As if the modern woman doesn’t have enough to worry about in the workplace (see: sexual harassment), a report from Women’s Wear Daily alleges that Condé Nast and Vanity Fair employees welcomed their new editor less than hospitably.
The story, published Friday, claims (without naming names) that employees at the magazine and media company weren’t impressed by Radhika Jones’s sartorial choices. Jones — an accomplished alum of the New York Times, the Paris Review, and Time, and the first Indian-American woman to be named editor of a major magazine — reportedly wore a “navy shift dress strewn with zippers” and tights “covered with illustrated, cartoon foxes.”
According to the account, Anna Wintour “fixed one of her trademark stoic glares upon Jones’ hosiery throughout the duration of the staff meeting.” Other Condé Nast employees allegedly remarked that the outfit was “iffy” and “interesting,” which in fashion parlance translates to “we disapprove.”
Twitter users, namely in fashion and media, seized on the story to defend Jones, whose résumé earned her the title of successor to famed Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, who is officially ending his tenure on Dec. 11 when Jones takes over.
I can’t wait to see the new @VanityFair under your helm @radhikajones I wish you all the best. I hope you know for some of us in fashion, substance and merit matters a lot. XPG pic.twitter.com/rh9ahuvp7Q
— Prabal Gurung (@prabalgurung) November 17, 2017
— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) November 17, 2017
Watch out: Foxes are clever and beautiful. And they have very sharp teeth. https://t.co/Xl3Jzta2uD
— Pamela Paul (@PamelaPaulNYT) November 17, 2017
The report, if true, reinforces long-held stereotypes about fashion media and how women undercut each other in the workplace — a narrative immortalized by movies like The Devil Wears Prada. That film is more than a decade old, but perennial stories like these undermine the substantive work done by fashion and media outlets, long considered frivolous and superficial, to combat the narrative. Examples of that hard work include that of Teen Vogue (another Condé Nast publication) during the 2016 presidential election, or Glamour (also of Condé Nast) and its 27-year-old commitment to celebrating a range of superstars at its Women of the Year Awards.
Even if Jones had been plucked to lead a fashion magazine, conversations over her clothing would be inappropriate. But she now sits at the helm of a culture bible, one whose esteemed former editor was praised for his influence in the media and political spheres (not his penchant for sports coats and double-breasted suits), marking the alleged criticism lobbed at her as particularly gendered.
“What we wear to work is so embedded in our company cultures that it is easy to overlook how the outfits and appearance many are expected to have could be sexist,” the blog Everyday Feminism wrote in 2015. “They are often just another aspect of our professional lives in which women face a double-standard and unrealistic expectations.”
Dr. Barbara Greenberg, a psychologist with expertise ranging from relationships to implicit gender bias, goes so far as to say mocking Jones’s work wear is another variant of the #MeToo phenomenon, in which women are speaking out about various forms of sexual harassment they’ve experienced within the workplace and outside of it.
“Having worked with women and men for so long, people comment on women’s attire all the time in the workplace, and it’s significantly less likely that someone talks about the pattern or color on a man’s tie,” Greenberg tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s a form of harassment that’s specific to women in the workplace.
“For some reason, it’s acceptable to comment on what a woman wears to work,” Greenberg continues. “To me, that’s another variant of #MeToo.”
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