Hi Queens & Kings!
We are nearing the end of May—if you can actually believe it?! There is still quite a bit we’d like to share, as we conclude our Mass Media and Sexual Assault Series (a topic we will continue to revisit).
Part of what we wish to continue to promote with our content is a hope for a more respectful and empowered world seen within our own communities. Here at Herstory, we acknowledge the power and influence mass media has on furthering this agenda. It is our goal to share content and experiences that will progressively move us in a more empowered world where RESPECT for one another is never out of fashion. To speak of her involvement in the fashion industry and its relation to rape culture is cofounder, Cristal Lowe.
From Cristal Lowe:
“I initially began writing for this week’s blog post on a different topic; but instead thought, maybe I should continue the conversation from my sister’s last entry, only this time, from a designer’s point of view.
I too had a unique experience working in the fashion industry as a designer and being a woman of God. I often internalized conversations with myself in regards to the woman’s position in fashion both as a creator and subject. I was always curious as to why more sales were made when women wore less, and questioned the motive behind an industry that is suppose to be selling fashion clothing, not just the bodies that wear them. I always wondered why some models resorted to taking jobs that would expose themselves in a light that GOD would not be well pleased. More importantly, I wondered why the world who consumes these advertisements settle for compromise for the sake of exposure? All in all, making the experiences of sexual violence and harassment in the “real world” more difficult to accept as being true. However, like my sister said, maybe the motive isn’t so much of empowerment as it is for the sole purposes of profit? Maybe we have exchanged what we so desperately want to mean “power” in today’s society for the sake of filling up our bank accounts?
As creatives of any industry, I hope we can offer more options for the meaning of success. I hope that creatives consider their art as an extension of influence and its implications on how we treat each other. It is a big feat, but together, I believe we can see a collective change.
This isn’t to imply nudity or artistic expressions of sexuality are wrong; but rape is; harassment and prejudices are...I’m merely suggesting we adopt a more critical eye of the intent behind our art especially when it comes to consumerism.
As a designer, I have a responsibility in what projects and visions I provide for my models. I set the standard for how I want my models to be portrayed because it’s an extension of my brand and my personal morals.
Having worked in this industry for ten plus years, I made up my mind on the nature of the interactions between myself and the models I worked with. I am very much aware of the type of misconduct that occurs in this industry. Therefore, I always offer the option for my models to bring a friend or parent to a casting, or a fitting. I recall the time our co-founder Devin Marie contacted me for auditioning for a fashion show I was producing. Still new to modeling, she asked if she could bring someone with her. Now I can only imagine what was going through her mind (meeting a perfect stranger in a big city) but I quickly replied, “Yes, of course, you can come bring someone to accompany you.” I felt a sound of relief, and we had conducted our casting where we both felt comfortable and respected.
At that time, I already endured the most painful experience of my life, being raped. It is because of my experience, I was most certainly relieved that someone would come with her, even though my intentions were strictly professional.
Involving myself in the fashion industry after my experience, made me even more aware to implications of sexual misconduct. I can recall at my previous job, a male ex-colleague involved in the model-fitting process. (Fit-modeling involves using the selected model as a garment-tester before mass manufacturing.) They give us feed back on any uncomfortable seams/or give us suggestions like "lower the armhole 1/2" and raise the neck a bit.”)
During the casting process this man would go out of his way to make the models wear these white intimates he provided, instead of the company’s standard black panties and bra when photographing them during the selection process. Now for some, many would say, “they’re just little white shorts, it’s part of the job to get undressed for proper measurements, no big deal,” but those little white shorts will expose parts of a woman’s body that the black shorts would not; and in instances like this, I’m always questioning people’s intent/motivation for doing certain things. Taking advantage of your position by using manipulation masked as standard protocol is an abuse of power! In today’s day and age, I have to call things like that into question. It is unfortunate to say, but as much as there are honest, and respectable people in the fashion industry,(like in any profession) there are also individuals who abuse their power.
I too agree, that models should get far more respect for what they do. No model should be expected to just undress or put on any kind of clothing they don’t feel comfortable wearing. No model should be made to feel fearful or intimidated when speaking up about their level of comfort in fear of being reprimanded or being seen as “difficult” to work with.
At the end of the day they are people, just like you and me, these are mothers, sisters, and aunties. We need to protect and support another human being’s right to say yes or no to something; especially in the work place. It should be okay to say "No, I will not fit that bodysuit without leggings underneath,” just as much as it’s a person’s right to say “yes”!
My personal message to all upcoming designers in this world:
“Trends fade...and there are options for us to make all creatives feel respected in their artistic environment. On my journey, I have learned, you don’t have to expose a woman’s body to make an impact with my designs. God gave you that talent, what God has for you—IS FOR YOU and no one can take your place because GOD has made you UNIQUELY talented to stand out not become another carbon-copy artist.” -Cristal Lowe
It is our hope that the industries we occupy consider us human beings first. We have a responsibility with the power and positions we have been given. It’s time to hold each other accountable; for the sake of art, and more importantly for humankind.
As an artist, creator, or consumer, how will you challenge the world around you despite trends or popularity? We sincerely hope you consider these things, until your next return! Stay tuned for a brand new series, we look forward to growing and healing with you!
With love & solidarity,
Have you ever seen your pain through other’s eyes? We have all experienced the relatable pull towards someone else’s truth or experience whether that be represented in a scene of a movie, lyrics to a song, or perhaps an image or novel. That relatability often provokes personal emotions to arise, be it positive or negative sentiments. There is something to be said about experiencing trauma first-hand, furthermore, it’s even more thought-provoking when hearing of
someone else’s similar testimony. Years after our experiences of sexual assault, we consider these truths to be self-evident, that our survival-hood is an ongoing process open to ushering in more stories of triumph; while healing from the repercussions of pain, anger, and loss felt by others. Mass media has played a pivotal role is sharing stories similar to my own; forcing me to become even more sensitive to the reality of my own personal experience being shared by so many others.
If I am speaking transparently, I am often overwhelmed with a lot of emotions when hearing other sexual assault stories in the media. Emotions range from anger to displaced pain I personally internalize from my own experiences of abuse. Much of my frustration is only amplified in a justice system that does very little to empathize with survivors like ourselves. When you strip away the victim-blaming, and get to the truly upsetting problem; the prevelance of sexual violence, the pain often becomes riddled in helplessness.
Sexuality and sexual expression is not as much of a taboo, in our society. We have been conditioned to believe that the only way to sell art or obtain success is through the use of sex. Almost everyone has heard the saying “Sex Sales.” They aren’t wrong either.
“The sex industry alone accumulates $150 BILLION a year for traffickers; $99 billion is made from sexual exploitation alone. “ (https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/human-trafficking-numbers)
“By 2025, adult content is forecast to be a $1 billion business, the third-biggest virtual-reality sector, after videogames ($1.4 billion) and NFL-related content ($1.23 billion), according to estimates from Piper Jaffray.”
This is only further enforced in the industry that I work in as a model/actress, where I see this all first hand. I know actresses who get paid thousands more for exposing themselves nude or partially nude for film than other extras or principle actors. I’ve been offered payment for implied or partially nude shoots from photographers and even pressured by some designers to “expose more” all for the sake of art. I have turned down a lot, but have found myself in compromising situations that are accepted as being “normal” and just part of the industry. It is an industry that is in charge of not only selling to the culture, but influencing as well.
As much as sex has become normalized in our society, it becomes even more challenging to accept the pain behind the profit of such industries. The truth in the stories of survivors that come forward arelte often than not, questioned before they are believed.
Society is forced to question how something that is was made for entertaining turn into a human rights offense. Sexual assault offenses disrupt the system’s marketing ploy against its consumers. Forcing consumers to question their participation in a culture than desensitizes sexually explicit acts for the purpose of profit. But at what cost? These REAL life testimonies must then be sifted through the facade: that the purpose for sex is solely for entertainment. Sex is also used as a form of power and control; and when manipulated, it can lead to damaging repercussions.
On the other side of pain and heartbreak from a broken system and mislead culture, I still have a passion to change the content in our culture that influences such acts. As a survivor and advocate for other survivors, I have made it my responsibility and passion to choose projects and work with people who are conscious of the power that media has on our culture. I don’t get it right all the time...I too have been conditioned to believe that images like these or roles that sexually degrad women of color fill up my bank account quicker, that success is one half-nude shoot away to a MAJOR campaign. I am however, very mindful of my influence. I can no longer ignore the realities that so many continue to face. We as consumers of brands, and mass media in general have more power than we think. We have the right to call ads and content into question, we have the right to demand more from creatives, advertisers, and our media. I’m still hopeful and I believe that overtime we can undo the conditioning that has made our world insensitive to issues that affect us on both a personal and global level.
With love and solidarity,
Have you ever seen your pain through other’s eyes? We have all experienced the relatable pull towards someone else’s truth whether that be represented in a scene of a movie, lyrics to a song, or perhaps an image or heart-string-pulling novel. That relatability often provokes personal emotions to arise, be it positive or negative. There is something to be said about experiencing trauma first-hand; then hearing someone else’s testimony closely relatable to your own.
Years after our experiences of sexual assault, we consider these truths to be self-evident, that our survival-hood is an ongoing process open to ushering in more stories of triumph; while healing from the repercussions of pain, anger, and loss felt by others. To speak more on her own reflections of media’s portrayal of sexual assault and it’s effects on survivors, is cofounder, Cristal Lowe.
A rapist doesn't have to be a stranger to be legitimate. Someone you never saw. A man with obvious problems. But if you been public with him, danced one dance, kissed him goodbye lightly with a closed mouth, pressing charges will be as hard as keeping your legs closed while five fools try and run a train on you. These men friends of ours, who smile nicely, take you out to dinner, then lock the door behind you...--For Colored Girls, 2018.
Speaking transparently, I am overwhelmed with a lot of emotions when exposed to other sexual assault stories in the media. Emotions range from anger to displaced pain I internalize from my own experiences of abuse. Much of my frustration is further amplified in a justice system that does very little to empathize with survivors like ourselves. Women of color are often marginalized from these discussions, making the topics we discuss here even more important for us to continue to share. When you strip away the victim-blaming, and get to the truly upsetting problem; the prevelance of sexual violence, the pain often becomes riddled in helplessness. However, years later, I’ve accepted that on the other side of pain and heartbreak from a broken system, is a passion to change our culture that influences such acts from happening.
Content that has influenced me to see the beauty beyond my triggers were movies like For COLORED GIRLS. Like any well-written film, I was rocked with emotion, being brought to tears. One particular scene drew me to an uncomfortable place, where I flash-blacked to my own experience of assault. My tears no longer belonged to the characters in the scene, but my own. They were tears I couldn’t afford to express openly in public, which made watching this with others I loved, even more profound. I recall my husband saying, “Lets just turn it off..." in response to my obvious emotions.
While I accept my healing has taken place, my passion to change the culture has only increased. I find it easier now to speak about my experience without breaking down or without mumbling my words. However, my discomfort when seeing such scenes in movies or TV shows forces me to understand my feelings about what I went through that much more. I hate watching someone going through a pain even more so, I hate that I know that pain so personally. These however, are our truths. As more and more testimonies are shared and portrayed throughout mass media (fiction or not), I am too, learning to exchange my pain for empowerment. Stories like the ones shared in For Colored Girls empower me as much as they do challenge my own sentiments of sexual assault. They keep pushing me to consistently grow with my sister through working on HERSTORY because these stories only reaffirm the statistics that report sexual assault in America afflicted upon "1 out of every 6 American women.” (www.RAIIN.org) (14.8% completed rape, and 2.8% attempted). If you ask me, 1 out of 6 is one too many.
My wish would be for there not to be another single soul affected by sexual violence or harassment of any kind. While we work on diminishing the rampant occurrences of sexual assault in our world, let us draw closer to the stories that are shared in the media. Let us critically analyze how these stories are portrayed and become more sensitive to the realities of characters and real people we interact with on a regular basis. The more we humanize the people afflicted, the more our culture grows in more empathy and less blame. We can actively empower ourselves and others by supporting media outlets and forms of entertainment that speak to the empowerment of survivors through real stories, as uncomfortable as they make us.—Cristal Lowe
Regardless if you share in similar stories expressed in the music you hear or the films you watch—these are stories that are speaking to someone’s truth; a truth, we hope we can all gain a bit more empathy from however we second-handidly experience them.
With love and solidarity,
Hi Queens and Kings!
April shower bring May flowers right?! Well we are blooming right into a new month, and we couldn’t be happier to start fresh and new with you all. Although the topics we speak of are heavy in content, our goal is approach the subject of sexual assault and rape culture with the positive sentiment which is “change in our culture, and healing is possible.” The world says their is strength in numbers; God says that He is made strong when we are weak...so which is true?
We’d argue both... even in our pain, God has holstered us up when we didn’t feel we could carry on. He would remind us we are never alone in His presence and the strength He showed in other people’s stories of survival further confirmed that truth!
After my personal experience, the first time I heard something on the news, read something online or in a book about a sexual assault story, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Anger, resentment, frustration, and ironically, a bit of peace filled my heart. It was a type of peace in knowing I wasn’t alone in a world that subjects and positions women (especially women of color) to unjust circumstances such as gendered violence.
As the media gains more coverage of testimonies from women and men who’ve survived sexual assault, the denial of rape culture having responsibility for the perpetual occurrence of rape, and sexual harassment becomes more of an illegitimate defense for those who don’t agree.
The acknowledgement of rape culture forces the narrative to shift from solely victim and perpetrator to communal awareness and response to these crimes.
This month’s series “Mass Media & Sexual Assault” will analyze how sexual assault is portrayed in our mass media while also addressing how this news affects many survivors who are still healing from their own experiences.
We hope this series is not only informative, but empowering to those who are seeking answers, resolutions and more importantly peace.
Stay tuned! NEW BLOG POST dropping next week; EVERY week after that—because YOUR STORY MATTERS!
With Love and Solidarity,
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