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Model Edie Campbell Writes Open Letter as Sexual Misconduct Accusations Continue to Multiply

“Being 15… and not wanting to be topless… is not prudish”

Model Edie Campbell is calling this moment in the fashion industry a “turning point,” and warns against letting accusations of sexual misconduct slide.

“This could be the moment at which everyone within the fashion industry takes stock of where we are, and the culture we operate within and perpetuate,” Campbell, who is also an accomplished jockey, wrote. “This could be a moment to be honest about the behavior we sanction, a pause, or a moment of self-reflection.”

She pointed to 2010 as another turning point, but one that tipped the wrong way after allegations were brought against “one man.”

“Everyone looked away, winced, shifted nervously and turned a blind eye. Because we all know that it spreads far, far further than one man,” she said. “Once you start pointing fingers, where does the buck stop? And to put it simply: our morals don’t always align with the money.”

Campbell expressed frustration that media coverage on sexual misconduct in the fashion space has been limited to photographer Terry Richardson, who has been accused of exploiting and harassing young models. Campbell said accusers “were not all talking about the same photographer.”

Campbell went into further detail, saying abuse of male models is even more underreported, and wrote that “abuse suffered by young men is more complex.”

“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,” she said. “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.”

She said that “when you zoom in on the fashion industry,” the “numbers” of victims are much more evenly split between male and female victims. “Within fashion, the discussion then becomes less about toxic masculinity and patriarchy, and more about abuse of power.”

Campbell added that the fashion industry operates “within a culture that is too accepting of abuse, in all of its manifestations.”

She outlined four origins of that culture:

First, she said, there is “no line between the personal and the professional: …When an industry becomes as informal as this, it becomes harder to define what is appropriate behavior for the workplace. Pranks, sexually explicit jokes, suggestive comments — these all slide under the radar in a ‘fun’ and ‘creative’ industry like fashion. Please note the irony of tone.”

She listed rewarding “diva behavior” and outcasting anyone who is “boring” or “uncool” as second and third reasons.

“But I think we have to reassess what exactly qualifies as ‘uncool.’ Being 15 — or, actually, being any age — and not wanting to be topless, or strip naked in front of what are essentially your ‘work colleagues’ is not prudish,” she said. “Not wanting to make out with someone for a picture is not ‘being difficult.'”

And finally, Campbell blamed the idea of the “artist-genius” that the fashion industry places on a pedestal: “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.”

From here, Campbell suggested a “period of introspection and self-examination, perhaps. And then a series of conversations about what kind of working practices are acceptable.” She also called on agents to “do their job” to protect their clients.

“This is a moment for us all to examine the behavior we have normalized,” Campbell concluded. “Fashion is a closed world, and fiercely self-protective. But it is time to reassess, and it is time to start regulating ourselves.”

Read the full op-ed on Women’s Wear Daily, here.