On Monday, October 23, Condé Nast International’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, James Woolhouse, sent an email to the company’s many leaders informing them that Condé Nast would no longer be working with the photographer, Terry Richardson. Woolhouse ordered that there be no new content created with Richardson and that already existing content created with Richardson that had not yet been published remain unused.
This was the company’s response to the fashion industry’s very own Harvey Weinstein situation. Richardson, who has been accused of sexual assault against various models in the industry claims that because his work is known to be “sexually explicit,” his professional encounters with women are sexually explicit by nature, but always “consensual.”
Whether Richardson is delusional enough to actually believe that or he’s just trying to spin the story (I’d bet on the latter), it’s easy to see how innate misogyny may have blurred the lines and led to an explicit photoshoot becoming a scene for sexual assault. Living in a white male dominated society gives a white male, such as Richardson, a sense of entitlement and either a bad gauge or little regard for other’s reactions to his actions.
And while the story of Terry Richardson and his victims is a sad one, it opens the door to another interesting and sad topic: misogyny in the fashion industry. Fashion is one of the few female-dominated industries, after all. The majority of the power players are women, women are the main focus and “men’s” or “male” anything tends to be a subcategory or a smaller piece of the picture.
So how is it that misogyny is so ingrained into our society that it found its place in an industry dominated by women? How is it that so much of fashion isn’t about feeling beautiful, but looking beautiful in the eyes of men. How is it that someone like Terry Richardson, who I’m sure is just one of many, was able to become a mainstay in fashion while brutalizing women?
What’s even sadder is that even the conversation caused by this scandal is insufficient. People aren’t talking about Richardson being a sexual predator, people are talking about Condé Nast blackballing him. Furthermore, this exile is a bit late. Stories of Richardson’s misconduct have swirled for years. So much so that he even wrote about it (yes, they let him write the story himself) for “The Huffington Post” in 2014.
As formor i-D editor, Caryn Franklin, told Britan’s “Sunday Times” on the matter, “[This] age-old culture of predatory behaviour is based upon the premise that it is a young woman’s duty to protect herself from it and not an older man’s responsibility to behave with respect.”
Even in a woman’s world like that fashion industry, women aren’t granted basic respect. That’s why we have Terry Richardsons and Harvey Weinsteins. That’s why these scandals aren’t even surprising anymore. That’s why women don’t feel safe speaking up until others do, and sometimes not even then. It all comes down to respecting us as human beings and respecting our right to say no.
Be the zeitgeist.