ESSAY: HOW MODELS ARE EXPOSING FASHION’S SEXUAL HARASSMENT PROBLEM

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Earlier this month, the Harvey Weinstein scandal saw a wave of high-profile actresses accusing the movie producer of sexual harassment and assault. This inspired the #MeToo campaign which led to women and men telling their stories of harassment across many industries.

And fashion was no exception. In the wake of the Weinstein controversy, model and activist Cameron Russell shared anonymous accounts from models dealing with harassment and abuse on and off set. Each retelling featured the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse.

And then, a bombshell as a leaked email from publishing company Condé Nast announced its decision to no longer work with photographer Terry Richardson. For years, accusations of sexual harassment have been leveled at the American lensman. In 2014, it appeared to come to a head when multiple models came forward with their stories, grabbing headlines. Richardson’s career took a hit, but his work started to pick up in recent years.

So what caused the sea change for the industry after years of rumors and allegations? It all starts with models bravely telling their stories.

Cameron Russell. Photo: InstagramCameron Russell. Photo: Instagram

CAMERON RUSSELL STARTS THE #MYJOBSHOULDNOTINCLUDEABUSE HASHTAG

For one, major names in modeling have begun to speak about a culture of harassment in fashion. For Russell, she took to her Instagram and shared numerous stories of abuse with blacked out names. The American model wrote about the recountings: “This was not an exposé because nothing in these stories should be a revelation for those working in our industry. Instead it was the beginning of a power shift. We are speaking to each other, we are speaking up, we are speaking to lawyers, and we are speaking to well resourced reporters.”

Russell concluded with: “We all know who the perpetrators are and we continue to work with them. STOP. Advertisers and magazines, stop hiring these people. Agencies, stop sending them talent. Stop today. Do not wait until lawyers get involved. Do the right thing because the wrong thing is horrific.”

Sara Sampaio. Photo: InstagramSara Sampaio. Photo: Instagram

MODELS DEMAND ACTION

Speaking to the New York Times, British model Edie Campbellalso talked about the abuses in the industry and reiterated Russell’s point. “The reality is that the floodgates are already open regarding Terry Richardson...The difficulty is addressing the other people — the ones who are celebrated by the fashion industry, and who are still at the very heart of it. This will not be solved simply by banning the use of one photographer.”

Sara Sampaio would also go on to share an experience on set at French men’s magazine Lui where she felt pressured to pose nude. The Victoria’s Secret Angel claims that she had a no nudity clause for the cover shoot. But during the shoot she felt intimated to model naked, and became upset when the offending images were published.

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