Culture

How #MeToo Defined 2017

Accusations against Bruce Weber and Time naming “The Silence Breakers” as its person of the year further underscore the movement’s importance

When the Harvey Weinstein story broke, and broke, and broke some more, it rocked the world. As high profile woman after woman came forward with stories of the movie mogul’s most heinous abuses of power—from his bullying and leveraging his position to pressure aspiring actresses into sexual situations to accusations of rape—the avalanche that started shows no signs of slowing. As other people in Hollywood were accused, the net widened—politicians, people in finance, theater, and fashion, first Terry Richardson, and now Bruce Weber, whose Vanity Fair-sponsored Art Basel event, which was supposed to take place in Miami on Tuesday, was cancelled today following allegations against him this week.

The fashion world isn’t shocked though (which points to the troubling culture of acceptance and silence surrounding abuse and harassment), and the conversation continues, through social media, including movements like #metoo, but also very much in the “real world,” where this misconduct actually occurs. It’s a conversation society’s having, in both business and social situations—we’re talking about it in the office, in bars, and at dinner, and despite Donald Trump’s insistence he was offered the accolade first (a claim that was debunked with impressive celerity by the magazine and its chief content officer, Alan Murray), Time magazine just announced its Person of the Year—“The Silence Breakers,” those who speak out about abuse and more. It isn’t the first time the magazine’s broadened its definition of “person” to include a wider movement. In 2014 “The Ebola Fighters” we’re honored, and in 2011, Time honored “The Protester”, highlighting the activists of both the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street protests, among others, that defined the year. 

While the #metoo movement has only arisen since The New York Times and New Yorker articles about Weinstein in October, it’s certainly established itself as the defining “person” of 2017. And while he wasn’t named person of the year, Donald Trump is runner up. The truly twisted nature of those diametrically ambivalent opposites is a dark mirror indeed. Until October, Trump and his administration were what defined 2017, so thank fuck for all the accusers. While the #metoo movement stems from something so ugly, it is a beacon for change for the better, sitting squarely above Donald “Grab ‘em by the pussy” Trump. That’s a victory on every level.

The sexual misconduct conversation has so many shades of grey. People’s opinions span the spectrum, and one person’s voiced perception of a situation being innocuous might be offensive to someone else. Perhaps those three touchy discussion subjects for occasions among polite company—politics, religion, and money—will be increased to four when we’ve all fallen out with people like Geraldo Rivera and Morrissey. When Richardson was accused (after having been accused on other earlier occasions too), some of us fashions were a little skeptical, given his oeuvre of hardcore porn, especially when an email from Condé Nast “leaked” instructing all publications to kill any upcoming Richardson editorials that just seemed insincere. People voiced some confusion, because we know Richardson’s work often depicts his engagement in sex with his subjects. And when that Jezebel article accusing him of sexual misconduct resurfaced, some people did express slight confusion that a 23 year old woman would leave a party in the earlier hours of the morning with Richardson and his equally sketchy-looking assistant to go back to Richardson’s studio and take pictures, some of her half naked, without expecting something sexual was afoot. And while Richardson insisted that he didn’t force anyone to do anything, that he didn’t threaten anyone, and that his subjects were all aware of the nature of his work, Bruce Weber’s accusers paint a more Weinstein-ian picture—and one that echoes the sentiments in model Edie Campbell’s open letter, which touched on the fact that women aren’t the only victims of sexual abuse.

Honestly, if you’re in this industry and you haven’t heard stories about Weber, you must be a doorknob. We’ve all heard the whispers, and when Richardson was implicated, it seemed like only a matter of time before allegations of Weber’s offenses would surface. And they did. And it couldn’t have been worse. Even the Riveras of the world couldn’t justify the kind of textbook sexual harassment events that unfolded in the New York Post article. Weber is accused of forcibly kissing model Jason Boyce at a casting, after sexually assaulting the model while asking him, “How far do you want to make it? How ambitious are you?” Yes, there is an undeniable sexuality inherent in much of fashion’s photography, and while a certain connection between the photographer and the model is important, the behavior illustrated in the article (behavior that has led to a lawsuit) is monstrous. And now, a second model, Mark Ricketson, has also come forward with a similar account. If both accounts are true, it would suggest there are many more male models out there who’ve experienced the exact same thing, and as the photographer’s reputation crumbles, the movement that Time magazine agrees has defined the year continues.

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