The Pirelli Calendar – aka, “The Cal” – is an institution. Packed full of pouts, arched backs and tousled hair, it's become known for its hypersexual visions of the world's most beautiful women. It's also highly influential, with the brand spending over 50 years shaping modern beauty ideals – despite being entirely free of any feminine perspective.
Andrea Mary Marshall's latest project, “The Feminist Calendar”, addresses this problem. In a bid to shift Pirelli's eroticism away from the exclusively male gaze, the photographer has created her very own version. Using two contrasting images for each month – one strikingly sexual, the other more demure – she highlights the complexities of being a woman. “My intent was to reflect a more 3-dimensional view of femininity,” she explains. “I am constantly aware of the way females are depicted in the mainstream media and pop culture... On the one hand, I think that women’s bodies should be celebrated. But I don’t think it should be the only thing that is celebrated about women.”
There are 24 images in total, each shot by Marshall herself. While the more explicit images share many similarities with the original Pirelli calendar, the others feel much more vulnerable and raw. It's two sides of womenhood that are rarely seen together – though both are accurate. “Generally, I feel close to both sides,” Marshall says. “Some days, however, I feel closer to one side – or one image – than others. But that was part of my objective in creating the project – exploring the fluidity of being a woman.”
Since Marshall began the project, Pirelli has made headlines for having a major image overhaul – scrapping the sexualised models for fully-clothed “influential” types. While in many ways a step forward for feminism, a cynic may dismiss it as a PR ploy. Does Marshall think the move is a positive one? “I think the message is still the same; sexy women take their clothes off and influential women keep their clothes on,” she concludes. “My view is more nuanced: it doesn’t have to be an ‘either/or’ decision. For me, being a woman is a much less binary experience.”
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