Today I read an article which really disgusted me and at first I couldn't quite put my finger on why. It's here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/01/nude-kate-moss-ushered-90s
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.