As the Media "Pits" Editors Against One Another, the Narrative Becomes About ... Tights?

On Friday, Women’s Wear Daily shocked the fashion industry with an article detailing the less-than-friendly welcome that Vanity Fair’s new editor-in-chief Radhika Jones allegedly received ahead of her official start date next month. According to WWD’s article, “[W]hile Jones may have been editorial director of the books department at The New York Times, an alum of Time magazine and The Paris Review, a graduate of Harvard and holds a doctorate in English and comparative literature from Columbia — none of this impressed Condé Nast-ers. They, instead, were aghast over her sense of style.”

WWD continues on, “Jones’ choice of hosiery proved most offensive, according to [one unnamed] editor. For the occasion, Jones had chosen a pair of tights — not in a neutral black or gray as is common in the halls of Vogue — but rather a pair covered with illustrated, cartoon foxes. The animal caricatures may have also been too much for Vogue editor in chief and Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour, who is said to have fixed one of her trademark stoic glares upon Jones’ hosiery throughout the duration of the staff meeting.”

Vogue’s communications director Zara Rahim took to her personal Twitter account on the heels of the article’s publication to call foul, writing: “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.” Rahim goes on to pose the question, "Why do y'all love pitting women against women so much?"

It is worth noting that there absolutely has not been a shortage of pushback in the face of WWD's article. Despite claims of "gossip"-mongering, WWD, it seems, opted to share the report in an attempt to shine a light on some of the less-than-attractive elements that reportedly occur within the rankings of the fashion industry, including the potential diminishing of highly-qualified, accomplished women, such as Ms. Jones, to little more than what they choose to wear. 

Whether there is merit to the allegations set forth in WWD’s article is arguably unimportant, as are the specific parties at hand, to be totally frank. What is undoubtedly noteworthy: The fact that there continues to be an unavoidable practice of placing dubious value on even wildly intelligent, successful women. 

Nonetheless, one of the narratives that should come about in connection with Jones' appointment is a celebration of this woman, particularly in light of the milestones that come with her taking the title of editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair. Jones is, after all, Vanity Fair's "first woman editor since Tina Brown and, more significantly, the first Indian-American woman to helm a major glossy in America, ever." 

This opportunity could also be used to incite a meaningful discussion about the gender inequality that continues to plague even the most highly educated women in 2017. As indicated in another article that was published on Friday, Jezebel’s Julianne Escobedo Shepherd wrote that Jones is said to be "earning just one-quarter of [her predecessor Graydon] Carter’s former salary, and on that salary she is tasked with revamping and revivifying a marquee title in a rapidly shifting media landscape.”

Citing the Daily Beast, Escobedo Shepherd states, “Jones, meanwhile, is being hired at a significantly lower salary than her predecessor; her rumored starting salary of $500,000-$600,000 a year pales by comparison to Carter’s reported $2 million deal.” (Note: It is unclear what Carter's starting editor-in-chief salary was). 

Fox tights and pay check comparisons aside, the situation at hand, taken as a whole, sheds light on a much larger issue: Our collective penchant for diminishing women. The media tends to do this by situating women are rivals (how long did we have to read about Taylor Swift v. Katy Perry?) and for gauging their worth based on largely inconsequential factors, such as physical appearance. Such messaging, which has come to dominate all forms of media, is frequent, inherently petty, and unnecessary.

It is also downright damaging, potentially serving as a barrier to women joining forces in an attempt to collectively overcome various gender-specific discriminations, such as the gender pay gap and sexual harassment. (As of 2015, 1 in 3 women said they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The number is probably even greater now). 

This is something worth reflecting on, because, after all, did anyone ever second-guess, let alone judge, Graydon Carter's ability to do his job based on his wardrobe?