November 20, 2017

Why reporting on Radhika Jones’s fox tights is bad for feminism

by

Recently, it was announced that New York Times Book Review editor Radhika Jones will succeed Graydon Carter as editor at Vanity Fair. The news was met with much acclaim, particularly from the publishing world, with many excited to see what direction the very well-read and literary Jones will take a magazine often focused on celebrity, Hollywood, and fashion.

Unfortunately, though, it seems that not everyone at Vanity Fair is giving Jones the welcome she deserves. According to reporting by Misty White Sidell at Women’s Wear Daily, staffers at Vanity Fairy have criticized Jones’s fashion choices following a recent visit to the magazine. Sidell reports that a fashion editor snidely called Jones’s dress “interesting” and made fun of her tights, which were covered with cartoon foxes. WWD reports the notorious Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-chief and artistic director at Condé Nast (which publishes both Vogue and Vanity Fair, “is said to have fixed one of her trademark stoic glares upon Jones’ hosiery throughout the duration of the staff meeting.”

Those within the industry quickly fired back at the accusation against Wintour. Zara Rahim, Vogue’s Director of Communications, reportedly tweeted, “To say Anna Wintour, who proudly hired Radhika to lead this magazine because of her intellect and vision ‘fixed one of her trademark stoic glares upon Jones’ HOSIERY’ is GARBAGE, and anyone else who knows her KNOWS that.” (The tweet appears to have since been deleted.)

Whether or not there is any truth to WWD’s report is really not the issue here. Most troubling is WWD’s decision to run this story, which offers nothing more than gossip designed to get page clicks, make waves within the media, and, most dangerously, perpetuate narratives that pit successful women against each other. The report plays to the stereotype that women are not capable of rising above petty issues, reducing them to mean girls who take each other down over sartorial choices. It’s misogynistic, and overshadows all Jones’s accomplishments — before being editorial director of the Book Review, Jones, a grad of Harvard and Columbia with a PhD in comparative literature, worked at TIME and the Paris Review, and the first-ever Indian-American woman to run a major US magazine.

Focusing on these feuds and pitting women against each other is a tool of the patriarchy, inhibiting us from fighting against the sexist and misogynistic behavior that keeps women from positions of power and equal rights. As Julianne Escobedo Shepherd writes at Jezebel, Jones is rumored to be earning only a quarter of what her white man predecessor made in the same position. The sort of article that WWD ran confirms the suspicions of an unenlightened person, that these accomplished women are nothing more than “silly girls” who aren’t focused on “important issues.” That is how we get overlooked for promotions, interrupted in meetings, dismissed from inner circles — and this is why we are not paid equally to men.

This is 2017 and women are demanding more from the world, now more than ever. In the never-ending struggle to be taken seriously by our peers and our superiors (who so often happen to be men), we must put an end to this dangerous rhetoric that divides us.

Also, fox tights are pretty damn adorable.

 

 

Stephanie DeLuca is the director of publicity at Melville House.

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