Complicit: The Fashion Industry and the ‘Me Too’ Movement

Picture1The implosion of the empire built by film mogul Harvey Weinstein over the past six months due to sexual misconduct has caused a shakeup of Hollywood with ripple effects being seen in other industries as well. #metoo has become a trending topic on social media as more and more people speak out about their experiences with sexual abuse by the rich and famous. Over and over, the world has seen powerful members of the entertainment industry ostracized and in some cases charged with crimes. The fashion world is not immune to the public scrutiny either.

Last week, fashion model Kate Upton accused Guess CEO Paul Marciano of abusing his power and sexually harassing women. Mario Testino and Bruce Weber, both longtime photographers for popular publications including Vogue, have been ousted from the industry following allegations of misconduct from models and assistants. For years, there have been rumors of harassment and abuse against models and workers in fashion. The question now is, why has it taken so long for anything to come from these accusations? There have been personal accounts of inappropriate conduct experienced while working with fashion photographer Terry Richardson for over fifteen years, yet it wasn’t until October of last year that there were any repercussions. It seems that the glamour of the runway shows and the glitter of the gowns has masked an ugly culture beneath the surface.

As we’ve seen with Weinstein’s alleged blacklisting of female celebrities, speaking up is dangerous for victims and a threat to their livelihood. Young models like Kate Upton have had to smile in pictures with their abusers to avoid losing their jobs. The only positive aspect of these stories is that they are finally being publicized and taken seriously. However, it seems impossible that no one working with the accused could have not heard the rumblings of displeasure. The history of fashion is littered with violations of trust and power, but nothing has come of it until now. There is no doubt that the behavior of those accused was wrong, and yet no one seemed to be aware that it was happened at the time. This surely cannot be true. The Me Too movement has given a voice to victims, but has also amplified the silence of so many people who knowingly swept inappropriate actions under the rug.

Isabel Quattlebaum

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