Before I state that Donna Karan supports (and promotes) rape culture, let me explain what rape culture is and what Karan has to do with it. Rape culture is a term designed back in the 1970’s by a group of feminists in the United States in order to emphasize the way in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized sexual violence against women. It appears that rape culture is not only dead, but heavily alive in 2017 through a line of actions that make sexual assault and harassment against women seem normal and inevitable. Last Thursday, The New York Times reported allegations that the famed film producer Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of Miramax and The Weinstein Company (and a husband of Georgina Chapman, co-founder of Marchesa), “paid off sexual harassment accusers for decades”. Several actresses, including Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan stated that Weinstein had them sent up to his hotel room, where he appeared in a bathrobe and asked if he could give them a massage of if they could watch him take a shower. Since The New York Times article appeared, more than thirty women, including A-list actresses and journalists, went public to share their horrific experience with the producer, including a heartbreaking story McGowan shared on her Twitter account of how Weinstein paid her $100.000 to stay quiet about the night he raped her. Yes, raped. In a series of tweets, she accused Hollywood of being silent for more than three decades, writing “You all knew” and “Now I am allowed to say rapist”. He was too powerful, women were afraid.
Now, let us go back to Donna Karan. As so many celebrities before her, the fashion designer was asked about the afere by a Daily Mail reporter on the red carpet at the Ciné Fashion Film Awards last Sunday. One would assume that Karan, self-named female empowerer and feminist would feel disgusted, appalled and deeply outraged by Weinstein’s behaviour and actions, but instead she said this: “To see it here in our own country is very difficult, but I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality? You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.” Notice the smirk on her face when she says it? Disgusting.
This coming from a woman who gave us deep plunge necklines, fitting body silhouettes, high-slit skirts and dresses that were suppose to represent emancipatory, empowering wardrobe for women. Since the comment, Karan issued a statement saying she’s “truly sorry to anyone that I offended and everyone that has ever been a victim. That unfortunately is not representative of how I feel or what I believe”. Karan insisted her statement was taken out of context even though it was recorded and broadcasted live. It was particularly shocking to hear such statement from a fashion veteran known for her liberal views and continuous support of women’s rights. By the way, how do you present yourself, Donna? At the time you were giving that inexcusable statement, I noticed you opted for a long black, sensual and very inviting dress. Were you asking for it? Well, you were not asking for trouble but you surely got in it. For days, people are boycotting Karan’s brands (hashtagging #boycottdkny and #boycottdonnakaran all over Twitter and Instagram), multiple businesses and name. Stocks are going down, along with her three decade-long career. Was it all worth it?
The bigger question is when will women stop feeling scared to say things out loud, to call out the sexual predators such as Weinstein? This scandal perfectly demonstrates how rape culture works. The allegations and accusations have taken so long to surface, yet people dare to question why women waited so long to speak out. One of Weinstein’s victims, journalist Lauren Sivan, wrote “You try telling that story ten years ago. Only possible now because of women with bigger names, far braver than me.” I guess, according to Karan and so many other misogynists out there, even today it is better to stay silent and allow rapists, sexual assaulters, harassers, bullies to continue with their wrongful actions. Here’s a piece of advice, Donna: Visit your local center for rape survivors and learn what rape and sexual assault are all about. There may be thousands of research papers, chilling stories and testimonies you are unaware of. Right your wrong by educating yourself and then going public with what you have learned. You are not alone in not understanding rape and rape culture, but you should have known better. Your comments were insidious and damaging on so many levels. As a woman, you should be ashamed. Now, take a bow as you did in 2015 and exit the fashion world for good.
Photo Credit: Quartz