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Since model Cameron Russell started collecting and sharing anonymous stories of sexual harassment and assault in the fashion industry two weeks ago, models have continued speaking out about their experiences. Today, New York assemblywoman Nily Rozic introduced a bill called the Models’ Harassment Protection Act, which aims to do something about the widespread sexual misconduct directed at models by people they work with (including photographers, designers, and agency employees), as well as harassment based on factors like age, race, sexual orientation, and disability.
The goal of the legislation is to hold modeling agencies accountable for protecting models against harassment of all kinds. As things stand, models are considered independent contractors and thus aren’t protected from harassment and discrimination the way employees of other companies are. At the same time, agencies are able to dodge accountability for the welfare of their clients by listing themselves as “management companies.” Rozic’s bill, developed in collaboration with Model Alliance, a New York-based advocacy group, would make it illegal for agencies to subject models to harassment regardless of those factors.
When it comes to sexual misconduct, the absence of legal protections for models is compounded by the power imbalances rampant in the modeling business. It’s a profession filled with young women, many still in their teens, who are working with adults much older than themselves and who are frequently tasked with advocating for their own boundaries when it comes to posing semi- or fully nude. (Three days ago, Victoria’s Secret model Sara Sampaio wrote on Instagram that she’s pursuing legal action against men’s magazine Lui for violating the no-nudity clause in her contract.)
But harassment of models doesn’t just happen on the job. The LA Times reported over the weekend that Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual misconduct extended to the models he met through his various investments in fashion.