I BET when Pope Gregory XIII introduced his own calendar in 1582 he thought he was doing something really revolutionary.

He probably thought standardising the equinoxes and recalculating leap years and uniting all of Europe under one internationally recognised set of dates was really beneficial to society.

Little could he have known that only half a millennium later his achievement would be dwarfed by a far more revolutionary Italian calendar: the 2016 release by Pirelli, which this year features only two naked ladies. Yes, just two. Take that, you Gregorian sham job!

Don’t scoff; this calendar is changing the world! It’s empowering women! It’s furthering feminism!

I know this, because I’ve read about five million articles all saying so, each one of them accompanied by that photo of Amy Schumer sitting semi-naked on a stool looking vaguely hung-over.

For those of you unaware of this important cultural document, it’s a trade calendar published annually by Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli, and since 1963 has typically featured photographs of semi-naked supermodels which is, when you think about it, a logical way to sell car parts.

No one ever really minded that nude chicks were being used to sell tyres, because they were generally always wearing designer undies and shot in black and white by celebrated photographers like Herb Ritts and Mario Testino, so it was basically art.

But this year’s calendar includes just one model alongside music legends Patti Smith and Yoko Ono, writer Fran Lebowitz, publishing prodigy Tavi Gevinson, businesswoman Mellody Hobson, tennis ace Serena Williams and comedian Amy Schumer, to name a few.

Out of the 13 women shot by photographer Annie Leibovitz, Williams and Schumer are the only ones baring any flesh. And because we now live in a world fuelled by listicles and hot takes based on #feminism tweets, the world has erupted with joy over this groundbreaking development.

“This is the first time the attraction of the subjects is in their resum├ęs, not their measurements,” gushed the New York Times.

“If you want to look for signs of feminist change, you might as well check the Pirelli calendar,” sighed pop culture website Mic.com.

To summarise: a calendar advertising tyres that you can’t actually buy is changing the face of feminism because it features some successful women wearing clothes.

Before we go any further it should be pointed out that this isn’t actually the first time that the Pirelli calendar has featured women with their clothes on.

It’s also not the first time it’s done something “radical”.

Karl Lagerfeld’s 2011 calendar featured semi-naked men dressed up as Greek gods, including one wearing nothing but what could generously be described as a golden condom.

It is perhaps a praiseworthy new direction to eschew models in favour of women from business, sport and the arts, as Leibovitz has done this year.

Ironically, though, it’s still Williams’ naked, rippling muscles and Schumer’s naked, rippling tummy rolls that have gotten the most press coverage.

There have been more inches written this week about how Schumer’s “real” body is “empowering” women than there are actual inches around her widely celebrated belly.

So even while praising the Pirelli calendar for taking a bold new “feminist” stance and celebrating women for their achievements rather than their arses, ultimately it seems we’re still most interested in what’s under their clothes. And let’s not forget, all of this is to sell tyres.

It’s a nice collection of photos but spare me the faux feminist cheering. If you’re looking to a calendar to change society you’ll be waiting a long time. Maybe another half a millennium.


First published in The Advertiser, December 10, 2015. CLICK HERE to read the original article.