Better Protection For Our Local Models And Talent
Better Protection For Our Local Models And Talent
In the past couple years, more models and actors have begun publicly speaking out about abuse within their respective industries. A lot of these people, having begun their careers at an early age, say that abuse- of various kinds- is almost an expected thing. Why is this? Specifically in the fashion industry, models are considered "independent contractors" and as such, we do not have any health and safety guidelines like "OSHA" (Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970). This makes it easier for models to be manipulated, exploited, assaulted, and in some cases, even trafficked. On top of the very real safety risks, models are also often told to maintain an unhealthy weight in order to be booked for certain jobs, which fosters an environment for lowered self-esteem, a negative body-image, and in some cases, eating disorders and mental health problems (or worsened ones). What can we do about this? Begin prioritizing the safety of our local models, actors, entertainers, etc. The next question then, is how. How can we make our local industries safer to work in, and how can we ensure that someone has the right to do what they love without fear? We can begin by providing better, and required, sexual assault/trafficking prevention classes, as well as nutrition classes to signed models since agencies often already provide their models with training on technique, require background checks done on anyone within the respective industries who wishes to pursue the various careers professionally since many begin their career while underage, provide models (and their parents, if they are a minor) with a required "blacklist"- since agencies do supply them to models but they must ask to receive a copy and most are not aware of them- to sign and review upon signing the agency's contract so they may have prior knowledge about someone's potentially abusive past. This list would be confidential, and we would like to work with agencies to ensure no slander occurs with them. Finally, begin prosecuting all crimes committed against children under sections 151, 152, 153,163.3, 172.1, 172.2, 271, and 273.3 within the respective industries (fashion, film, and entertainment industries) as indictments, not summaries, and according to the Canada Criminal Code's definition of assault in section 265, since if we are going to put this much effort into education and prevention it would show the individual is not fit to work in a professional environment or be in a position of trust. No one deserves to have a career, or a hobby, where they run the risk of possibly being assaulted. You would never go to a 9-5 job and expect your boss to threaten you, your coworker to touch you inappropriately, or your career to be ruined should you speak out. You would expect justice and your abuser to be fired/punished adequately, so why shouldn't we?
I have been a model for the past 4 years (almost 5). During my time as one, not only have I put myself in potential danger multiple times to collaborate on a photoshoot, I've also heard very many friends of mine tell eerily similar stories. I have been forced to shoot nude, remove clothing during photoshoots at stranger's houses alone, and have even been told that bringing another person on set was considered "unprofessional" when I asked if I could for my own comfort and safety. One of my friends told me about how she had almost been drugged in a photographer's basement when she was on set, which came as a surprise to her because she had known this man for 2-years prior and he had never shown any signs before that he could possibly have hidden-intentions. I conducted a survey with 28 local models in the Regina, Saskatchewan area in October of 2020 with two of my friends who have been helping me with this petition. 57% had a negative impact on their body-image/self-esteem, 21% developed an eating disorder or a worsened one, and 68% experienced some form of sexual harassment during, prior to, or immediately after a job/casting. Of that 68%, 15.8% were stalked by clients they refused to work with, 57.9% were asked to remove clothing with no prior discussion of nudity or boudoir photography, and 10.5% were sexually assaulted and/or harassed while underage. There are also more models beginning to gain international or national contracts, where the abuse is much higher. According to a survey conducted over the COVID-19 quarantine this year by "Responsible Models Trust" (RTM), a non-profit organization based in London, England, the interviewees cited a total of 150 different types of abuses that they had either personally experienced or witnessed when working as models. They then classified these into 3 categories. Financial abuses accounted for 57% of the cited types, including withholding of payments and excessive charging by agencies, as well as coercive levelling-up were models were pressured to pose fully nude or participate in degrading acts. 29% of cited types were dignity abuses, and included humiliation, bullying, as well as sexual-harassment and non-consensual contact during shoots. Finally, 14% were safety abuses, which includes models being sent alone to one-on-one castings in hotel rooms or personal homes (something local models are often having to do for their portfolio shoots, too).
I ask all the people who read this survey, whether that be the signees or the Saskatchewan Government/City of Regina, to ask themselves - How many more women, men, and children must get taken advantage of before precautionary measures are put in place for their safety? Had my friend actually been drugged and r*ped, and not just almost, would she have been told to expect that in her line of work? The fact of the matter is, we are lacking protection and prevention for these very serious, real, and common occurrences, and we need change. I would like to specify before I end this though, this is not an attack on the industry, or the government, or anyone. This is a call to action for us to begin healing, to build something greater than what currently exists, and that is fashion/film/entertainment industries that wish to protect their talent. Thank you!