Donna Karan defends Harvey Weinstein, appears to blame women for sexual assault

Donna Karan has apologised for her comments about the Harvey Weinstein scandal [Photo: PA Images]
Donna Karan has apologised for her comments about the Harvey Weinstein scandal [Photo: PA Images]

Donna Karan has apologised for her comments about the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which suggested women could be asking for sexual harassment based on how they dress.

During a red carpet interview at the CinéFashion Film Awards on Sunday, the fashion designer appeared to defend Weinstein by suggesting that women and the way they dressed and behaved were partially to blame.

Despite speaking about the poor treatment women often receive, the designer steered the conversation away from the Weinstein allegations and instead focussed on the role women may play in sexual harassment.

“I also think, ‘How do we display ourselves? How do we present ourselves as women?’” the Daily Mail reported she said. “What are we asking? Are we asking for it, by presenting all the sensuality and all the sexuality?'”

“And what are we throwing out to our children today about how to dance and how to perform and what to wear? How much should they show?” Karan continued. “I don’t think it’s only Harvey Weinstein.

“We have to look at our world…and how women are dressing and what they’re asking by just presenting themselves the way they do. What are they asking for? Trouble.”

She also described Weinstein and his wife Georgina Chapman as “wonderful” people.

Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual assault[Photo: PA Images]
Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual assault[Photo: PA Images]

Unsurprisingly her remarks kicked off a Twitter storm, lead by Rose McGowan, one of the women named in the New York Times expose as having settled with Weinstein in 1997.

Sharing a screen grab of the Daily Mail article she called out the fashion designer for her comments.

“Donna Karan, you are DEPLORABLE,” she wrote on Twitter. “You are scum in a fancy dress.”

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain also waded into the furore.

“How many seventeen year olds have you dressed like they are, in your words, ‘asking for it?'” he posed to Karan.

[Photos: Twitter]
[Photos: Twitter]

Following the backlash, Donna Kara apologised for her comments, saying they were taken out of context.

In a statement released on Monday, Karan explained that she “made a statement that was not representative of how I feel or what I believe.”

“I have spent my life championing women. My life has been dedicated to dressing and addressing the needs of women, empowering them and promoting equal rights,” the DKNY founder said.

“My statements were taken out of context and do not represent how I feel about the current situation concerning Harvey Weinstein. I believe that sexual harassment is NOT acceptable and this is an issue that MUST be addressed once and for all regardless of the individual.”

“I am truly sorry to anyone that I offended and everyone that has ever been a victim,” she concluded.

ICYMI on Sunday Harvey Weinstein was dismissed from The Weinstein Company, following allegations of sexual harassment.

Since then various Hollywood actresses have been speaking out about the scandal including Dame Judi Dench, Meryl Streep and Ramola Garai.

Though Donna Karan’s swiftly issued apology might go some way to dampen Twitter’s fiery rage, the fact that the comments came from a woman is a real disappointment. If not actually that surprising.

In a recent British survey, the majority of respondents said they believed victims bear responsibility for rape in some cases. And women were even harsher than men.

Over half of the women surveyed (54%) said victims were partially to blame for their rapes with a third echoing Karan’s thoughts that a woman would be a fault if she dressed provocatively. 13% would blame a victim just for dancing sexily or flirting.

But the fact that in 2017 clothing still carries weight in a conversation about sexual assault is more than a little disappointing. Effectively using women, and what they wear as a scape-goat for excusing harassment was not ok years ago and it’s not ok now.

Donna Karan says her comments were taken out of context and that may well be the case, but there’s no doubting it’s just one more case of victim blaming for sexual assault rather than, well, the obvious person who decided to commit the harassment in the first place. In this case Harvey Weinstein.

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