Why you should care about the exploitation of models
One of the most common challenges I came across while writing, ‘The Model Manifesto’ was the statement: ‘no one will care about the exploitation of models. They are privileged to be able to do their job and people are jealous of them’.
This is why you should care.
The exploitation of models, who are not least young, vulnerable people for the most part, is exploitation of human beings. It doesn’t matter that they are objectively beautiful, or paraded as those with perfect lives - in fact that is exactly why you should care. Because the subconscious brainwashing of the public, with these exploited models, who are kept thin, voiceless, agreeable, pleasant young ladies and men, are being used in the Capitalist cycle of making you feel bad about yourself and as a result, spend more money.
The exploitation of any members of the human race is threatening to our humanity. As the world becomes more divided, angry and selfish, we understandingly retreat to what is easy. Choosing an easy life, being indifferent to any kind of exploitation of humans for the gain of others, is dangerous - because true strength lies in us as individuals, coming together as the majority and choosing what is right. Being oblivious to the suffering of models or the suffering of refugees - or even the suffering of yourself, as you scroll Instagram first thing in the morning and last thing at night, is a threat to us all.
For as we prefer to discuss the Kardashians over Israel, as it is far easier to read about how fat celebrities have become after giving birth rather than politics, as we spend our time thinking about which picture to post on Instagram instead of thinking about others, we each turn the cog in the wheel of society that affords us minor liberations and luxuries at the expense of other human beings.
As we turn away refugees with tear gas, declaring them someone else’s problem, we unconsciously crush other human beings simply because they were not born within our borders. Treating them with indifference, or worse, misguided denigration - believing they are here for our jobs and our government benefits - is to treat them as second class citizens when in reality they have no choice.
What is indifference? Etymologically, the word means no difference. A strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil. It can be tempting - even seductive. It is so much easier to look away from victims. To avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes. It is after all, awkward, troublesome, to be involved in another person’s pain and despair. Yet for the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbours are of no consequence. And, therefore their lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the other to an abstraction.
Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor, 1999
If we simply ignore the exploitation of human beings, if we even secretly revel in it, because they have something we don’t - for example believing that models deserve to be exploited because they are already lucky to be able to be paid for being beautiful - where does it end? Do we care about the exploitation of our planet, if we are able to wear 5 different outfits in one week? If we can pull out of international agreements in favour of, ‘Great America’, in favour of prioritising ourselves over others?
How about wars? Will it take our families being murdered senselessly for their heritage, our homes being bombed and the real threat of death on a daily basis for us to wake up and take notice? The threat of terrorism plagues the front pages of every newspaper, spreading like wildfire - because fear sells newspapers. The bombing of an English station injuring 30 people receives international coverage whereas thousands of people are blown up all over the world on a daily basis in terrorist attacks, that we choose to ignore. Syria is pretty far away, after all. War is already here - it is already on our doorsteps, the fear burying itself into our subconscious, making us prejudge strangers and be afraid of other humans for no reason other than the colour of their skin. It is already here, and we ignore it brewing under the surface of our skins as we vote for individuality - ultimately, division.
Does it mean we have learned from the past? That society has changed? Has the human being become less indifferent and more human? Have we read learned from our experiences? Are we less insensitive to the plight of victims of ethnic cleansing and other forms of injustices in places near and far?
Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor, 1999
So this is why you should care about the exploitation of models. This is why you should care about the fact that children have the paths of their lives chosen for them by others, who scout them on the street and hook them into a life that is somewhat akin to human trafficking, being rented all over the world by strangers, packaged off to countries to work for money they are unlikely to ever receive due to the legalities and contracts that bind them, that they are very able to even see. They sign over their legal power of attorney to strangers who spend and receive money on their behalf and emotionally abuse them into careers they never wanted to do in the first place.
You should care about vulnerable people being told they are too fat, too thin, too ugly, humans just like you, who are being trapped into financial debt and forced to work their way out of it on a never-ending treadmill. Teenagers who develop eating disorders and depression and anxiety for no reason - and are used to portray to you a life of aspiration - fuelling more of the same issues in other people. Who keep you plugged into the idea that it would be nice to be an ‘influencer’, to have no more life purpose than promoting teeth whitening products and having your photograph taken on beaches, who keep you locked into conversations about how much weight you need to lose, how you need to become different in order to be accepted by yourself.
We need to start somewhere on the quest of waking up and caring. This takes courage, determination and the intelligence to understand what is numbing us and keeping us in a pit of indifference, because it suits those profiting from this indifference. Alcohol, drugs, mindless television, celebrity culture, social media - if nothing else, start with the liberation of your own mind.
...its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the American Confederate, 1861
“I’ve been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I’m building a wall, OK? I’m building a wall. I am going to do very well with the Hispanics, the Mexicans,” President Donald Trump, 2018. “I think I’m going to do very well with Hispanics. But we’re building a wall. He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico,” Trump said later in the interview, speaking of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents. “This judge is giving us unfair rulings. Now I say why. Well, I want to — I’m building a wall, OK? And it’s a wall between Mexico, not another country.”