The Harvey Weinstein scandal is like dropping a rock into a pond – after the initial splash, ripple after ripple seems to result, changing the surface of the water. After the scandal, waves of women came forward, statements were made, and society started to initiate change.
One of the “ripples” comes from New York Assemblywoman Nily Rozic who plans to introduce legislation that would amend the state’s current anti-discrimination laws. It would extend protection to help models who are experiencing abuse. Currently, models aren’t protected by the law because of the way their contracts are written.
In their contracts, models are booked through an agency, which has a direct contract with a company. Because of that, there is no way to determine where the legal blame should fall if a grievance is filed. The amendment would close that loophole to make sure that the company booking the model is directly responsible for any harm that may befall the model.
“I’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace; we all know someone who has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace,” says Rozic. “The goal [of the amendment is] to push back on the silence that has been so pervasive and find a legislative solution to change the cycle.”
Rozic is working with The Model Alliance to make sure that the amendment would best benefit the models. Several notable voices have spoken on the issue, from those behind the camera to those who had been affected because of the loophole in the legislation.
“The horrible thing is, as a model, it wasn’t that unusual to be in a weird situation where a photographer or someone feels they have a right to your body,” says Trish Goff, a former model who had worked with Harvey Weinstein.
This loophole resonated with model Karen Elson as well. “A model scout who worked at my old agency in Paris tried to coerce me into having sex with him and his friend at a nightclub in Paris when I was barely 16,” she says. “I sensed the danger and ran out. Then, the next day, I told my agent and the scout threatened to have me kicked out of Paris.”
“[Nowadays] I insist that the set be cleared and at least one woman stays on set,” Elson adds. “I can demand this because I have respect in the industry, but it should be the norm.”
The movement has even graduated to social media, where model Cameron Russell collected and posted anonymous stories from models on her Instagram account, accompanying them with the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse. As of now, almost 80 stories have been collected and posted onto Russell’s Instagram account.
Rozic recognizes the problems with the modeling industry, and she hopes to end the loophole that allows so many perpetrators to get away with abuse. “The inconsistencies in classification in addition to the way modeling agencies have been able to skirt around state law and regulations have cultivated a workplace environment that lacks accountability,” she says. “For me, personally, it would have held a lot more people accountable for their actions sooner.”
Rozic hopes that the amendment will gain the support it needs to be passed by both houses and signed into law by the end of 2018.
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