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Adidas model who showed off hairy legs in ad while lecturing on femininity says ad prompted rape threats

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A model for Adidas reportedly got some heavy backlash and even rape threats after she appeared in an advertisement with unshaven legs.

Swedish model and artist Arvida Byström spoke out on social media about all the “nasty comments” she received after she was featured in a new campaign for Adidas Originals.

“Literally I’ve been getting rape threats in my DM inbox,” she wrote on Instagram.

The photo shoot from last month showed Byström wearing a short dress and displaying her legs, clearly covered with hair.

“I think femininity is usually created from our culture. I think everybody can do feminine things, can be feminine and I feel like in today’s society, we’re very scared of that,” she said in the video clip which has been viewed on YouTube over 1.4 million times.

Adidas described Byström as “an artist, photographer, model and cyber sensation,” and said she is “known for her photography, which questions femininity and gender standards using so-called ‘girly’ aesthetics.”

Despite supportive comments praising her creativity, the photo shoot also set off a barrage of negative reaction including, according to the model, threats of rape.

“My photo from the @adidasoriginals superstar campaign got a lot of nasty comments last week. Me being such an abled, white, cis body with its only nonconforming feature being a lil leg hair,” she wrote in the caption for an Instagram post Byström shared last  month.

“I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to not posses all these privileges and try to exist in the world. Sending love and try to remember that not everybody has the same experiences being a person. Also thanks for all the love, got a lot of that too,” she added.

Though she did not give details about the threats, the 26-year-old artist followed up with another Instagram post recently saying that “this thing have been blown a little bit out of proportion making it seem like I’m scared of being raped.”

I’ve been wanting to write something on this for awhile, and this whole adidas thing makes me feel it is pretty relevant to bring it up. I started calling myself a feminist back when I didn’t get big ad jobs and honestly didn’t imagine I would ever do. Also this was a time when feminism wasn’t really a topic of the public discussion in the same way as it is today. Back then I probably claimed I made or wanted to make feministic art, which is why this term seems to be tied to my professional life just due to some mistakes I made as a 20 year old. I am as a privat person a feminist but in relationship to my work I would say I’m not. Me being in an adidas campaign is great fun, it is a company I enjoy working with and that makes cool stuff, but since all companies are very integrated in our capitalistic system they are inherently non feministic in the sense that this system is built on imperialism and that to me can’t be feministic. So even though I have hairy legs in an ad campaign I guess to me it doesn’t make me a hero of any kind and also not more of a feminist. I do want to thank everybody for the kind support though. All of you who have been writing the past few days have been incredibly sweet and that truly warms my heart. I just think that this thing have been blown a little bit out of proportion making it seem like I’m scared of being raped. Basically it was some people in my inbox writing these things. Of course that’s unpleasant and I do think it is a problem that men use sexually violent language when women doesn’t abide, but I don’t actually think these people are gonna rape me. I mainly get concerned for the women that has to be around these men, because having that kind of abusive language coming from somebody that you know or are physically around you is very painful and damaging. Luv to you all and here is a lil animation I made for @ssense that I think is super cool and wish got as much attention as my leg hair.

A post shared by arvida byström (@arvidabystrom) on

“Basically it was some people in my inbox writing these things. Of course that’s unpleasant and I do think it is a problem that men use sexually violent language when women doesn’t abide, but I don’t actually think these people are gonna rape me,” she wrote. “I mainly get concerned for the women that has to be around these men, because having that kind of abusive language coming from somebody that you know or are physically around you is very painful and damaging.”

There were many who reacted to the photos with praise and support, calling Byström “unique and brave” as well as an “inspiration” and “role model.” But plenty of others left comments like “I’m attracted to girls not monkeys,” and “hairy legs = gross.”

A spokeswoman for Adidas defended the company’s decision to use Byström in their advertising.

“Adidas Originals is honored to work with creators like Arvida for their creativity, diversity and unique ideas,” she told HuffPost. “We lend the breadth and depth of our brand to give our collaborators a platform for positivity, discussion and change.”

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Frieda Powers

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