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10 November, 2017 12:35:18 PM

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Edie Campbell says fashion world complicit in abuse of models

British model writes open letter calling on industry to put end to emotional and sexual abuse of male and female colleagues
The Guardian
Edie Campbell says fashion world complicit in abuse of models

The British model Edie Campbell has accused the fashion industry of enabling the abuse of models by creating an environment of “toxic masculinity and patriarchy”.

In an open letter in the trade journal Women’s Wear Daily, Campbell highlights the abuse of male models in particular, suggesting that it is not being discussed in the media as it is a “more complex” issue.

“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’s letter is in response to the Instagram campaign to raise awareness of sexual exploitation of models started in October by the US model Cameron Russell. Several young women and men have used the platform to break their silence about abuse by photographers. 

Russell has been so overwhelmed by responses that she is sharing those experiences via the social media networks of big industry names, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Adwoa Aboah, Amber Valletta and Karen Elson.

Campbell, 27, who has modelled for Chanel, Burberry and Louis Vuitton, told the Guardian she hoped the campaign enabled more people to speak out. “We are listening and we will support you.”

Campbell said she was frustrated with how media coverage of the situation had almost stopped after Terry Richardson was dropped by several fashion brands when Condé Naste issued a company-wide decree to stop using the photographer over allegations of sexual misconduct.

“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.“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.” 

Campbell says she suspected the statistics are split evenly between male and female. “I would assume that it is more difficult for the victims to speak out: the language doesn’t exist, and the conversation is currently weighted heavily in support of young female victims. The shame felt is probably greater as there is a stigma involved. The abuse can be perceived as emasculating, and then there is the delicate subject of homophobia.”

In a 2016 Facebook post, the male model Cory Bond made a rare report of being sexually harassed: “Inside the modelling business, I have been the victim of inappropriate touching, sexual assault and was drugged once in the course of my 19-year career. I haven’t spoken much about it out of fear of not working and doing the job that I love. You just want it to go away. But trust me, some men in power think that they can do whatever they want to because of their powerful position. So I can believe the allegations against them even if they come years later. People should keep their hands to themselves.”

Campbell describes it as the “artist-genius” issue within the industry – saying that certain photographers have such star status bestowed upon them by magazine editors, art directors and advertising creatives that they are allowed to behave however they like. They and their assistants, agents and support teams turn a blind eye, perpetuating a system of “toxic masculinity and patriarchy”, she writes.

Campbell adds in her letter that in her 12 years as a model, since her first job working for Vogue with Mario Testino, she has never personally encountered sexual abuse. She acknowledges, however, that the industry has a serious problem.

“We operate within a culture that is too accepting of abuse, in all of its manifestations.”She says she hopes that ongoing dialogue and serious introspection will bring about change in the industry.

“There is a younger generation of creatives in the fashion industry that I think are more self-aware and do not aim to inspire fear and awe in those around them,” she says. “I think fashion has become a bit more real.”

Campbell calls for everyone in the industry to take responsibility. “If all agencies, casting directors, stylists took the same hardline approach against those that you know to be abusers, we might be closer to finding a solution. And to all the others: don’t stay silent. Your inaction is complicity.

“So far [the response has been] incredibly positive,” she said. “Many, many people are in agreement with the sentiment expressed and I hope that it will show that there is an audience, and a lot of goodwill towards those that speak out.”

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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