HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN
Updated: May 6
One spark is enough to start a fire.
Yes it is indeed. One explosive report and the chain reaction was strong enough to bring up a real important issue. Sexual harassment in the workplace isn't a new topic, sadly. But the longtime silence about the existence of that practice within the entertainment and fashion industry, is even sadder.
THE WEINSTEIN BOMBSHELL
Harvey Weinstein's creepy behaviour and "casting couch" practice has been going on for years. It is an 'open secret', that he tends to use his Hollywood power by promising aspiring actresses a bigger platform for their career, with an exchange of sexual favours. Those who refused him might have to work out different path to their acting success, and some even got blacklisted. No one was really able to publicly speak about it, until New York Times recently exposed the allegations, followed by an exposé by NBC correspondent Ronan Farrow, exposing allegations that Weinstein has sexually assaulted 13 women. Ever since, He got nowhere to hide.
Consequently, he got sacked from his own company and that seems like a long fall down from the top of the pyramid where he was. Before The Weinstein Company, Harvey founded Miramax; the movie production and distribution company that was behind some of the most iconic movies we know in our generation such as Sheakespeare in Love, Pulp Fiction, and Chicago. As we all know, many of these films have earned the most prestigious awards such as the Oscars. Actor and actresses who played in these movies, too, have had equal success.
[Harvey Weinstein and Georgina Chapman /Jordan Strauss/ Invision/ AP]
Up to this day, over 30 women have spoken out against him. As if it wasn't bad enough, some of these women are high profile names such as Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and even Cara Delevigne. They claimed quite a range of unconsented predatory actions Harvey has allegedly made towards them; from unwanted sexual advances, groping, spanking, forcing, and all the way to rape. The list goes on and on and you are very much welcome to see Teen Vogue's detailed list of each allegation.
Married to British designer Georgina Champan, the co-founder of Marchesa, it was then revealed that actresses who starred in his films were obliged to wear Marchesa on the red carpet. (Oh, these actresses really were giving us so much tea!). But that's a practice that i wouldn't be mad at, If i were Georgina sure as heck i would ask my husband to use his power to help publicize my brand!
However, even Georgina can't stand the heat and finally left the kitchen. And by kitchen I mean her husband. Probably a decision for the sake of maintaining her integrity and her brand's. Especially that Marchesa's name was already tainted by Weinstein's scandal, as collaborators reportedly cancelled. No bueno.
Another name that was thrown into the fire was Donna Karan, who just learned a lesson to shut the eff up, after making a comment that some women might have "asked for it" by the way they dress. She then had to do a major PR damage control to apologize and clear her name, as people are throwing shit at her.
At this point, it might be better for everyone to dissassociate themselves from the man.
Among celebs who speak up to condemn Harvey, some actually admitted that they've known for years about it and regret for not speaking up sooner, like Quentin Tarantino. Now you wonder why Harvey Weinstein got away with it for such a long time?
[Sandra Bullock won an Oscar in 2014 in Marchesa /WENN]
As i previously said, this kind of scandal is nothing new in Hollywood (Bill Cosby, what's good?). But this time, this case have raised a conversation about serious issues like sexual harrassment and boundaries of sexual consent.
The conversation becomes louder with two powerful words:"Me Too".
Actress Alyssa Milano took her social media to call out Harvey Weinstein, and invited anyone who ever feel victimized by a form of sexual harrassment to put #metoo in order to give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.
Although it is not a movement originally pioneered by Alyssa, it is clearly relevant to re-energize it following the Weinstein scandal. The movement has gone viral across the globe with over 60,000 women and men replying to Alyssa's tweet with their personal stories.
In France, the hashtag is even more savage. The #balancetonporc (squeal on your pig) movement basically excouraged people to publicly shame their attackers. I guess the French choose to call them as they are, pigs.
THE VERY FASHIONABLE PROBLEM
The scandal finally sparked a conversation in another industry that is fashion. Parallel to the entertainment industry, fashion is a place where success is most likely the result of one's talent's great exposure. A sad reality that allows certain people to take advantage of those who desperately needs that 'exposure' to make it in the business.
As exposed by model Cameron Russell, who always been an advocate for beauty beyond looks and body positivity. Cameron started posting stories sent from various model friends on her Instagram account, with a hashtag #myjobshouldnotincludeabuse. The wrenching stories that kept on coming just shows the fucked up thing about the industry; where alot of well-known photographers take advantage of young models who were just starting out.
Seeing all these movements unroll before our eyes, triggered one name to resurfaced: Terry Richardson.
We all recognize his work, and his work has been very controversial for years. Mostly because sometimes it explicitly features women in a sexual activity with the photographer (Terry) himself. Many allegations have been made against him for years by models. And what happened to him? Pretty much nothing. Bear in mind these allegations were about a man who explicitly mention in an interview about making it in modelling: "it's not about who you know, it's about who you blow. I don't have a hole on my jeans for nothing"
Yet his career skyrocketed, and his work becomes even more mainstream. Being featured in the biggest publications out there, shooting major celebrities from Beyonce to Barack Obama. He also shot campaigns for Valentino and Bulgari, among a few.
[Carla Bruni for Bulgari. Shot by Terry Richardson]
If we want to call a spade a spade, then yes, the fashion industry has been complicit with Terry's predatory actions. Until recently.
Following the whole Weinstein scandal, a lawmaker in New York pushed a legislation to protect models. In France, lawmakers also pushed for tougher new laws for sexual harrassments and assaults.
Corporations are also getting pressured by the public to do something. Conde Nast International finally banned Terry Richardson's work in all of its titles. That means no Vogue, no GQ, no Vanity Fair, and no other Conde Nast titles gig for Mr. Richardson anymore. Following the ban, fashion houses that have worked with him like Valentino also issued a statement that they don't plan to work again with him.
Seems like everything starts looking up. But it is quite disturbing to know that it takes so many victims for the industry to finally wake up.
[Up: Miley Cyrus shot by Terry Richardson for Candy Magazine.
Bottom: Lindsay Lohan and Terry Richardson himself for Purple Magazine]
Harvey Weinstein and Terry Richardson aren't the only two names being acused of such actions.
One by one people in various industries start to speak up about their experiences, throwing more names into the pit; A political reporter, members of the British government, even a dead legendary fashion designer were claimed to have sexually harassed someone. Keep in mind also that there are still powerful people in the industry whose career flourished while maintaining their predatory behavior (yes, Bryan Singer, how are you and your underage boys?)
I personally viewed these scandals to underline a bigger issue that made a huge part in the scandal; the abuse of power. Power is the key being used to intimidate, giving the victims "no choice". Those who were victimized or would have been victimized, were forced to stay silent, overpowered by a bigger institution.
This reminds me of one of my friends' experience. A fashion designer in Paris who was looking for a job to design for fashion houses. He was ecstatic when the creative director of an established European brand contacted him personally, telling his interest into hiring him. Later on, my friend was very devastated when he (the creative director) got all creepy and invited him over for "a one-on-one interview" at his studio late at night, followed by inappropriate texts, dick pics, and even videos. My friend eventually declined, and he never got that job.
Perhaps this is the problem in an industry where, in some circumstances, people need to kiss ass in order to get to the top. There are some who love to use their power to get their asses kissed, unfortunately quite literally, plus some more.
It may seem like it's 'hot' today to out others who are guilty of sexual harassments. But hopefully this conversation will continue and force us to watch closely those in powerful positions, and eventually give zero tolerance to those who abuse it.
We also need to encourage the newbies who are starting out in whatever industry they are in, to never normalize inappropriate demands or behavior. Keeping in mind that the power of speaking out can also help to prevent others to be future victims.
Let the answer to the question "Who the hell should i fuck to be successful?" be "no one".
In the end, every talent deserves a chance, no one should be intimidated by a powerful person and no job should include abuse.
One spark may have started a fire. But if the flame could burn every particle of bad intentions, then let it burn.