The fashion industry has a long and storied history of being tone deaf on the subject of race, but it’s also impressively boneheaded when it comes to violence toward women. To wit: in 2008, a fashion designer named Anand Jon was convicted on one count of rape and 15 counts of sexual assault on girls as young as 14 (he was consequently sentenced to 59 years in prison and currently awaits trial on a set of similar charges). W, as a fashion magazine, thought it appropriate to acknowledge this story in its November issue, so we’re treated to a brief rundown of Jon’s crimes…
Under a headline that refers to rape and multiple sexual assaults as “fashion violations.” You know, like wearing tights with open toed shoes. And pairing black with brown.
Should anyone need it articulated why this is such an astonishing lapse in judgment and taste, one of Jon’s victims, Tara Kipnees, filed a short piece for Salon called “Rape Is Not A ‘Fashion Violation.’” Here’s a excerpt from her take:
As one of the girls (I’m now 27) Jon raped, who has already testified in his L.A. trial and is again due to testify in his upcoming New York trial, I was shocked by this sliver of glib print. How could W Magazine equate an act like rape with something as casual as a fashion faux pas? Whoever chose that wording probably didn’t mean to trivialize rape, but in searching for a cheeky play on words, ended up settling for something that falls somewhere on the spectrum between ignorant and offensive. It was apparent that the matter of greatest interest for W magazine was not so much rape, or the number and youth of the victims. What was more magnetic is that a designer who dressed the rich and famous had fallen from grace so epically. I was reminded of the televising of the OJ trial, when Nicole Brown Simpson’s and Ron Goldman’s very real deaths were marginalized by the media circus surrounding the downfall of a national sports hero. When such media fascination is involved, victims become barnacles attached to a once-magnificent sinking ship. The more barnacles, the more sensational the wrongdoing, the more people gawk.
It is disappointing and upsetting that any rape victim should feel compelled to ask a magazine not to trivialize their sexual assault. But there it is.
We’ll let you know when W offers an apology.