I want to start this off by saying that I’ve been thinking about writing this, and then subsequently talking myself out of it for about a week now. But hey, it’s Monday and I’m just going to put these words out here and see where they take me.
Although I have never been sexually assaulted, my heart breaks and aches for any woman who has gone through such violation. In the world we live in, it’s more important than ever to speak up and not be afraid to tell the truth, so here it goes.
While my blog is an extension of my soul and I couldn’t fathom living without it, I have been sexually harassed/dehumanized almost every single time I’ve tried to shoot outfits for it. No matter what city I may find myself in or what part of town, the second I set foot on the street and attempt to capture my personal style, I hear words like “DAMN” and relentless whistling, kissey faces and lewd stares thrown at me like knives.
While it’s easy to say, “Those are just words,” and move on, the fact is that they’re so much more than that. If I decide to step out in a form-fitting dress or striped trousers, why do I or any other woman for that matter find ourselves at the mercy of men who can’t keep it in their pants?
And believe me, the outfit and context of the shoot really don’t matter—I’ve had men yell lewd things at me with my husband only a few feet away. As much as I want to flip them the bird or yell something in defense of myself back, he often tells me to keep quiet because they might have a weapon, etc. But why should I have to keep quiet? They don’t.
I’ve often been told that doing what I do makes me a “target.” That taking photos on public property gives men license to sexually harass me. I fervently disagree.
Looking back, I remember being 17 and filled with joy, as I was working on my first blog, Mad Moda. I was simply sitting on a downtown sidewalk clad in shorts and a billowy top as one of my friends was photographing me. We froze instantly as a car wrapped in images of exotic dancers pulled up beside us and proceeded to hand us cards of an agent looking for new “talent.” As the car drove away, we were finally able to breathe again. I mean, WE WERE 17. How is taking blog photos an invitation to this kind of offer? Flash forward to today, I’ve even been involved in shoots where men feel comfortable enough to roll down their windows and ask the model, “How much?”
Just the other day I was at one of my favorite grocery stores—one of my ‘happy’ places if you will. We were about to check out, and I realized I had forgotten a pack of gummy worms and proceeded to run all over the store like a mad woman until I found them. During my walk back to the register, I crossed in front of an older man. He looked nice, respectable, etc. As soon as I was a few feet in front of him, I heard him smack his lips and say, “Mmmhhhhmmmhhhhh.” My dinner began to boil back up my throat, and almost instantly, I felt numb.
It is clear that the men that do this to us simply don’t get it, or if they do, they could really care less. As much as I’d love the world to change over night, the truth is, it’s not going to. While the catcalls and tongue wiggling (so DISGUSTING) will likely still follow me around shoots, sharing these stories gives me agency. Experiences like these are NOT okay and shouldn’t be normal behavior we shrug off. If you’ve ever been through something similar, I hope this gives you the power to speak up too. The more we talk about these experiences, the less power they have over us and the more power we have over them.