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#UsToo: What the Public Response to Accusations Against Alexander Wang Tells Us About #MeToo

#UsToo: What the Public Response to Accusations Against Alexander Wang Tells Us About #MeToo

American fashion designer Alexander Wang has been accused of sexual assault.

Sexual Assault Allegations Against Alexander Wang

In December, model Owen Mooney came forward on TikTok, describing an uncomfortable encounter in a New York City club where a famous fashion designer groped him. He later came out with a second TikTok revealing the assaulter’s name after fans in the comments guessed it was Wang.

In the video, Mooney says “I was by myself at one point and this guy next to me obviously took advantage of the fact that no one could fucking move and he just started like, touching me up. And fully like, up my leg, in my crotch, like it made me freeze completely because I was in such shock. I looked to my left to see who it was and it was this really famous fashion designer. Like, I couldn’t believe that he was doing that to me. It made me go into even more shock. It was really fucked up.”

The Twitter and Instagram account, Shit Model Management, a self-appointed industry watchdog, posted “Alexander Wang has been accused of sexual assault for a few years now. Instead of letting these occurrences be swept under the rug, it is time to do something about this. Please unfollow @alexwangny & @alexanderwangny to show your support to the victims.”

They have also posted screenshots of unverified and anonymous accusations against Wang of rape, drugging, and pressuring people to take off their clothes, mentioning his “Molly water” trick where he would give people MDMA-laced water.

Wang has denied these accusations, saying in his statement, “I never engaged in the atrocious behavior described and would never conduct myself in the manner that’s been alleged.” He subsequently turned off comments on his social media platforms and assuring that these “baseless and grotesquely false accusations” are being investigated.

This isn’t the first time Wang has been accused of inappropriate behavior. In 2019, rapper Azealia Banks, who collaborated with the designer in 2017, posted on her stories accusations of predatory behavior from Wang, specifically targeting trans women. Gia Garrison, a trans model, and another young male model Nick, came forward to the Guardian with another accusation, asking the industry to keep him accountable.

These accounts have portrayed Wang’s iconic irreverent, hard-partying style, as one that may have a toxic undercurrent. Wang moved from San Francisco to New York when he was 18, quickly becoming a radical designer and recruited by Balenciaga, later developing his style bringing activewear and streetwear into the mainstream.

He is known for being a favorite designer of A-listers, like Hailey Beiber, as his eponymous brand grew after its founding in 2005. Some have come forward in defense of Wang including Heather Hughes, an agent at Elite Model Management, writing that: “Alex and I have known each other for almost 15 years….He always treats models as human beings, and celebrates who they are as people.”

Biases Inherent in #MeToo and Cancel Culture

Mooney’s disappointment in the quiet reaction to these accusations highlights the biases of #MeToo and cancel culture. “The silence of the fashion industry and Hollywood in general is quite deafening. In an era of #MeToo and the solidarity victims received from Hollywood, where is the same support for the victims of Wang? This is why so many accusations of his get brushed under the rug, along with accusations of prominent figures in fashion for that matter,” Mooney writes in an Instagram post.

He also questioned whether the silence in response to accusations against Wang is because the victims are not cis women. “I can’t help but question if this has something to do with this being about men, queer and trans people? Does the ideology that we are not victims of sexual assault exist?” Mooney asked. “What would the response be if a world renowned fashion designer was drugging and sexually assaulting cis women?”

Often when we think of #MeToo, sexual assault accusations, and power dynamics, we think of them in terms of powerful white men abusing women. However, sexual assault does not just occur in the gender-binary; anyone with authority can abuse their power, even if they are part of marginalized identities. Anyone, not just women, can be victims, and should have their assaulter held accountable.

In my own initial reaction to the accusations, I was hesitant to believe that one of my own favorite Asian-American designers could cause such harm. As an openly gay Asian-American in the public eye, I felt represented by his artistic work. But in reading the accusation accounts, and as the case heads to the court, with Lisa Blooms defending the accusers, believing victims and keeping harmful people of power accountable, no matter the identities of the accuser of the accused, they deserve a fair trial. As of now, I stand in solidarity with the victims of Alexander Wang. #UsToo