Behind the spotlight of the runway and flashes of cameras, sexual harassment and abuse run rampant in the entertainment industry. The recent rounds of accusations against director Harvey Weinstein from actresses and models has sparked movements beyond the parameters of Hollywood, extending across America to the heart of the modeling industry.
By the nature of their job, models tend to be more prone to be victims of sexual harassment. According to the Phillips and Associates, a law firm in New York, models start to model at a very young age and often do not have enough guidance regarding abuse in their workplace. Even with legal protection by the Civil Rights Act, according to the New York Times, because models often have contracts with agencies rather than direct contracts with their clients, much of the protection is limited.
“Sexual abuse is in a lot of the industries because there are people in power that take advantage of those who are not,” said Mr. Miller. “The issue here is not just one of the modeling industry but others as well. It is one that all societies needs to work on and solve.”
With the reveal of the Weinstein scandal, an increasing number of celebrities including a number of models and actresses shared their own experience of sexual abuse in social media. Models like Cameron Russell have opened up about the prevalence of workplace harassment in the fashion industry not just with Harvey Weinstein, promoting the use of the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse.
“Movements such as #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse and #MeToo are finally empowering victims of sexual abuse to speak up and shed light on the magnitude of the issue,” said Shelley Jeon (11), a HFH fashion show model. “The fact that these hashtags are even necessary in the first place abhors me, and I am constantly overwhelmed with the never-ending sexual harassment stories that pop up on my Facebook timeline. The appalling number of #MeToo statuses posted by my friends and their stories of being catcalled, followed, and attacked definitely opened my eyes to the prevalence of assault around the world. With this in mind, I cannot stress enough every individual’s responsibility to fight ignorance and mitigate assault in their own community.”
More efforts are being made to ameliorate the issue of sexual harassment, especially in workplaces. With more models and other celebrities participating in sharing their own experiences, a new legislation will be proposed in New York that protects the rights of women in all industries especially in the fashion industry regarding the issue of sexual harassment. Employers would be held accountable for abusive behavior by the staff, thereby enforcing a more clear and strict system of protection against abuse. With director Harvey Weinstein who used his status as the producer of “Project Runway” and the director of numerous films as a leeway to sexually harass models and actresses, the new legislation may prove to be a solution to the issue.
“It is a great thing that the models are able to get a legal protection,” Eugene said. “It is significant that a lot of people are able to open up about these sensitive issues. The major problem is whether these changes will actually be effective in the future.”
The revelation on the magnitude of the issue regarding sexual abuse created a domino effect of change and reform. According to The Guardian, models like Christy Turnlington Burns hope to reform the fashion industry further by giving more attention to the frequent harassment faced by models in the industry. Although many are hopeful of the positive changes that may be brought from the scandal, some questioned the actual effectiveness of future reforms not just in the modeling industry,but in the workplace as a whole.
“As an avid feminist and advocate for equal human rights, I think it’s totally right for women to be speaking of their rights, freedom, and notions of equality. There is no reason for men to be abusing women in the workplace for whatever reason. These movements support women who thought they were voiceless to stand up and speak for herself,” Yoon Lim (11) said. “However, I am worried for the backlashes that these movements may bring upon for the women in the workplaces. We cannot say that these movements are simple solutions to the complexities of sexism in workplaces. These are only the first step, and without more people joining in the movement, the voices that spoke up will only be left in void. And those lost voices will be targeted again within their corporates. I am excited for these movements, but it does not mean our task to fight sexism is completed. It’s only the start.”