodels in tropical settings, the Italian tire manufacturer decided to try a new approach for its 2016 edition. The exclusive calendar — not for sale, but distributed to 20,000 VIPs — was shot entirely by legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz and features women who were picked for their achievements rather than their looks.

Among the 12 role models are 65-year old author Fran Lebowitz, Iranian artist Shirin Neshat and “millennial media maven and actress” Tavi Gevinson — all fully clothed. A few women did take their clothes off, but not in traditional Pirelli fashion: Serena Williams is seen topless, with her back to the camera and the focus on her shiny muscles, while Amy Schumer is seated casually on a chair in lingerie and high heels, with stomach rolls on display. The New York Times sees the new direction for the calendar as part of — or cashing in on — a broader cultural shift when it comes to the public objectification of female sexuality. Jennifer Zimmerman, global chief strategy officer of the McGarryBowen advertising agency, sees it as part of a “very macro trend”: the rise of the “shero,” or female hero. “We are in the midst of a perfect storm of cultural icons and politics and Hollywood,” she told The New York Times. “Between the first credible woman presidential candidate, all the powerful female characters on television from Supergirl to Madam Secretary to Scandal, the pressure for parity in pay, it is impossible to ignore the empowerment of women. Besides, who uses a calendar anymore? It has to stand for something else.”

Read the full story and see some of the photos at The New York Times, and watch a video about the making of the calendar at Pirelli.

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