Terry Richardson’s War on Women

by Christine Sisto
An industry full of liberals winks at the pervy shutterbug’s fashionable misogyny.

Another model came forward Monday with allegations of sexual misconduct by celebrated fashion photographer Terry Richardson. Model Emma Appleton tweeted a screenshot of a Facebook message that endearingly reads, “If I can [expletive] you, I will book you in NY in a shoot for Vogue.” Richardson’s representative has since stated that the message is from an imposter and that Appleton herself has said that it is possible that the message could have come from a Facebook user impersonating Richardson.

Vogue has since stated that the magazine has not worked with Richardson since 2010 and has “no plans” to work with him in the future, leading some journalists to hypothesize that this may be the “end” of Terry Richardson.

If you don’t know Terry Richardson’s name, you’ve seen his work. Richardson directed Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” video. Chances are, if you’ve seen a “fashion” photograph that horrified you with its lewd sexuality or the photographer’s seeming disregard for the model’s integrity, then Richardson was probably the photographer. His repertoire includes shots of Lindsay Lohan with a gun in her mouth, the cast of Glee dressed as high-school cheerleaders in suggestive positions, women pretending to be dead or tied up, and a model pretending to fellate a chicken. (Yes, you read that right.) As fashion photographers go, Terry Richardson is about as A-list as it gets. He has directed music videos for Taylor Swift and Beyoncé and shot ad campaigns for Sisley, H&M, and Yves Saint Laurent. Even President Obama has posed for him.

How Richardson has been able to get models into these compromising positions has been a question since at least 2010, when model Rie Rasmussen told the New York Post’s “Page Six” that he “manipulates [young girls] to take their clothes off and takes pictures of them that they will be ashamed of.” She publicly said the same to Richardson at a party in Paris, where he proceeded to run out of the bar and then complain about Rasmussen to her modeling agency the next day.

That same year, model Jamie Peck stated that on a photo shoot, Richardson asked her to remove her tampon and play with it. He also tried to get her to play with his private parts. 

Since then, similar stories have been dribbling out about Richardson’s behavior. Supermodel Liskula has stated that Richardson is a “monster,” saying that he asked her during a shoot to simulate oral sex with a male model, who was not a model at all, just “a man he knew.” She walked out on the shoot. 

When reading these horror stories, one cannot help but think, “How can he get away with this?” Jamie Peck related that she was not alone in the room with Richardson. In fact, she was surrounded by assistants and camera crew, who were cheering her on when she was asked to grab Richardson’s unmentionables. 

In short, none of Richardson’s reported behavior was a secret. How many modeling agencies heard these horror stories from their models and did nothing about it?  How many ad executives saw Richardson’s pictures of girls tied up and let them go to print? How many assistants watched Richardson sexually abuse young, naïve girls who were too starstruck to protest what was going on?   

Terry Richardson is entitled to presumption of innocence in a legal sense, but there’s pretty overwhelming social evidence that he’s a creep. The worst offender here is the fashion industry, which allowed this man to rise to superstardom while turning a blind eye to the abused girls he left behind. 

It is truly a feat of hypocrisy that an industry that is dependent on women, as models and consumers, that likes to pretend to be a proponent of feminism, can turn a blind eye to the criminal misbehavior of someone so unfeminist, a man who enjoys making women uncomfortable and showing them vulnerable and, in some cases, in danger of bodily harm.

Until Vogue’s about-face, the fashion industry seemed not to care at all about what this man was doing to women.  It’s not clear that anybody cares even now. In October, an anti-Terry petition began circulating, urging major fashion brands to stop giving Richardson work and reopening the dialogue about his past behavior. Just two months later, Beyoncé dropped her top-secret all-music-video album, with one of the videos directed by Richardson. 

In fact, despite all of the allegations currently circulating, one does not have to look too hard to find a brand-new Richardson photo spread. The cover of the May 2014 issue of Harper’s Bazaar was shot by Richardson.

Aside from Vogue, no other major magazines Richardson has worked with, such as GQ and W, has voiced any opinion on the matter. 

The fashion industry is one of the real perpetrators of the war on women, and the industry’s indifference to Richardson’s behavior is proof of that. This business is dominated by liberals who are quick to label Republicans anti-women and eager to hold fashion shows to fundraise for Obama. Yet the people working in fashion don’t care about serious abuse — some of it rising to the level of potential crime — against women. 

In one of the pictures that made him famous, Richardson asked his assistant to don a tiara with the word “Slut!” written on it and kneel down in a trashcan while performing fellatio on him. This was ten years ago, in 2004, and the man has been gainfully employed since then. Why? Because the fashion world sees women the same way Richardson does.

— Christine Sisto is an editorial assistant at National Review.

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