German Vogue recently published a fashion spread playing on the idea that room attendants are available sex objects. This is particularly contemptible in the context of the Strauss-Kahn case, and can only be taken as a statement of support.

Dear German Vogue,

I am writing with regards to your July 2011 ‘Maid Fantasy’ fashion shoot.

The global fashion industry is notorious for providing callous illustrations of the gap between rich and poor and ordinarily these pictures would be merely offensive. However, in the light of the Strauss-Kahn attempted rape court case this photo shoot is one step further than the usual insensitivities. In the current context, it can only be taken as a statement in support of Strauss-Kahn. It is an agreement that he should be forgiven for simply ‘touching up the help’ as one French magazine editor called his actions.

In the case of ‘the people of the state of New York against Dominique Strauss-Kahn,’ one of the most powerful men in the world now faces seven charges, including the attempted rape of a room attendant in his suite at a luxury Manhattan hotel.

Accusations have been quick to fly concerning the reliability of the woman as a witness – seeing as how she is a) a woman b) works in a hotel and c) is black. Members of the French left who fully expected Strauss-Kahn to run for President have excused him as ‘a well-known seducer’ of women. The French press have broken US laws on anonymity by publishing the woman’s full name, her teenage daughter’s name and the address of their home. Strauss-Kahn has now sent private detectives to the village where the woman was born in order to dig up anything from her background that he can use against her in court.

Now you have decided to publish a fashion spread that plays on the idea that room attendants are available sex objects and fetishises the wealth gap between hotel staff and guests.

Strauss-Kahn was arrested on 15th May 2001. Even if you had already shot the photo shoot, you can not have failed to discuss whether or not showing Ginta Lapina role-playing as a ‘sexy maid’ was a good idea given current circumstances. Let me assure you that it was not.

The only thing you have done well, though incidentally, is to illustrate the unequal balance of power between a hotel guest and a hotel worker. In your shoot, one woman is playing, the other toiling. One is in charge, the other submissive. The diamonds and furs of the hotel guest are flaunted in front of the maid, as a reminder of who controls whom. It would take a room attendant 20 hours work to be able to afford one night at the New York Hilton and ten times that to be able to afford the clothes in your photo shoot.

All of which fittingly echoes the power imbalance that existed when the head of the IMF allegedly attacked an impoverished black woman from a country that his organisation has helped to subjugate.

Particularly distasteful is the picture of Lapina as a hotel guest, confronting a faceless maid as she leans back over the edge of a bath. You seem to have role played and trivialised an act of extreme violence by one of the most powerful men in the world. What were you thinking when you printed this?

The seductive and carefree nature of the pictures are a world away from the back-breaking 10-hour minimum-wage shifts that are the reality of the lowest rung of the service industry. They are also a world away from reports that Strauss-Kahn’s accuser was found by her colleagues cowering in a closet, trying to throw up, spitting on the floor and unable to speak from fear.

You might not feel any solidarity towards the woman who Strauss-Kahn is alleged to have attacked but let me assure you that millions of women and men across the world do.

Like the hundred or so female room attendants who gathered to confront Strauss-Kahn at his recent court appearance, they will not be reduced, as you have tried, to sex objects who clean. When the Guardian interviewed hotel worker Lourdes Col√≥n-Santos at the protest, she stated: “I felt as if I was defending myself, defending my own person. It could just as easily have been me that this happened to.”

Or like the thousands of people who have recently marched on the global Slut Walks. A key aim on these marches has been the refusal to allow a divide to be drawn between ‘good girls’ and ‘bad girls’ – women who are ‘asking for it’ by the way they dress and so deserve to be raped. These issues affect women across the world including your staff and readership. “We Are All Chambermaids” banners have been raised on many of the Slut Marches and also on recent Parisian demonstrations against Strauss-Kahn. Why don’t you try representing these people rather than denigrating the progress that women have fought for?

With the help of her colleagues, someone has finally stood up to Strauss-Kahn. She did not shut up about what happened to her and neither will we. You need to apologise.