Me Too — An Open Letter to Donna Karan
Dear Donna Karan…
I used to love you. Adore you. But no more.
You made a comment a couple of days ago that really made my head spin. I get it … your dear friend, Harvey Weinstein had just been officially outed for being a sexual predator. Maybe it’s the first you’ve heard of it, maybe you were in denial when asked about it. Or maybe you’ve had a great PR team for years that has made sure that you didn’t put your foot in your mouth like you did. Actually, NO. I don’t get it.
When asked by a reporter on the red carpet at the 4th Annual CineFashion Film Awards, you kept rambling about the situation … “I also think how do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women? What are we asking? Are we asking for it by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?” Woah. “You look at everything all over the world today and how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble,” she said. Jaw drop.
Hmmmmm. So I started thinking of all of the “Trouble” I had received over the years as a result of how I dressed, how I had presented myself… questioning myself and thinking about all of the times that I have received unwanted, inappropriate sexually charged advances. Was it my fault? I seriously wondered about this as I made this list. Was I dressed too sexually when any of these things happened? Was I “asking for it,” unconsciously willing for these things going to happen?
The French college professor who thought it was a good idea to put his hand on my knee during a closed door office session to help me get a gig in Paris.
In Paris, the guy who I thought was my friend who decided to make a suggestive lunge for me on a bench near the Eiffel Tower.
NOPE, I wasn’t asking for it then, either.
And then yet another guy in Paris that my naïve self didn’t know how to fend off. He insisted on sticking his tongue down my throat on our first and only date in broad daylight, even though I kept pushing him away. Ewwwwww.
Hmmmm. But what about the time that this same guy showed up at my French language school and was looking for me? I hid from Mr. Stalker and specifically remember my bad, cheap haircut and acid washed overalls that were my uniform at the time.
NO, not that time either.
What about the guy who decided to flash me on the riverbank of the Seine?
Definitely not asking for it.
And that early morning when I was jogging around Florence, Italy and was grabbed from behind by the Italian who thought it was cute to do such a thing?
Not so much.
And then that time in New York City. That hot sweltering day when I had shorts on? Was that my fault? I was sitting on the subway as a tall, muscular man standing across from me decided to rub his crotch as he stared me down. It was a short ride, but I was frozen. Stunned. I didn’t know what to do. But when he started following me after I got off the train, I yelled and screamed for him to get away. The crowd of people looked at me as I yelled like I was the crazy one, not knowing what had just transpired. Was that my fault?
And that visit to the male doctor when I was trying to figure out how to manage my birth control pills? He was more interested in hearing about my love life than helping me.
And that beautiful fall day when I went rollerblading with a friend in Philadelphia to the tune of another full frontal spread eagle crotch display. Yuck.
NOPE. Not my fault. And not the fault of my friend, either.
What about the foreign businessman who would come into town and I was elected to be the in house sales rep? I was eager to do a good job, but I drew the line when he would suggest that I come back to his hotel room at the end of the day. I remember telling my boss, but she didn’t care. I had to keep working with him, I didn’t have a choice.
NO fucking way.
And what about my former power hungry boss who took me out to dinner right after I had been fired by his company and then went on to open up my own clothing boutique? He bragged about how he could contribute financially to my new venture while telling me that he and his wife took separate vacations. Luckily he didn’t try to touch me. I felt sick to my stomach just from the conversation and sexual innuendos.
No, no, NO. And I definitely didn’t want his money, either.
And the time that I was helping a friend out at a suburban house party where she was selling some of her designer wares. The husband of the host decided to take a nice squeeze of my rear end as we were entering the house.
NOPE. Not asking for it.
Recently I sat on the upper deck of a bus in London on my way to a morning interview. This time, mid life, a mom, looking to explore a new creative endeavor. I wore a skirt with rubber boots and a large parka. And just to my left, giving me the side eye was a younger man repetitively stroking his crotch. Years later, I knew what to do. I moved downstairs and got out of the way. But I went home later that day I asked my husband, “Was it because I was wearing a skirt? But I had on a huge parka and rain boots on, too.” I can’t believe that I would even ask that question, but I felt violated. And then I questioned myself. AGAIN.
NO, NOT MY FAULT.
I am one of the lucky ones, really. These are mostly minor scrapes with sexually aggressive behavior, but ones that easily come to the surface of my memories. Many of these things I barely discussed with friends and family when they happened. Were they really harassment? I wasn’t sure, so I didn’t speak up. It was like this hidden secret that these men were trying to keep with me. A power play. And mostly what I felt was ashamed. And I rarely thought that any of this was up for discussion. I just had to swallow it. I was excited for the future, young and ready to take on the world. But NO, this is not OK. It never has been. And to think that I was “asking” for these situations is beyond comprehension.
By the way, Ms. Karan — that autobiography of yours, I still haven’t finished it. But I’m giving myself a free pass and getting rid of the book. I feel a sense of disappointment that somebody I looked up to for years will no longer be a source of inspiration. I’ll be fine, though. What’s really sad, though are all of the women that you didn’t stand up for regarding sexual assault with your flippant remarks. I know, I know you have apologized. But those words weren’t taken out of context. You were defending somebody who has done some seriously bad stuff. I just don’t get it. Your clothes have celebrated beauty in all forms. Women wearing any derivation of them shouldn’t be shamed by you.
I hope that the women that were involved in “trouble” with your dear friend now find inner peace. It certainly won’t be through your faux Urban Zen façade. That door is closed. Women are raising their hands, linking their stories together, taking back their power and collectively saying NO to shame and silence.
Silent no more, I’ve already started talking to my six year old daughter about her own mighty might power. She’s getting an early lesson in her own inner strength and how to handle these situations in life. She won’t be asking for “trouble,” she’ll be kicking it to the curb.