The Herald-Leader’s Oct. 10 front page featured the release of a tape revealing then-presidential candidate Donald Trump as a sexual predator. He boasted in a 2005 video of how his wealth and fame allowed him to “move” on women, to dominate them and take whatever sexual contact he can get.
This is the attitude of a rape culture. If you think that statement extreme, turn to the Living section the day before.
Look at the photograph with the article on Lexington FashionWeek. A young black woman is sprawled on brick pavement, one leg twisted unnaturally, as if she has fallen or been thrown from a great height.
Her shorts and high heels are all that cover the lower half of her body. Her upper body rests on a cape flung back behind her. It is made of the same beautiful fabric as the shorts. A halter top attached to the cape has slipped so that it is above her breast, but she has on a leotard that matches her skin color.
She looks broken, staring as if stunned or drugged. How can this violent image pass as fashion? As a standard of beauty women should aspire to? As acceptable, permissible, tolerable? Is this perhaps acceptable in the same way Trump dismisses his behavior as “locker room banter.” Or, in wife Melania Trump’s words, “boy talk”?
It is imperative that we see that violence against women is pervasive. The photographer has placed the model right where an abuser would want her: on her back and powerless. What is being sold here? Who is buying it? Why do we accept it?
Because the model is black, the photo also echoes current images of young black people dead on our streets. Why does fashion evoke a crime scene? It does so because on some level we have bought what’s being sold. Our culture has a taste for it, and we are unconscious or overwhelmed or resistant to thinking about what this means.
The essence of that image has been woven into a strand of our collective thought: boys will be boys and girls will be raped.
As First Lady Michelle Obama said in her speech to New Hampshire voters, “This has got to stop right now.” We have elected a president who preys on women and would have us believe all men are like that.
We must refuse to accept violence against women and girls as normal and inevitable. We must call it out wherever we see it. And no matter how beautiful the fabric, we must not let it be sold as fashion.
George Ella Lyon is Kentucky’s poet laureate.
At issue: Herald-Leader article, “Lexington FashionWeek is a first for local designers”