whisper network

Fashion Gets Its Own Version of the Media Men List

Photo: Sven Frigger/EyeEm/Getty Images

On Tuesday night, the fashion industry was presented with a “Blacklist” of photographers, agents, and stylists accused of sexual harassment and assault. Published by the anonymous Instagram account @ShitModelMgmt, the list is the fashion equivalent of the Shitty Media Men Google spreadsheet, which was created in October by Moira Donegan in an effort to protect women from predatory behavior.

“The following list contains the names of people in the fashion industry that I SUGGEST models avoid,” reads the Blacklist’s introduction. “This is not a concrete list, it is only a strong suggestion based on solid information.”

Names listed only once are considered a “warning” for models, however, names with an asterisk have been reported over three times and, in the opinion of the Blacklist’s author, should be “avoided at all cost.”

According to the publisher, there are 290 names listed, all of which have been collected via Instagram direct messages and emails over the past few months. The specifics of these allegations have not been shared, although the publisher claims they range from sexual harassment to rape. Familiar names on the list include Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, who have both been accused of sexual exploitation reported by the Times and the Boston Globe Spotlight team.

@ShitModelMgmt originally began as a meme account for venting about the industry, and the administrator is a former model herself. A few months ago, she put out a call for followers to share their stories and her inbox was quickly flooded. She shared many of the messages she got in her stories, blurring out the names of accusers but not those accused. She promised to eventually compile the names into a list.

It took some time for the Blacklist’s publisher to write every name down. “It also took a long time for me to gather the bravery to do it,” she told the Cut Wednesday afternoon.

“I made this list as a reference for models so that they can be safe,” she explained, adding that she wishes she’d had a resource like this when she was starting out. Despite the immediate backlash she’s been getting from those named — some have threatened legal action — the support she’s received from peers reaffirms her belief that a list of this nature is necessary.

“A lot of people have been thanking me because they were assaulted by someone on the list and feel better now that they’ve seen someone else say the same thing,” she said. “They’re like, ‘I don’t feel crazy anymore. A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders knowing I’m not the only one.’”

In an effort to keep the Blacklist as accurate as possible, the publisher is open to amending it. “If a photographer DMs me saying he didn’t do anything wrong, begging me to take him off the list, I’ll take the name down,” she said, adding that she’s already done so for “a few” names. That being said, if someone has been reported multiple times, she will not remove them.

It’s a lot of power and responsibility for one person, and her actions coincide with a larger conversation currently happening about the pros and cons of unregulated whisper networks, particularly those online.

“My intentions are good,” the Blacklist’s publisher argued. “I’m not trying to slander anyone and I don’t want to put anything up that’s not true. I’m not the judge.”

The publisher also expressed interest in reaching out to the Model Alliance, an organization founded in 2012 with its own grievance reporting and advice service.

As for legal retaliation, the Blacklist’s publisher says she’s not super worried because she’s anonymous. She cites Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in the list’s introduction, which broadly protects web hosts against legal claims “arising from hosting information written by third parties.” However, according to Julie Zerbo of the Fashion Law, “one could potentially argue that she is actively compiling all of this information and thereby not immune (by way of s. 230 protections) from claims of defamation.”

In the meantime, the Blacklist’s publisher is more concerned with the prospect of @ShitModelMgmt being suspended. “I’m going to try to keep [the list] up for as long as I can,” she said. “It may not be pretty and fun, but it’s something everybody needs for safety.” She added, “I choose to believe these models.”

Fashion Gets Its Own Version of the Shitty Media Men List