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