Tim Gunn is stylish and sweet. And he's as impressive in person as he is onscreen standing next to fashion diva, Heidi Klum. He's also very real. (He even oohed and ahhed with me over photos of the Little One.)
So what was he doing at today's Liz Claiborne "It's Time to Talk" Day event?
"This is my third year participating in this event," he tells me. "I also attended a Domestic Violence awareness conference in LA in October. And one of the things that's really being clarified for me is that we need to fix the abusers. So much of the focus in on girls and women--and it should be. But we also need to broaden the scope of the conversation. We need to reach out to the boys and the men, to help them identify abusive behavior and stop it before it escalates. I see this as our responsibility."
"Everyone is responsible for this. The education needs to be to both genders. Look, the most egregious cases are easy to identify. But in an age of prevalent technology--texting, IMs--dangerous patterns can be established before anyone knows what's happening. Nowadays, there's this machine," he points to my laptop, "that sits in between the relationship. So many teens today communicate through technology--through computers and smart phones. At least on a telephone call you hear my voice. But using machines as a preferred form of communication leads people to say and do things they wouldn't necessarily do in person--or even over the phone. With machines, abuse gets easier to perpetrate and to hide."
How do we get this message to teenagers?
"This is the great conundrum; your children's peers, the influence they wield and the role of what they see played out on TV. I mean, I don't want to sound like an old prude, but some of what's being shown on television is part of the problem. Some of these shows glorifying people behaving badly, violently, it's not helping."
So what role does the media play in this discussion? What role should they assume? How responsible is the media for putting a stop to this violence?
"I don't believe in censorship, in any form. I want to be clear. And, let's face it: These shows persist and proliferate because people watch them. But when parents are watching, kids are watching. Maybe there needs to be a conversation that happens at home like, 'You see this? This is a lesson in how NOT to behave.'"
But how do you make that message clear for a teenager? Don't do this, even though it might get you on television?
"Maybe the thing to do--and I think you've just given me an idea--is to make public service announcements that correspond to the action on the shows. I mean people in the public eye and people who make the decisions about what the public views need to accept responsibility for what they're doing. They need to make responsible decisions. If you're showing this kind of programming that glorifies bad behavior, maybe it's wise to address it in a public service kind of way. At least it would seem a more balanced approach, wouldn't it?"