Saturday, October 13, 2007

Anna Wintour: The glamour of bullying


Just read Jerry Oppenheimer's breathless Front Row: Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief - published two years ago. I found a US edition of the book (was there ever a British?) in a remainder shop in Brighton Marina Village for £5 (original price US$24.95).

The real theme of the book is workplace bullying, though Oppenheimer scarcely realises it. All sorts of amazing details blitz the pages but her behavioural patterns are not analysed psychologically, beyond Wintour's Wayfarers prescription shades - a chic Trojan to disguise her poor eyesight - and her many curious habits: she laps up the cream on coffee but doesn't touch the drink; same with melted butter on her soups; she picks out pennies from her purse and tosses them in the wastebasket.

One quote in particular interests me, from an unnamed former British Vogue staffer who "quit in disgust" at Wintour's office conduct in the mid-'80s:

"[Anna Wintour] is the first female bully I ever met. She treated everyone, except for her own little coterie, like trash. You could tell she got off on it. A real little bully of a woman, and for what? Power for her was what it all was about. Power's Anna's aphrodisiac. I mean, Vogue's just a fashion magazine, a catalogue to sell clothes, for God's sake. And people had to be tormented so she could get a pat on the bum [from her Condé Nast bosses]."

Her material rewards for bullying have been immense as editor in chief of American Vogue. And I have no doubt a whole new generation of people will have been inspired by her example - untroubled by legislative attempts to rein in the abuse of staff. The trick of the bully is to force people to think that they're on the losing team as a prelude to office guerrilla warfare and dismissal (constructive or actual). Behind the chic, mute cool of Wintour is just another primitive vulgarian once desperate to make it at the expense of others. Now she's made it, she's applauded by idiots who think success is all. The Devil Wears Prada merely celebrated this syndrome as dressed-up "satire".

Perhaps it's time to found an international organisation that targets the glamour of workplace bullying, or workplace intimidatory behaviours that are sold through the media as examples of winning, succeeding, rationalising, reinventing or re-freshing. It could be called the Anna Wintour Foundation - to remind the future of who required its creation.

For information on bullying see Bullying UK

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are lots of female bullies in the workplace - especially in newspapers. One editor of a so-called liberal newspaper particularly likes to promote annorexic crazy evil women with no discernible talent who make other people's lives total misery...

Liz said...

I'd have to dispute that there are lots of female bullies in newspapers. There aren't enough of us for that to be the case.

I'm one of 18 subs on my newspaper, 17 of them male and they spoil me rotten. It's great!

Madame Arcati said...

I'd be interested to know which female bully you mean - I assume you mean a senior editor rather than an editor?

My interest is in bullying per se - male or female. But glamour bullying is a variation - where a cool image is built on intimidation and is even held up as enviable.

Anonymous said...

A head of department - investigated for bullying and racism - but amazingly gets away with it aided and abetted by her editor. She is glamourous - though no longer young. Maybe that's why she gets away with it....

Madame Arcati said...

Interesting. Feel free to email me privately if you wish. My inquiries are always discreet and confidential. Such people need to be rooted out and new role models encouraged. A Herculean task.

Anonymous said...

"Such people need to be rooted out"

I was about to shout: "Off with Arcati's head(s), then!" But on second thought, I remembered that Arcati is nothing but a pixel tiger, just as others are paper tigers...

Anonymous said...

Madame,

What a charming and very very convincing rant against bullying.

What is it that you do again?

Hardly holding people to account, is it? What with your targets being mostly private individuals...

Anonymous said...

top anon. why not just name the editor and go on be daring name the women too

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