Friday, 2 November 2012

"Regret" - the abuse whitewash word

Today I read an article which really disgusted me and at first I couldn't quite put my finger on why.  It's here:

Took me a while, but then I stumbled upon it: it's that use of the word "regret" ("Moss may regret that early shoot...etc.")

In one single word, Alex Needham dismisses and minimises the trauma and distress felt by a coerced teenage girl.  And he also whitewashes the abusive behaviour of the adults around her.

We all know what being forced to undress signifies: a loss of dignity and self-determination.  That's why the first thing repressive regimes do to prisoners, is to get them naked, to push home the point that they are helpless now and in the power of the regime's representatives.

At a deep, gut level, even stupid people unused to analysis, who think that fashion is more important than anything else, know this.  So the adults around the sixteen year old Kate Moss, would have known how vulnerable and distressed she was AND THEY CHOSE TO BLACKMAIL HER. It says something about Alex Needham that he can contemplate that and not feel horror and indignation on Moss's behalf or any disgust about the characters and values of the people who saw nothing wrong with coercing a vulnerable child into stripping for a photo-shoot.  No, it's much more important that she ushered in a new fashion era, so her humiliation and distress doesn't matter and we won't even examine their behaviour.

That use of the word "regret" is so telling: it's so often how rape is re-framed by all those people who have a vested interest in ensuring that men's abuse of women and girls, goes unchallenged and unacknowledged.  How many women don't report rape because they know perfectly well that it will be dismissed as "sex she regrets"?  How many times are rapists exonerated because they claim that the women they have raped, did actually consent to sex but for reasons best known to themselves, now "regret" it?

The myth of the woman who does something and then regrets it, so accuses innocent men of abuse, is so strong that just using the word regret in the context Needham has used it here, is a really powerful put-down.  Kate Moss has been extraordinarily brave and honest in describing the abusive scene that photo-shoot represents.  The fashion industry has a vested interest in ensuring that an abusive approach to the models they exploit, remains the unchallenged norm.  Someone like Moss speaking up in the way she has, is actually a very alarming thing for this industry and Needham's slap-down is an absolutely predictable response: minimise the abuse issue and frame the situation as one of the victim's regret, rather than the abuser's behaviour.  It's actually textbook stuff.

Took me a couple of hours to realise it, but that's why I felt such a visceral feeling of disgust when I read that article.  All the irrelevant crap about how the photos of Kate Moss ushered in a new era, blah blah blah, are just a lot of boring flannel; the flashword there was regret and it taps into that centuries-long myth of unreliable and/ or malicious women who cannot be trusted to frame their experience correctly and need to have it re-framed by more rational, sensible beings (preferably with penises) who are better qualified to define reality than any woman or girl.  And guess what - that definition of reality can be relied upon to whitewash abuse of girls and women.


  1. I too knew there was something wrong with Alex Needham's article concerning the fashion industry's deliberate sexual exploitation of Kate Mosse. You very succinctly show what it is and that is deliberate patriarchal reversal in action, wherein the focus as always is on the female victim's behaviour and thereby erases endemic male accountability.

    Make no mistake the Fashion Industry is dominated by men and whilst women do collude in exploiting other women and girls within this industry, it continues to be men who are the ones defining the 'rules' and condoning deliberate male sexual exploitation of female models.

    Kate Mosse was 16 years old when she was subjected to deliberate male sexual exploitation for men's profit. Ms. Mosse did not have institutional or societal power, unlike the men who sexually exploited her. Ms. Mosse stated that she was told 'if you don't take all your clothes off you won't be given any more work.' That is male sexual exploitation not 'female regret.' Guess who has the power - not Ms. Mosse but men!

    This is how Male Supremacist System operates whereby men such as Alex Needham twist the facts around to portray the female victims of male sexual exploitation/male sexual violence as supposedly 'regretting what they had done' rather than focusing on those male individuals who exploited their power in order to profit from subjecting women and girls to sexual humiliation.

    Men know when they have been sexually exploited and men know when they have been subjected to male sexual violence but we women are expected to deny such male sexual exploitation of women and girls even exists.

    The male-centric view is the supposedly default truth because we women are supposedly incapable of knowing when and how we have been subjected to deliberate and systemic male sexual exploitation and/or male sexual violence.

    Ms. Mosse is very, very brave in speaking out against the male dominated sexually exploitative Fashion Industry. I have no doubt men working in the Fashion Industry will punish Ms. Mosse because she dared to hold men and their Fashion Industry accountable and that is something which men will never allow to go unchallenged.

    Male sexual violence against women and girls? Doesn't happen does it according to men such as Alex Needham because it was just another case of 'female regretting her choice' (sic) in submitting to male power and male sexual exploitation.

  2. The sad thing is that Needham probably genuinely doesn't even realise he's doing this; he has no idea that he is helping sustain abusive attitudes and practices and if you told him so, he'd be outraged at the suggestion and instantly dismiss you as an hysterical man-hater.

  3. This is such a good observation. Thank you for this. I've followed your blog from the start and despite the occasional disagreement I have it gives me hope that you exist and speak up.

    1. Thanks Ragnhildr. Feel free to post any disagreements you want to pursue, am always interested in exploring, I give short shrift to the various MRA types but happy to discuss stuff with reasonable people.

  4. I agree. The article was creepy. Poor young kate moss having to pose topless and how she cried. The modeling industry is so hard on kids, no wonder so many have drug problems.

  5. What's wild is that the author gives plenty of nods to the wrongness of the situation, yet STILL asserts that it was "worth it" for the greater good. I'm presently dealing with the horror of my own ambivalence to what is only evident ten years later (seen only now with now clear eyes) as abuse, my own seeming complicity. I got through it at the time by minimizing it, using all the common rape myths to squash my own sense of injustice and pain.
    "Took one for the team." What she took was the blunt end of male violence that serves to keep all of "team: female" in fear and submission.
    Crying in the bathroom...then forcing herself to go in and take it. Wow.

  6. Excellent post, thanks.
    The "regret" word certainly does cover a multitude of sins.

    Kate Moss really should not have had 'regrets' about being exploited like that, as you point out, all the adults around her knew that it was exploitation. Ms Moss should have some anger directed at them. Also explains some of the drug problems that she had, as a method of coping with the exploitation.

    No victim of sexual exploitation or abuse should have regrets. It was not their fault.