After 50 years, a controversial calendar surprised the world in a wonderful way.

"I felt I looked more beautiful than I've ever felt in my life," Amy Schumer says about the Pirelli calendar.

Progress is usually measured in calendar years, not calendars themselves. But this may be an exception.

For more than 50 years, Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli has released an annual calendar. Typically filled with pictures of models posing provocatively in various states of undress, the almost always NSFW calendar was the very epitome of the adage "sex sells."

For the 2016 calendar, they decided to try something a little different.


All GIFs from Harper's Bazaar/YouTube.

The 2016 Pirelli calendar features women ranging in age from 19 to 82, and only one of them is a professional model.

This is a marked difference from calendars in past years that featured the likes of Adriana Lima, Kate Moss, Karlie Kloss, Miranda Kerr, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

But the 2016 calendar lineup — shot by Annie Leibovitz — features writer and editor Tavi Gevinson, tennis champion Serena Williams, artist Yoko Ono, author Fran Lebowitz, rock legend Patti Smith, famed producer Kathleen Kennedy, businesswoman Mellody Hobson, director Ava DuVernay, philanthropist Agnes Gund, visual artist Shirin Neshat, model (and Pirelli calendar alum) Natalia Vodianova, and comedian Amy Schumer.


The calendar embraces the fact that women come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. It's a feminist statement.

And that seems to be a sentiment shared by many of the calendar's stars. For example, here's DuVernay, the history-making director of "Selma," on what the calendar's shift means to her.

Neshat echoes those feelings with her own statement. What's interesting, however — and what might actually be the biggest sign that yes, this is a step in the right direction despite there being so much more progress to be made — is how simple these goals seem.

Honoring women based on accomplishment and not solely on youth or appearance shouldn't have to be a statement in and of itself — but it is.

There's no real "shock value" in overt, hyper-sexualized pictorials anymore.

"A white, able-bodied cisgendered woman being naked is just not revolutionary anymore," Rookie Magazine founder and editor-in-chief Tavi Gevinson tells the New York Times. "I don't think anyone is going to be like, 'Damn, I wanted those naked chicks.'"

There is no shortage of "naked chicks" in magazines or online. But places that used to use sexualized nudity to draw attention — such as Playboy, which has announced a sunset of the magazine's famous nude photo spreads, and the rebranding efforts of magazines like Maxim — are finding there can be more success in simply taking things from a more real (and less airbrushed) angle.

The 2016 Pirelli calendar promotes self-love and finding your own definition of beauty.

No, it's not "Real women have curves" or Meghan Trainor lyrics about how awful "skinny bitches" are. Those cases simply trade in one pain point for another. We can do better.

Amy Schumer tweeted her picture from the calendar — in which she's wearing nearly nothing — along with a perfect rundown of the contradictions women (and all people, really) are forced to navigate on a daily basis.

But during a behind-the-scenes interview, she really summed up what makes Pirelli's 2016 calendar so great: She can see herself in it. Literally.

And while unlike Schumer, you and I may not actually see ourselves in the pages, maybe we can catch glimpses of ourselves a little bit here or a little bit there in the calendar's pages — the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly — more so than ever before.

2015 saw some great progress for women around the world, and this is a great way to keep up that momentum in the new year. What better way to start 2016 than with some love and acceptance?

Learn more about the making of Pirelli's calendar in this video from Harper's Bazaar.

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