I have been published in this months Harper’s Bazaar Australia and Taiwan! So happy and thankful – my first published article. I hope you all enjoy 😀
Since the Harvey Weinstein revelations, women have been using social media to share personal stories of sexual harassment via the rallying hashtag #MeToo. Supermodel Bridget Malcolm joins the protest
It has been a week of reading countless women’s personal accounts of sexual harassment, abuse and assault, and it has been horrifying. Unfortunately, none of this is surprising. While one sexual predator — Harvey Weinstein — may have been stripped of his prestige, there are countless others out there still preying on young women (and men), using their status and power to manipulate and assault frightened individuals. As a woman who has quite literally been “grabbed by the pussy” in nightclubs, on the street and even in the gym, I have been watching these events unfold with a feeling of hollow satisfaction. It is about time, but the staggering number of women coming forward sickens me.
Victoria’s Secret model turned political activist Cameron Russell has been using her social media platform to provide a safe but public place for victims to anonymously share their stories through her Instagram account, @cameronrussell; and reading what these models have written, I can usually name the photographer and the client, and reconstruct the scene. We all know who the worst perpetrators are in the fashion industry. We all know whose names inflict a sense of dread on the call sheet. As an “older” (26) model, I know how to protect myself from unwelcome advances. But these behaviours were learnt — forced into being from multiple assaults. Margaret Atwood said “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Learning as a teenager how to protect yourself from men — through your clothing, eye contact, language — and then learning as a young adult that this isn’t enough is soul-shattering. You have to choose: either be nice and assaulted or “hard to work with”, “cold” and safe.
I heard a story of a certain male photographer who got blacklisted from a huge company after some models complained about his behaviour. This made me so happy. Having worked with him before, I knew exactly what they were talking about. There is space in the industry for positive growth — if more established models speak out, things can change for the girls who are just getting established. Working in the entertainment industry does not make you bait for a man with a camera.
I have had to learn to set boundaries. A couple of months ago, I was booked on a job where I would be shot fully nude but behind a screen. It would be for only the outline of my body — no nudity on set or on camera. Good money, too. As I read the job description, I began to shake and cry, and I knew I had to turn it down. I knew I would not feel empowered in this circumstance, that I would feel as if my body belonged to someone else.
It took meeting my husband to begin to trust men again — because all men aren’t predators. There are kind, gentle men who love and respect women. I was raised by a man who showed me unconditional love and respect, and my brother shares these values. I have male friends whom I am safe around and whom I love deeply.
In my 11-year career, my positive experiences on set far outweigh the negative. I have worked with all kinds of industry people, in all kinds of settings, and the vast majority of them were an absolute delight — respectful and caring. But it is the few exceptions who need to change. It is the repeat offenders, the industry people who come with a warning from your agent and friends, who need to be held accountable for their actions. There needs to be no space left for them in this industry; an industry of celebration and artistic expression, a safe place for a lot of individuals who do not fit mainstream culture. One incident of sexual harassment can have lasting ramifications throughout a victim’s life, and until there is a zero-tolerance policy in fashion, not enough is being done.
I hope that more light being shone on this topic means change will happen. I hope that naming the most evil perpetrators means they get blacklisted. I hope that young women starting in the entertainment industry will be safe at castings and meetings. And I hope that Harvey Weinstein’s dramatic descent from Hollywood power player to disgraced outsider is just the beginning. Most of all, I hope for a world in which women are safe from sexual assault for generations to come. Cameron Russell got it right: my job should not include abuse.
To read more of Malcolm’s writing, visit bridgetmalcolm.com.au. Follow her on Instagram @bridgetmalcolm or Twitter @bridgetimalcolm. For more information on sexual harassment including a legal definition, visit humanrights.gov.au/our-work/sex-discrimination/guides/sexual-harassment.