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The #MeToo Movement in the Fashion Industry

We can't just ignore it.

The fashion industry is undergoing a massive change. The #MeToo Movement is ravaging the industry similarly to how it did within Hollywood. However, you may not know that since these allegations are hardly receiving any coverage.

Around the same time Harvey Weinstein’s horrendous actions were becoming known, models found courage to also voice their abuse. These men and women ranged from the well known such as Coco Rocha to lesser known badasses in the industry like stylists and interns that help keep the show on the road.

The biggest take down seems to be that of Terry Richardson. The former photographer has been accused of sexual harassment as far back as 2001. It wasn’t until 2017 that Condé Nast banned him from working with any of their publications.

Then in 2018 many male models came forward accusing both Mario Testino and Bruce Weber of sexual exploitation on set. Since then, many more models have come forward to name their abusers.

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Five male models have come forward to claim that photographer #BruceWeber exploited or sexually assaulted them, according to a new lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in New York. The lawsuit comes after 15 models spoke with the #NewYorkTimes about Weber’s alleged sexual misconduct. Lawyers for the models describe Mr. Weber’s actions as sex trafficking, after a judge in a lawsuit alleging sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein ruled that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act could apply to “casting couch” scenarios. “That law has a ten year statute of limitations,” said attorney Lisa Bloom. “So it opens the door for additional victims to step forward and seek justice.” | Read the full story via @nytimes in the link in our stories.

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Just like an actor or actress, models are in a vulnerable situation. If they experience harassment they typically keep quiet for fear of being seen as difficult. They’d rather work through it and brush it off instead of completely lose work. Unfortunately, a lot of this behavior has been happening for decades.

Model Sara Ziff, and founder of Model Alliance, discussed in an interview with Vogue that until changing rooms were reformed backstage, she’d often catch photographers taking photos of her while she was getting undressed. Without her consent.

This type of environment can make anyone feel less important and hardly human. They believed that the industry or those working close with them didn’t care or wouldn’t believe what was happening to them.

The number of victims is alarming. Just from what we know, there’s about twelve men accusing Testino of sexual assault while 15 have come forward with allegations against Weber and five of those men have filed a lawsuit against him. Not to mention all the other photographers currently being accused and those who haven’t come forward yet.

How can this many people all be experiencing the same abuse and it go unreported?

Fashion has always been about power and provocation. Anyone who creates out of the norm, racy, and provocative work sits at the top of the hierarchy wielding all the power. As a result anyone else is seen as less important.  These people with power are ultimately seen as more believable simply because their name is widely recognized.

This leaves models in a less than fair situation. Many models remain unknown to the masses despite working their asses off show after show. It’s their word against the word of some big ‘important’ photographer or anyone else in the industry.

High Fashion is a breeding ground for this type of behavior and it’s time for the complicity to stop. No one should have to go to work scared that their boss or coworker will force themselves onto them.

Amongst all the darkness, there are organizations working to do good and support victims. Model Alliance is advocating policy change and, as of recently, helping models get in touch with lawyers. They also maintain an instagram page that frequently updates followers on new victims who have come forward with their story.

No one’s story is more important than someone else’s. All the men and women in whatever industry experiencing sexual harassment or worse deserve representation. The #MeToo Movement shouldn’t be synonymous with just what happened in Hollywood.

Tarana Burke started the movement back in 2006 to help empower women. Early on, it attracted many young women of color. It took 9 years to get to Hollywood, yet that’s all we think about when we hear #MeToo.

We need to support and respect every man and women who has used the empowerment and support of the #MeToo Movement to tell their story. Doing so lets them and other victims know that their voice is being heard and believed no matter how ‘unknown’ they may be.

Cover image courtesy of Dionne Kinghorn on Pinterest.

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Also published on Medium.

Davyn is a journalism student at Arizona State University. During her free...