A woman is standing up. Her hands are firmly planted on her hips. She’s carrying a Kenneth Cole handbag contemplating her latest purchase. Or at least that's what it looks like in one of the urban, chic billboard-style advertisements from Kenneth Cole’s latest campaign, “Where do you Stand?”
However, the woman pictured is not deciding what color or size suits her shopping needs. She’s deciding where she stands on abortion. Or at least that's what Kenneth Cole seems to be alluding to. The ad’s copy asks, “Should it be a woman’s right to choose if she’s the one carrying it?”
The ad promotes the website “Where Do You Stand.” Visiting the site, users choose from an interactive split screen. One option is labeled “what you stand in” (referring to clothes) and the other is “what you stand for” (referring to the campaign’s four main discussion points: marriage, equality, abortion and war).
"Over the years I've used my brand platform to raise awareness about vital social issues to remind people that it's not just what they look like on the outside, but who they are on the inside; and not just what they stand in, but what they stand for," says Kenneth Cole. "When I first started out, the means of communicating we have today didn't exist. So in this new age of social media, I wanted to use this campaign to re-energize a debate with customers and like minded individuals around certain provocative, and at the same time, defining social issues."
A button that says “pro-choice” brings users to the question: “Does the government have the right to choose?”
That complex decision later turns out to be which handbag to purchase, not an abortion.
The blurred line between shopping and political discourse has caused commentators to wonder what handbags have to do with abortion. Pro-life advocate Eric Scheidler of the Pro Life Action League told Fox News the campaign makes the serious issue of abortion seem insignificant.
Christian leader and former labor and delivery nurse Jill Stanek told The Christian Post, “It’s interesting that men are only told to shut up about abortion when they’re pro-life. But here we have a male fashion designer I expect even pro-choice women would like to shut up.
“Kenneth Cole is out of touch and behind the times. Even abortion proponents these days freely acknowledge abortion is a difficult choice, certainly meriting more consideration than choosing a handbag, no matter what the snooty label or ridiculous price. Here’s to Cole’s campaign falling flat, resulting in purchases of his label being safe and legal but rare.”
However, pro-choice advocate and Feministsforchoice.com blogger Sarah Erdeich does not believe the ad trivializes the issue but rather encourages free thought. She says, “We live in a society that shies away from talking about abortion in movies and on television; we have numerous politicians that are eager to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.
“If Kenneth Cole can help normalize discussions about abortion rights and their precarious place in our society, then I’m all for it.”
But the only thing the woman pictured carrying is a purse. What she’ll do when she’s carrying a human life isn’t as clear, but Kenneth Cole is asking anyway.