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Edie Campbell On The Fashion Industry's Sexual Assault Problem

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 2 years ago | News

Image: British model Edie Campbell. Image source

Edie Campbell is one of Britain’s best-known models and a vocal advocate for raising awareness around the harassment of models. But Campbell is adamant that the fashion industry’s recent rejection of photographer Terry Richardson – who has been accused of sexually abusing scores of models – is far from the end of the story. Because it is not just Terry Richardson that is to blame here, nor is it only female victims that are affected. In an open letter published by WWD, Campbell argues that there is still much work to be done.

“We have a problem: We operate within a culture that is too accepting of abuse, in all of its manifestations. This can be the ritual humiliation of models, belittling of assistants, power plays and screaming fits. We have come to see this as simply a part of the job,” Campbell writes. And although she says that she has not personally suffered abuse on the job, she believes it is imperative that we stop turning a blind eye. In particular, Campbell says that we need to recognise how much bigger and more institutional this problem is than just one man.

“Media coverage has been frustratingly limited to Richardson,” Campbell reiterates. “Broadsheet newspapers write clickbait articles that avoid the more nuanced and complex truth, which is this: The models that shared their stories with Cameron were not all talking about the same photographer. And more than this: many of them were male models. There has been scant mention of the sexual abuse suffered by male models in the mainstream media, despite the fact that many men bravely told their stories through Cameron’s Instagram.”

A big part of the problem, in Campbell’s opinion, is the blurry line between the personal and the professional throughout fashion. “Work, to me, does not look like work,” she explains. “I undress in front of the people I work with, I travel with these people, I get drunk with them… when an industry becomes as informal as this, it becomes harder to define what is appropriate behaviour for the workplace.” In addition to this, though, fashion applauds diva behaviour, alongside ‘easygoing’ willingness to be up for anything. And, perhaps most dangerously, fashion continues to revolve around the artist-genius.

“As an artist-genius, you are allowed to behave in any way you see fit, and you inspire total fear and devotion from your followers. If you are creative, and if your work is good, you will be forgiven anything. You are given carte blanche to express that creativity, whatever your means of expression may be.” So where do we go from here, then? Well Campbell suggests a period of introspection and self-examination, followed by some very necessary conversation. Responsibility for these injustices needs to be collective, in other words. And right now “is a moment for us all to examine the behaviour we have normalised.”



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