irid3scence

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i want to make it extremely clear with you that me posting the above images has 0 to do with how I feel about Bella in this situation.
That was not what I was thinking, much less suggesting, at all(!) I really meant "expressing solidarity"--and that if *you* as a former model and current mentor to young models empathize with Bella, maybe the rest of us, should, as well.

Bella plays such a minor role
In your post you seem to suggest that Bella, because she never spoke out despite her wealth and apparent power, means she is also somehow partly responsible.
I don't think she's "responsible" for Razek's behavior or the culture at VS. And I actually agree that the conversation is about much more than a single Hadid (and think we should probably be having it in the VS thread). I dwell on her here because it's her thread and she was brought up IMO her actions throughout all of this reflect very poorly on her character. The whole "to whom much is given, much will be required" thing--though I'm hardly expecting much, just a little integrity.

seeing them every year after a show thanking Ed Razek like it was a God and then being part of the Me too movement defending the industry & photographers saying that harassment has never happened, is really fucked up
Do I think that Bella had the power/energy/will to speak up and challenge Ed in the moment? Not necessarily. But it is disingenuous of her to be praising Ed/VS after the fact, assuming she wasn't ok with Ed's actions.
Yes, and yes. (My only quibble being that "disingenuous" isn't strong enough for me.)

You have absolutely no idea what it’s like to work hard every day of your career to reach a certain point.
Not in the fashion/entertainment industries by any stretch, but umm, maybe I actually really, really do.

And once you get there, you find out the only way to keep your spot is to not only sleep with the man who holds your job in his hands but to live with him?
People had been fired for speaking out against him.
If this is a rarity in the fashion industry (and I honestly wouldn't know), then it's a less misogynistic one than mine.

I've been touched in ways I didn't want in work settings; been aggressively propositioned; had meetings over the course of months focus on my availability as a woman (and whether it was negotiable) rather than the project at hand; and in short, countless nasty carrot-and-stick scenarios I really, really ridiculously could have done without. I've known more than a few girls, less bristly and pugnacious than I am (ie, more "docile" victims, and I am *not* blaming the victims here), who have experienced far worse.

We have collectively lost probably decades of our lives anguishing over whom to tell and how. The male colleague/friend who espouses "ally" views, but is much too junior (and inexperienced in these politics) to offer anything useful, much less stick his neck out? The mentor, who makes a point of taking care of his charges, but actually wants certain money projects done--and is also less senior than the famous aggressor? The boyfriend, who of all people should be an ally--but is also pathologically jealous and could just fly into a rage instead? Fellow females, who can do no more than commiserate?

I am thankful every day that my fledgling days--the times when I was the most vulnerable--are now behind me.

This simply should never be okay. Ever. This is the culture they are calling out.
This kind of behaviour should be called out in any industry.
I respect your views. I sometimes get told IRL that I am unreasonably tolerant, or unduly resigned to a certain ("unacceptable") status quo; probably it has something to do with growing up in a world where domestic violence is about as common as dog ownership, and having rather conservative views about what women should be OK with. I've even been told by everyone around me--including the dude himself, when clear-headed--that my boyfriend was abusive...and honestly just thought everything unpleasant was par for the course, given all that I had witnessed around me growing up. I confess I'm quite flummoxed by the recent Western conversation on "toxic masculinity". Speaking of which,
"casual sexism"
I was not able to find a rigorous definition of the term (if one even exists). I gather that it means certain patterns of behavior that are part of the fabric of the culture in question--something that is "matter of fact" when discussing the culture, not that it is to be trivialized.

Yeah, I see people sleeping with others to up their career, and if it’s their choice then fine I guess.
I respect the women who do that, and then--long after they need them for career advancement--publicly stand up for those men when they're about to be destroyed in a #metoo furor. They exist, and that's integrity.

What, then, of all the execs and other senior people at VS? Was shrugging off these sorts of attitudes and behaviors towards women really not typical of the (industry) culture? Did someone risk their job to say "enough is enough" when a girl came to them with a particularly bad story? How many people paid lip service to the idea of protecting girls, but in reality treated a girl's complaints as above all an inconvenience to the business?
This. This is the problem. As I have stated already in previous posts, it’s the corporate culture (or yes, industry culture) at VS that allowed Razek’s behaviour to continue for so long. They’re just as responsible as him IMO.
As is hopefully clear from above in my post, those examples are hardly theoretical to me. My issue with focusing so much on Razek--and I suppose it wasn't clear from my earlier discussion--is that he is ("merely") a product or symptom of his times and culture. To home in on him as some unique evildoer misses the point IMO. If we want to have a productive conversation about these things, we need to understand exactly what has been tolerated in the industry (or at least the company, as a specific entity within it), and how and why--which also requires an examination of (institutional as well as personal) power dynamics.

@SugarFree it does not escape me that you seem to be one of the nicer/gentler VIP's around here, and that it takes probably more than a little to offend you. I am sorry if you felt that by the ways in which I speak about Bella or Razek, I am disrespecting your experiences or those of other models. I've indicated that I may yet change my mind about her actions. In the meantime, I would also like to say that your presuppositions about what I have or have not endured in my professional life are inaccurate, and that I did not appreciate them. I hope we can agree to disagree without jabs at conjectured limitations of the other person's life experiences and thus perspective.
 
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SugarFree

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IMO her actions throughout all of this reflect very poorly on her character. The whole "to whom much is given, much will be required" thing--though I'm hardly expecting much, just a little integrity.
I still really don't see how this reflects poorly on her character and shows that she has no integrity. I have already explained to you as why she most likely didn't speak out before more people came forward, and going as far as thanking/praising Ed (which I haven't actually seen myself, but that's probably because I don't follow her too closely.) I bet you anything she just brushed the situation off, and only now came to talk about her own experience as showing solidarity to the women who experienced much worse. She has a lot less to lose, and will more likely be believed (helps that there were witnesses.) Reason being is many will assume the lesser know models and employees are just disgruntled that they didn't get a job, or became that they didn't become very successful. With stronger, more solid evidence (like Bella's), the better the chance of the others being believed. She didn't come out crying screaming #MeToo, making it about her. She only stated the facts. I have no idea why you're judging her character on this. It really just sounds to me like a confirmation bias situation because you just don't like her as a model, and the success she has had.

I respect the women who do that, and then--long after they need them for career advancement--publicly stand up for those men when they're about to be destroyed in a #metoo furor. They exist, and that's integrity.
Yes, there is a difference of having to because you'll lose your job if you don't vs sleeping/dating someone who can help you with your career - because you want to, not because you have to. But that doesn't mean everyone's experience with one man will be the same.

@SugarFree In the meantime, I would also like to say that your presuppositions about what I have or have not endured in my professional life are inaccurate, and that I did not appreciate them. I hope we can agree to disagree without jabs at conjectured limitations of the other person's life experiences and thus perspective.
I apologize that it came across like I was attacking you personally. I completely worded my statement wrong now looking back at it. What I was trying to say is basically "Imagine working that hard, only to lose your job because you didn't sleep with X." I did not mean that you don't work hard in your career or that you haven't been harassed in the workplace. I'm sorry that you have been in those situations yourself.
 
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SugarFree

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@irid3scence I have a question for you. What would you have liked Bella do? What should she have done, now, in your eyes? Stand in solidarity with the other women who experienced much worse or just keep quiet because in the past she has thanked that very same man for the job. Lets not forget that is part of her job too, to thank the designers and the people who book her, for the opportunities they give her. Especially in the eyes of agents, because it reflects on them as well. If the model sounds grateful or not. It's simple industry etiquette. I feel like if she spoke out in that point in time or didn't thank Ed, especially to the request of her agents - that would have been damaging to her. I kinda feel like its a damned if you do or damned if you don't for Bella. Because it's Bella.
 
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irid3scence

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I have no idea why you're judging her character on this. It really just sounds to me like a confirmation bias situation because you just don't like her as a model, and the success she has had.
My opinion of her appearance and work don't affect my judgment of her character (just as your opinion of her in the editorial above doesn't inform your empathy towards her). It is, to me, just the most salient example of what her inordinate privilege affords her. No, I don't think the only thing that can be done with privilege is to repent it (or "check" it, as I suppose it goes in common parlance :hahano:). But I do hold the haves to a different standard from the have-nots.

@irid3scence I have a question for you. What would you have liked Bella do? What should she have done, now, in your eyes? Stand in solidarity with the other women who experienced much worse or just keep quiet because in the past she has thanked that very same man for the job.
If we're talking about thanking Razek, I'd say it would depend on how she felt about the whole thing as that moment approached. I know all too well that experiences that technically aren't the absolute worst possible physical violation can make your skin crawl, and take ages to process (probably precisely because they "aren't the absolute worst possible[.......but...]"). Assuming she had decided by then that what had happened was not OK with her, then yes--I would say she should have skipped out on that public expression of gratitude. She has way more freedom with professional obligations than do other models, and her relationship with her agents is (I imagine) extremely different from that of most models with theirs. The world might call Bella an unprofessional ingrate in that case, but her career would still go on. (What other model could do that?)

If it really took her until now to process things, then no, I don't what she's doing now reflects well on her, either.

I bet you anything she...only now came to talk about her own experience as showing solidarity to the women who experienced much worse.
But I don't see that from her, at least so far.

I'd be fine if she'd said something like, "If even I, who am unusually fortunate among models, experienced this, and had trouble coming forward about it until now, imagine how much worse things were/are for all the girls who are not as lucky as me."
There are countless articles out there right now mentioning "supermodel Bella Hadid" as *the* notable example of someone who experienced Razek's transgressions at VS. Yes, Bella's name is more clickbait-y than others (and @Tinyportia , perhaps you'd like to comment here on media portrayals). But I don't see her using her considerable platform--what other model can actually affect the public conversation in the way that she/her sister/Kendall can?--to make this less about her and more about others.

Y'know, she could even be like, "Yes, I thanked Ed in the past for my participation in the VSFS. But after reflecting on my experiences there, I realized that I wasn't comfortable with how things were conducted--with me as well as other girls. I would like us to have a conversation about what is and is not OK in the fashion industry." No, ofc that wouldn't be easy; it would perhaps look like an about-face to many people. But how often is doing the right thing easy?

I kinda feel like its a damned if you do or damned if you don't for Bella.
To me it's more "between a rock and a hard place". She's 23; she has a brain and a moral compass. What do they tell her? Should she not forgo some popularity if it means doing something (making a statement) more in line with her conscience?

I apologize that it came across like I was attacking you personally. I completely worded my statement wrong now looking back at it. What I was trying to say is basically "Imagine working that hard, only to lose your job because you didn't sleep with X." I did not mean that you don't work hard in your career or that you haven't been harassed in the workplace. I'm sorry that you have been in those situations yourself.
Thank you 🙂
 

Tinyportia

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and @Tinyportia , perhaps you'd like to comment here on media portrayals)
Gladly :)

Let's start with what has actually been reported about what allegedly happened to Bella. @irid3scence , your posts so far seem to be based on the presumption that it was Bella who made the statement to the New York Times. But where has that actually been reported? The media articles I've read only refer to statements from "eye witnesses", but I haven't read articles that even imply one of the eye witnesses was Bella herself.

From the New York Times (the original source of the report):

In 2018, at a fitting ahead of the fashion show, the supermodel Bella Hadid was being measured for underwear that would meet broadcast standards. Mr. Razek sat on a couch, watching.

“Forget the panties,” he declared, according to three people who were there and a fourth who was told about it. The bigger question, he said, was whether the TV network would let Ms. Hadid walk “down the runway with those perfect titties.” (One witness remembered Mr. Razek using the word “breasts,” not “titties.”)
And in another article:

In one shocking instance, four people (three eye-witnesses and one second-hand witness) said they were working with Hadid in 2018 to ensure her underwear met network broadcast standards ahead of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Razek is said to have sat and watched the fitting from a couch.

“Forget the panties,” he allegedly declared, noting that the bigger question was whether or not the TV network would let her walk “down the runway with those perfect t------.”
Sure, maybe Bella was one of the "eye witnesses" that spoke to the Times (and they've kept this hidden) but we don't know that.

I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to draw a conclusion that it wasn't Bella who spoke to the NY Times.

Secondly, even though Razek allegedly made sexist comments at the fitting, we don't even know whether he made those within earshot of Bella. She could've been busy getting changed into another outfit when he made those comments, she could've been engaged in conversation with another staff member and didn't hear what he said, or he could've been sitting far enough away from her that she didn't hear them. The way the story has been reported implies that the comments were made about her but not necessarily to her.

Even if Razek made those comments to Bella directly, or said them loud enough for Bella to hear, we don't know whether she found them offensive - at the time nor after the fact. If she wasn't one of the eye witnesses who complained to the NY Times, maybe she was genuinely unfazed by Razek's statements. TBH if it was me, I probably wouldn’t be upset about it (at least, not enough to complain). At the end of the day, none of us really know what happened. We don't know for sure whether (1) Bella even heard Razek's comments, (2) she found them offensive or (3) she actually spoke to the NY Times. Importantly, nothing that has been reported to date confirms Bella was one of the eye witnesses who spoke to the NY Times. I think it's unfair to be passing judgment on Bella when we don't know all the facts, particularly when the judgment is based on an assumption that (so far) appears to be inconsistent with what has actually been reported.
 
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irid3scence

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We don't know for sure whether (1) Bella even heard Razek's comments, (2) she found them offensive or (3) she actually spoke to the NY Times.
Yes, I do think her team had something to do with what's being discussed in the media. I find it incongruous that we have accounts that Razek openly commented on Bella's "titties" and the hypothetical removal of her underwear at a fitting, while there are no anonymous sources discussing his perving on (or worse) unnamed Angels--who are way more involved in the day to day of the brand and thus interacted with him far more.

I also read the accounts as her having been present when those remarks had been made.

Even if Razek made those comments to Bella directly, or said them loud enough for Bella to hear, we don't know whether she found them offensive - at the time nor after the fact. If she wasn't one of the eye witnesses who complained to the NY Times, maybe she was genuinely unfazed by Razek's statements. TBH if it was me, I probably wouldn’t be upset about it (at least, not enough to complain).
If that were the case, then why hasn't she come out and said, "I have had positive interactions with Ed over the years, and have truly appreciated the opportunity to be part of the VSFS. It dismays me to hear of the experiences that other women have reported. Though mine were very different, I believe them and my heart goes out to them."

Look, I'm not setting things up so that she can't "win" in my book. This all goes back to my point about agency, and I'll say it again: everyone is an author of some part of the story. Yes, sometimes your power is frustratingly insufficient, and your options terribly inadequate. But you still have choices to make, by which you can be judged.

Why do we deem whistleblowers heroes, if not for the fact that they made choices that others were too afraid to, at great personal cost? Universal suffrage, civil rights...these did not happen because men and white people (respectively) spontaneously relented; they were due to individual and collective gumption and courage. The actions of those who had little (but not nothing), and from that little built themselves the reality they felt they deserved. And again, I'm hardly asking for heroism from Bella....

My and others' experiences of harassment (and worse) in the workplace are difficult to come to terms with in large part because we agonize over whether we handled things properly. Did we bring things up too late (to prevent harm to others)? Were we emphatic enough (to get the point across that a certain individual is genuinely a problem)? Did we tell the right people (ie, the people with the power as well as the inclination to do something)? Did we overreact and unjustifiably contribute to the professional detriment of someone to whom the community (and tbh, world, even) is indebted? ...Did we make things better or worse by the actions we chose?

I trade stories with other women in my field. We don't always come to the same conclusions, but generally, I come away feeling that people did the best they knew how, according to their personal values. I'd like to think they feel the same about me, too. I don't know that I'd say the same about Bella, though.

I do concur that by this point in our discussion, Bella has become a distraction from the issues. She is, to me, simply an unmissable contrast to other models--not in her looks or competence (in the present discussion), but in how much of the story she is able to write (which I may be overestimating, but probably not by that much). Thus I am unsparing in judging what she has (and has not) written. Yes, the story hasn't completely unfolded yet, and she may yet redeem herself in my eyes (though ofc, not that she should care to satisfy an anon crank on SGF).

Anyway, as for the other issues...I'd be interested in how the culture at VS compares to that at other lingerie companies, across the gamut from like AP to aerie. Razek had headed VS for a long enough time for society to have undergone a tremendous shift over that period. So are there any cases where a (recent-ish) change in leadership has led to a demonstrable change in the culture?
 
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Tinyportia

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@irid3scence can you elaborate on what you mean by this point:


Razek had headed VS for a long enough time for society to have undergone a tremendous shift over that period. So are there any cases where a (recent-ish) change in leadership has led to a demonstrable change in the culture?
Am interested in discussing further but I wasn’t clear on how your statement re: Razek and the change in society expectations related to your question about the role of leadership in influencing corporate culture. I don’t want to write a reply that is completely irrelevant!

I do concur that by this point in our discussion, Bella has become a distraction from the issues
Agree. Can we just agree to disagree here? One thing I think we do both agree on though is our general dislike for Bella!
 
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irid3scence

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Agree. Can we just agree to disagree here? One thing I think we do both agree on though is our general dislike for Bella!
:nod: :highfive:

@irid3scence can you elaborate on what you mean by this point:




Am interested in discussing further but I wasn’t clear on how your statement re: Razek and the change in society expectations related to your question about the role of leadership in influencing corporate culture. I don’t want to write a reply that is completely irrelevant!
I seem not to be very good at communicating in this thread...:supershame:

I mean that--just as I seek to contextualize Razek the man--I also seek to contextualize the culture at VS. Razek has been calling the shots at VS for 27 years. That's a motherfucking long time--I am astounded at the changes in societal attitudes even over the course of my own "adulthood", never mind almost the duration of my lifetime. So here, I'm getting at whether it's solely Razek (and thus VS under his leadership) who didn't adapt to the times, or the lingerie (sub-)industry as a whole. And I posit the existence of a counterexample: is there some other lingerie company, perhaps headed as well for a long time by some old fogey, that had much the same attitudes (and allowed the same behaviors) towards women, that then experienced a major culture change when they brought in someone new (possibly younger, with more "enlightened"/liberal views)?

If not--as in, if despite various changes in leadership, lingerie companies have always behaved more or less similarly towards women/their models and employees--then we might want to say that there really has been some extreme stasis in attitudes in the lingerie world, and VS/Razek was (if not by any means "good"), entirely normal in that context. OTOH, it's entirely plausible that there have been radically different ways of doing things in the lingerie business, and even that the culture at a given company has been shifted by the initiative of a single strong-willed individual....

As an aside, it may be useful to note in this conversation (the general one, including the media's), with all the talk of Razek's "anachronistic" views and the "voyeurism" at VS, that the very original premise of VS is grounded in voyeurism and haplessly anachronistic by today's standards. You'd never guess it by the tacky pink of today's stores (or the VSFS), but VS was founded to provide *men* with a comfy environment for buying underwear for their women. To modern sensibilities it's like, "Honey, I bought this lace garter set for you over my lunch break; please put it on so that I can indulge my male gaze." I wouldn't be surprised if there are entire dissertations out there written on how the very idea behind the store is rooted in female "objectification", and irretrievably "for men by men". Just...what a strange and backwards concept for a lingerie company, when viewed through our modern lens.
 
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Tinyportia

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I mean that--just as I seek to contextualize Razek the man--I also seek to contextualize the culture at VS. Razek has been calling the shots at VS for 27 years. That's a motherfucking long time--I am astounded at the changes in societal attitudes even over the course of my own "adulthood", never mind almost the duration of my lifetime. So here, I'm getting at whether it's solely Razek (and thus VS under his leadership) who didn't adapt to the times, or the lingerie (sub-)industry as a whole.
I honestly don't know. Not all sexual misconduct scandals make the news, I think it's near impossible to answer that question without speaking to people that have worked at lingerie companies. My theory on this is that maybe the better question to be asking is: rather than the lingerie industry, is it certain male dominated companies that aren't adapting to the times? Based on my observations, it certainly seems that these sorts of scandals are more likely to occur in companies where the leadership is made almost entirely of men and where there tends to be a somewhat of a "boys club". At least, those are the stories that get reported about. As we know, senior leadership at VS was pretty much all men. And as you point out, the original premise of VS was essentially rooted in female objectification. So maybe there is something to be said in that regard? As an example, the first "casualty" of the MeToo movement in Australia was a male CEO of an online real estate marketing company. There were very few women in senior leadership roles at this company. No allegations of sexual harassment were made against the CEO personally, but he was accused of perpetuating a "boys club" culture at the company that actively encouraged female objectification. In fact, the culture was often likened to the "Wolf of Wall Street":

"In no uncertain terms, it is a total 'boys club' in Melbourne," the male manager wrote in late December. "I have witnessed female colleagues made to feel uncomfortable because of names like 'doll', 'babe' and subjected to behaviour that's nothing short of bullying. It's like working in an office in the 1980s. Others in my team report men telling them to 'smile', being 'perved at' and being objectified."
Should we be comparing the culture at this company to that of the broader real estate marketing industry?

Perhaps rather than considering Razek's behaviour/Victoria's Secret in the context of the broader lingerie sub industry, would be it be more accurate to consider their behaviour in the context of male dominated companies (or even male dominated industries?). You mentioned you work in STEM (which tends to be dominated by men) and you've personally experienced and witnessed inappropriate behaviour from male colleagues towards women that had little to no consequences for the men involved. I personally have not experienced this and I have worked in law firms (where the male to female ratio is generally 50-50, and in leadership roles probably something like 60-40 in favour of men) and then gone on to work in companies operating in female dominated industries (fashion, retail, beauty etc) where women make up a large portion of the leadership roles. Yes, allegations of sexual harassment did take place but there was a culture of encouraging victims to "speak up". Women did speak up and their claims were very quickly investigated by HR. Where the allegations were found to be substantiated, there were consequences for the "perpetrator". To that end, I also pose the question: how many stories similar to the VS one do we know of that occurred in companies with a greater proportion of women in leadership positions?

To be clear, I am absolutely not saying that all male dominated companies are rife with sexual harassment and "toxic masculinity" (as an aside - I hate the word "toxic masculinity" but that's a discussion I'd rather not get into ATM). Likewise, I am not saying all female dominated companies are good and free from toxic behaviour. We all know that women can be bitchy and I have no doubt that would be many examples of a corporate culture of bullying and victimisation at female dominated companies. I personally have witnessed many examples of bullying and victimisation among women in the companies I have worked for. Interestingly, that behaviour was tolerated but any sexual harassment by men towards women was quickly addressed. But we don't usually hear about these because y'know, MeToo makes for a better story, doesn't it?

So are there any cases where a (recent-ish) change in leadership has led to a demonstrable change in the culture?
I also think this question is impossible to answer. I am not aware of any studies that have examined how a change in leadership can influence a company's culture. Personally, I think it takes a significant amount of effort and a very long time to change the corporate culture of an organisation. A new CEO or new Board won't automatically lead to cultural change if the problems are already deeply integrated into day-to-day business operations throughout all facets of the organisation. Managing culture is an ongoing process that requires the buy-in of leadership and management at all levels, and requires all staff to be appropriately trained, promoted and supported. I read the other day that VS recently implemented an "ethics hotline" - a an anonymous phone number for staff to call to report unethical behaviour. But what good is a hotline if no-one uses it? Or doesn't trust that it's anonymous? Codes of conduct and ethical/probity rules are easy to implement and I suspect all large corporates already have them. It’s the actual education, implementation and monitoring that is often missing and takes time to embed. Changing culture is no mere box ticking exercise. It demands thought, work and action informed by what has happened in the past, why it happened and what steps are now proposed to prevent its recurrence.

This has turned into a bit of a rant and I am not sure now that I've even addressed your second question! What I am trying to say is that because changing the culture of an organisation can take a long time, I suspect it's impossible to actually measure how a change in leadership has brought about a demonstrable change in corporate culture. The added complexity is that society's expectations are changing so quickly too and it's probably only in the last 5 years or so that the importance of "good corporate culture" has become a thing. In the past where a CEO or senior leader was accused of sexual harassment and subsequently terminated (if he was terminated at all) he was described by the business as a "bad apple" or someone who "went rogue": the imputation being that the company is otherwise comprised of good, ethical and honest leaders. No-one looked at the organisation as a whole and questioned whether there was a problem with the company culture. Nor were questions asked about the role of the Board and other senior leaders and how they created an environment that allowed these behaviours to continue. Nowadays, things are changing and these questions are now being asked. But it's for these reasons that I think finding an answer to your question may prove quite difficult.
 
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Ellie

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I should have done more (been more forceful in discussions with people in power) to make sure they couldn't as easily prey on other junior women. (And to what extent would those in positions of power really have been willing to act, if I'd insisted on more?) I've also spent a fair amount of time wondering if I'd done the opposite--ie, overreacted.
Oh boy, this hit home for me. I don't have anything helpful, I just wanted to share I've had the same thoughts.

Bella, because she never spoke out despite her wealth and apparent power, means she is also somehow partly responsible.
Ok. Assuming she heard the comments, there's two situations: she felt uncomfortable and chose to hold her tongue intentionally, or she didn't feel uncomfortable and she brushed it off thinking it wasn't a big deal. Add on if there's one that I'm missing.

Let's say that first situation is true, that she felt uncomfortable but didn't say anything. What if we all framed it like this: the community culture that allows women to be groped and violated, and then punishes them if they complain or rebel against it, is so powerful that even the most privileged woman working there might not speak out because of the drama it would cause and the way it would certainly affect her career. She doesn't need the job and she still didn't come forward. This is a woman who doesn't even need to worry about being skinny to get hired - how bad must the backlash be if she worried that sharing this clearly fucked-up story would hurt her career, and not Razek's?

Or maybe she heard the comments, and it didn't occur to her that those comments were inappropriate. Again, I don't necessarily blame her, I again would say that likely means those kind of comments are so normal they don't even ring an alarm bell. Maybe it's so far from the worst thing she's heard there that "skip the panties, also nice titties" seems trivial, and that is a different kind of fucked up.

So either she's too worried about the consequences of going to HR, or it literally didn't occur to her that anything was wrong. That's how bad it is/was to be a woman getting harassed at VS.
 
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irid3scence

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@Tinyportia I think it's no coincidence that we're asking different questions--it's perhaps indicative of the fact that we're coming at this from rather different perspectives.

Re: how the culture at VS fits in with that at other lingerie companies, I'm not suggesting that that which is representative should automatically be condoned; that's obviously a problem if "typical" is something we as a society are not willing to accept. However, the focus then needs to be on Razek/VS *as representative of an entire industry*, and practices/norms within the industry scrutinized, as opposed to, "Look at all the bad shit that happened at this one company." The reason I halt this line of inquiry at the lingerie industry is that it occupies a somewhat unusual position even within fashion: boobs and butts and "intimate" aspects of the female form are explicitly part of selling the product, and I imagine it's necessary to touch and comment on those parts over the course of a shoot. There are then ways of doing so appropriately vs inappropriately. Contrast this to, say, selling Canada Goose parkas. So, what at VS, specifically, diverged from industry standards? If nothing substantially, then what, specifically, about the lingerie industry are we as a society unwilling to tolerate?

Re: whether a change in leadership has ever led to a tremendous change in culture, the question was ultimately a motivational one. That is, if we're going to say, "Things should not be this way", then ideally we also have the satisfaction of saying, "It doesn't have to be this way, and here's an example." And the best example, I contend, would be one where the culture used to be what is now considered deplorable, and has become one that is now admirable.

The matter of a single individual being a "mover and shaker" perhaps merits its own discussion*, but I brought it up because the media accounts right now are portraying VS as having had a bona fide cult of personality around Razek. Ofc fashion has had other examples of these; notable examples are Abercrombie and Lululemon, both of whose implosions could be directly traced to bizarre gaffes/antics of their CEO's.

would be it be more accurate to consider their behaviour in the context of male dominated companies (or even male dominated industries?). You mentioned you work in STEM (which tends to be dominated by men) and you've personally experienced and witnessed inappropriate behaviour from male colleagues towards women that had little to no consequences for the men involved. I personally have not experienced this and I have worked in law firms (where the male to female ratio is generally 50-50, and in leadership roles probably something like 60-40 in favour of men) and then gone on to work in companies operating in female dominated industries (fashion, retail, beauty etc) where women make up a large portion of the leadership roles. Yes, allegations of sexual harassment did take place but there was a culture of encouraging victims to "speak up". Women did speak up and their claims were very quickly investigated by HR. Where the allegations were found to be substantiated, there were consequences for the "perpetrator". To that end, I also pose the question: how many stories similar to the VS one do we know of that occurred in companies with a greater proportion of women in leadership positions?
Yeah see, this in particular is where I'm like, "OK, we're coming at this from very different perspectives." (Not necessarily a bad thing--probably good!) How many industries *aren't* male dominated, and accused of being a "boys' club"? The prime examples off the top of my head are nursing and primary education, and various other service professions (eg, in-home caretaker). Your 60:40 ratio in law firms you have experience with indicates what level of seniority, exactly? It sounds impressively close to parity compared to what I hear from my American friends.

I think it's a very different and much bigger discussion if we're going to be talking about industries that are "boys' clubs" as a whole, and the extent to which various norms are problematic, and the extent to which those are due to the predominance of men....**

To be clear, I am absolutely not saying that all male dominated companies are rife with sexual harassment and "toxic masculinity" (as an aside - I hate the word "toxic masculinity" but that's a discussion I'd rather not get into ATM).
I've alluded above to how I feel about that term. It presumes to be prescriptive--because it foists on us as well the existence of a "non-toxic masculinity"--and requires a cultural grounding that is seemingly never proffered: which sorts of behaviors/beliefs, in what cultures/societies, with their complex histories and interpersonal dynamics? So yes, I'd be much happier if we could have this discussion without ever using that unhelpfully loaded term, heh.

We all know that women can be bitchy
We're on SGF...did any of us really need the reminder? :lol:

Managing culture is an ongoing process that requires the buy-in of leadership and management at all levels, and requires all staff to be appropriately trained, promoted and supported. I read the other day that VS recently implemented an "ethics hotline" - a an anonymous phone number for staff to call to report unethical behaviour. But what good is a hotline if no-one uses it? Or doesn't trust that it's anonymous? Codes of conduct and ethical/probity rules are easy to implement and I suspect all large corporates already have them. It’s the actual education, implementation and monitoring that is often missing and takes time to embed. Changing culture is no mere box ticking exercise. It demands thought, work and action informed by what has happened in the past, why it happened and what steps are now proposed to prevent its recurrence.
Maybe this is where you felt you were going off on a tangent/rant, but I fully support it. Re: hotlines and such, I see so.many.god.damn.formalities that are ostensibly meant to instill awareness/"sensitivity", but are transparently meant for covering institutions' asses and wasting everyone's time. No one wants to do recurring annual (or more frequent) trainings about sexual harassment, pecuniary (or non-pecuniary) COI's, diversity awareness, and about a million other things. Everyone is mentally checked out and just wants to go back to work. You don't make employees better people by forcing them to "tick boxes". I'm not saying I have a straightforward solution, but I'll call BS when I see it. I will say that people have to *want* to behave differently, and that outside some very clever incentives that behavioral economists manage to dream up, leading by example and inspiring others to "be the change" is probably the most meaningful and sensible way to effect change.


*The cult of the individual leads to some very curious phenomena. An objection to the Nobel Prizes heard from those in the natural and physical sciences is that these (sorts of) prizes obscure the extent to which science--those sciences in particular--are a joint endeavor involving huge teams of extremely hardworking and capable people. I wonder also if perhaps the tremendous agency to which we ascribe to company leaders today has something to do with their extremely high compensation--which didn't used to be quite so stratospheric.

**Here I run up against the disconnect between my personal (in large part culturally-informed) values and those of the society in which I currently find myself. I'm not saying I refuse to have it, but whenever I do, I continually have to remember that things I consider ("have been taught"?) to regard as OK are considered utterly horrifying by other people. (This has happened on this very thread!) Indeed, much of what troubles my conscience when it comes to what I do/don't report comes down to how the people I confide in often tell me that what I describe is absolutely not OK (and how on Earth could I possibly think it was?), and how I should be thinking of people who feel like them--rather than those who feel like me--when it comes to protecting those who may be next. It's constantly a balancing act between my conscience vs "the world's" (the world I have chosen to inhabit), and tbh I find it pretty tough.
 
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Tinyportia

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Re: how the culture at VS fits in with that at other lingerie companies, I'm not suggesting that that which is representative should automatically be condoned; that's obviously a problem if "typical" is something we as a society are not willing to accept. However, the focus then needs to be on Razek/VS *as representative of an entire industry*, and practices/norms within the industry scrutinized, as opposed to, "Look at all the bad shit that happened at this one company." The reason I halt this line of inquiry at the lingerie industry is that it occupies a somewhat unusual position even within fashion: boobs and butts and "intimate" aspects of the female form are explicitly part of selling the product, and I imagine it's necessary to touch and comment on those parts over the course of a shoot. There are then ways of doing so appropriately vs inappropriately. Contrast this to, say, selling Canada Goose parkas. So, what at VS, specifically, diverged from industry standards? If nothing substantially, then what, specifically, about the lingerie industry are we as a society unwilling to tolerate?
OK now I have a better idea of where you are coming from! I think though, using the lingerie industry as the basis of a comparison is perhaps too narrow? I can't disagree that sexual harrassment may be more likely in an industry based on objectification of women and the sale of sexuality and desirability to a male audience. But I do disagree with your use of the lingerie industry as being the subject of your line of inquiry. Victoria's Secret was built with the male consumer in mind - but it is women who purchase the majority of lingerie. I'd go so far as to argue that it's for this very reason that Victoria's Secret is unlike many other lingerie companies (i.e the ones built with the female consumer in mind and who focus on comfort, ease, fit, reliability and the female definition of "sexy", rather than the male definition of "sexy"). I'll admit that it comes as no surprise that the culture inside VS seems to mirror its branding. I think the better question then is to examine how the culture at VS fits with that at other companies whose brands are also based on the idea that women need to look sexy for men. Maybe it is the case that the culture of VS is simply representative of the cultures at other companies who operate based on similar views of women.
 

irid3scence

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OK now I have a better idea of where you are coming from! I think though, using the lingerie industry as the basis of a comparison is perhaps too narrow? I can't disagree that sexual harrassment may be more likely in an industry based on objectification of women and the sale of sexuality and desirability to a male audience. But I do disagree with your use of the lingerie industry as being the subject of your line of inquiry. Victoria's Secret was built with the male consumer in mind - but it is women who purchase the majority of lingerie. I'd go so far as to argue that it's for this very reason that Victoria's Secret is unlike many other lingerie companies (i.e the ones built with the female consumer in mind and who focus on comfort, ease, fit, reliability and the female definition of "sexy", rather than the male definition of "sexy"). I'll admit that it comes as no surprise that the culture inside VS seems to mirror its branding. I think the better question then is to examine how the culture at VS fits with that at other companies whose brands are also based on the idea that women need to look sexy for men. Maybe it is the case that the culture of VS is simply representative of the cultures at other companies who operate based on similar views of women.
Agh, I dunno.

The historical footnote was meant as a wry observation--amidst the current indignation--that VS, in its original incarnation, wouldn't even be allowed to exist today. But the company pivoted to catering to women c 1983. And women voted with their wallets for VS's unprecedented hegemony in the lingerie market. Didn't the VSFS epitomize body #goals for like more than an entire generation of women?

I don't think this is about men, never mind an individual man, so much as it is about power. If Razek was getting off to anything, I bet you it was to the feeling that he could behave with complete impunity, for decades having the run of a company from which like every third woman chose her underwear (and thus one in every third man would get to/have to see).

For a point of comparison, here's what Jennifer Zuccarini, head of Fleur du Mal (from which VS infamously cribbed designs this past summer) had to say about the culture (in addition noting that creativity was actually encouraged when she was there):
When you think about the brand image and the marketing and Angels, it all came from a department run by people who have been there forever. [In terms of creative direction,] even if you had this amazing design team and women-led part of the company, all those decisions were still being made by that side.
Yes, she also said that "that" side (the business side) had a "very male-centric point of view", but without clarifying what exactly that means.

Sure, FdM is designed by a woman, and IMO very comfy and flattering, but I'm not sure what I'm supposed to extrapolate from that to how Zuccarini treats her models and employees. Or, for that matter, Candice Swanepoel with her swimwear line. I'd hope that anything she objected to when she worked for VS she would take pains to ensure doesn't happen at her company, but beyond that?

For some closing thoughts on power and abuses, I'll just note that academia (like modelling) invariably presents situations of highly asymmetric power relations, in often isolated (one-on-one) settings, and mention the curious case of feminist scholar Avital Ronell and her male grad student. She's a lesbian, and he's gay...so how does any of that compute? Power. Also, I'd be remiss not to remark that here, people were able to defend the accused prior to their exoneration, without committing career suicide. Perhaps the fact that she's a woman had something to do with that?
 
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longlegz

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I have a soft spot for Bella
Do you mind elaborating why ? I'm curious. :sneaky:
Although I do have to admit I often feel like a hypocrite - I dislike her a lot, but am still unable to be unkind while talking to her because she makes an effort to be nice. There are even people who think we're good friends. Oh God. :facepalm:
 
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lepetiteparisienne

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Do you mind elaborating why ? I'm curious. :sneaky:
Although I do have to admit I often feel like a hypocrite - I dislike her a lot, but am still unable to be unkind while talking to her because she makes an effort to be nice. There are even people who think we're good friends. Oh God. :facepalm:
Curious to know if there are any specific reasons as to why you dislike her? Or do you just dislike her as a model?
 

longlegz

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Curious to know if there are any specific reasons as to why you dislike her? Or do you just dislike her as a model?
As a model (obviously!!!) and as a person too. It's hard to describe, I wouldn't say there is a particular thing, it's the personality in general - annoying in a way, wants everyone to like her, would do everything for some sort of success (except maybe actually stop eating junk :hahano:). Desperate in a way maybe? There's something in her vibe that is very off and weird, but I absolutely have no idea how to explain it. But as she also really tries to be kind it makes it extremely hard to dislike her. I really do have completely opposing thoughts about her. I want to hate her, but she is still amiable irl so I can't. I apologise, I feel like I didn't really answer your question, but it is difficult to point it out.
 
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PattieBoyd

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Do you mind elaborating why ? I'm curious. :sneaky:
Although I do have to admit I often feel like a hypocrite - I dislike her a lot, but am still unable to be unkind while talking to her because she makes an effort to be nice. There are even people who think we're good friends. Oh God. :facepalm:
I'm not a big fan of her modelling career, but I appreciate that unlike other nepo models she tried really hard to improve in certain ways (and she did) and takes her job seriously. She seems a really nice person but yes, her Instagram persona can be annoying.

In my opinion she improved a lot and I do believe she can get even better, especially bodywise.
 
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Skinnybubbly

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As a model (obviously!!!) and as a person too. It's hard to describe, I wouldn't say there is a particular thing, it's the personality in general - annoying in a way, wants everyone to like her, would do everything for some sort of success (except maybe actually stop eating junk :hahano:). Desperate in a way maybe? There's something in her vibe that is very off and weird, but I absolutely have no idea how to explain it. But as she also really tries to be kind it makes it extremely hard to dislike her. I really do have completely opposing thoughts about her. I want to hate her, but she is still amiable irl so I can't. I apologise, I feel like I didn't really answer your question, but it is difficult to point it out.
Dang. In real life too? I had to unfollow her because she irritated the shit out of me. I also caught the desperation vibe and that was through the screen. Tries too hard.