SALT LAKE CITY — A pair of Utah women dedicated to pushing back against the objectification of women say Carl's Jr. has gone too far with its long-running line of TV ads featuring women in bikinis eating the company's burgers in seductive poses.
Twin sisters Lexie and Lindsay Kite, co-founders of "Beauty Redefined," have launched a social media campaign calling on people to boycott Carl's Jr. for ads they say exemplify what's wrong with how women are portrayed in popular culture.
"They are just pushing the boundaries, and they are doing it blatantly," said Lexie Kite, 28. "They are only getting more and more sexually objectifying. We know as well as anybody how much harm this does to men, to boys, to girls, to women, to relationships. It's time to speak up."
They are asking people to boycott Carl's Jr., promoting the campaign on social media using the hash tags, "#CutTheCarls" and "#MoreThanMeat."
The women aren't the first to cry foul about the Carl's Jr. ads. For years, the television watchdog organization Parents Television Council has been criticizing the restaurant chain's parent company, CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc., for using sleazy and exploitative marketing tactics in an attempt to win over young men.
CKE said in an emailed statement that the ads, which started in 2005 with a spot featuring Paris Hilton, are aimed to catch the attention of young, hungry men, and not children.
"The women in our award-winning ads are intelligent, talented and beautiful professional actresses and models. We have only the greatest respect for women and their contributions to society at all levels in business, at home and in the community," the company wrote.
The Carpinteria, California, company, which also uses the ads to market its Hardee's fast-food chain, previously defended the ads in a 2011 news release, saying, "We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don't sell burgers."
The ads have featured several well-known models and actresses, including Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Heidi Klum. It's an approach that goes over just fine for some people.
"I don't see anything offensive with it," Darius Herron of Salt Lake City told KUTV. "It's beautiful people eating beautiful food."
Lexie and Lindsay Kite, who both have doctorates in the study of media and body image from the University of Utah, said these types of ads teach boys and girls that women are no more than objects and lead to eating disorders for girls, among other problems.
The twins are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but run their nonprofit, formally established in 2011, as a secular organization. They don't talk about their faith in their speaking engagements around the country, and Lexie Kite said their message is important to people of all faiths.
"This isn't women that are just jealous of beautiful women. This isn't women that are worried that their husbands are going to see things," Lexie Kite said. "This is honestly a public health crisis."
They monitor how women are represented in media and have previously targeted Sports Illustrated for its swimsuit edition, and L Brands Inc.'s Victoria's Secret for its images of women.
"We know we are not going to take Carl's Jr. down, and that is fine by me," Lexie Kite said. "This about people being able to use their voices to stand up for something that is really harmful."