18/10/2017 13:54 BST

Model Cameron Russell Campaigns To Give A Voice To Victims Of Sexual Harassment In The Fashion Industry


Model and Ted speaker Cameron Russell has taken to Instagram to show her support for victims of sexual harassment - particularly those in the fashion industry.

As news about allegations made against film executive Harvey Weinstein unfolded and engulfed the internet, many took to social media to share their stories using the hashtag #MeToo. 

Russell started her own sexual harassment related Insta-campaign on 11 October, sharing accounts from anonymous fashion industry workers with the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse. 

Kris Connor via Getty Images

On International Day Of The Girl, Russell shared a quote by author Peggy Orenstein about racism and misogyny in college fraternity culture.

“I always thought it was an apt description of many powerful men in creative industries too,” Russell captioned the quote on Instagram.

“How often have you heard ‘this is art’ or ‘this is a creative field’ as an excuse to glorify oppressive and even violent behaviour? 

 “I’m proud of women who are breaking their silence, and hoping all the men who aren’t being called out are listening and waking up.”

The following day, Russell posted a screenshot of an anonymous message from her friend  who also works a model, detailing the woman’s first encounter with a predatory photographer. 

“A brave model (and friend) reached out to me with her story today,” said Russell in the caption of the post. 

“She has asked to remain anonymous but asked that I share her words here because the photographer still works in the industry.”

Russell has since shared more than 70 accounts from men and women working in the fashion industry, about being sexually harassed or assaulted while doing their jobs.

The accounts make for harrowing reading, with some recalling episodes from when they were as young as 14 or 15, and many discussing feeling ashamed after the incidents.

Russell has stated that the people who have shared their stories on her Instagram, have not given permission for them to be reproduced elsewhere. 

She has also shared her own experience of discovering how commonplace sexual harassment was in the fashion industry.

“A few years ago I was shooting with another model at a client’s corporate headquarters,” she explained.

“In the staff kitchen on the required labour law posters, we read the definition of sexual harassment. ‘This sounds like our job description,’ I said. We laughed and went back to work.

“When I got home and looked up the definition online, it was so spot on it felt like someone who knew us... and of course they did.

“Sexual harassment is unacceptably commonplace.”

Russell also describes the long list of incidents of harassment she has personally experienced including: Non-consensual kisses, spanks, gropes, massages and pinches; bullying to pose topless or nude; publishing nudity after contractually agreeing not to; inappropriate emails, text messages, and phone calls; and having her job threatened if she didn’t participate.

In support of Russell’s efforts, the Model Alliance - a US organisation that supports models - issued a statement saying they stand with “the brave individuals who have come forward to share their stories and with all survivors of sexual harassment and abuse.”

Sexual harassment, abuse, and assault have no place the creative process, and should not be excused this way,” the statement continues.

“No person should tolerate any sort of unwanted or inappropriate conduct, nor should our industry.

“The alleged acts by Harvey Weinstein are horrific and unacceptable. Unfortunately, this exploitative, bullying behaviour is more prevalent in the fashion industry than many people would like to acknowledge.

“And despite the significant control that modelling agencies and clients exert over models’ working lives, they generally insist that models are independent contractors, not employees.

“As contractors, models do not benefit from the laws intended to curb sexual harassment on the job and protect models.”

HuffPost UK has contacted Equity - a union that represents models for comment and will update this article upon their response.

In a recent Instagram post, Russell shared her gratitude to the models who have shared their stories with her, for standing together in solidarity.

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