Did you know that some women are upset because Marissa Mayer, the Yahoo CEO, had the audacity to pose in Vogue and she looks stylish and even worse, pretty ?
They’re offended that a woman who is so smart, so accomplished, so successful – has admitted to liking fashion (gasp!) and then brazenly dares to be photographed in a fashion magazine, styled in designer clothes and actually looking (double gasp!) like a model.
Pepper Schwartz wrote this on CNN.com:
“We women would like to feel that for at least some of us, sheer competence would make looks a non-issue in our lives. We would like to think that a brainiac like Marissa Mayer wouldn’t need, perhaps would not want, to have a very public glamor shot as a career capstone.”
Really ? A career capstone ? I hardly think Marissa Mayer views her appearance in Vogue as a career capstone. Before she was made CEO at Yahoo, a $30 billion company, she was an executive at another little company called Google. In her 13-year run there, she rose from a programmer to an executive position managing hundreds of employees while she worked on technology that’s used millions of times a day, by millions of people: Google’s search engine. She acquired extreme wealth. But if you read any article about Mayer, the one-word description you’ll hear time and time again about her is how smart she is.
She may view her appearance as a feather in her cap, but more likely, she views it as good press for Yahoo – the company she’s in the process of turning around. It’s unfortunate that some people want to focus on the “sexy” photo in the Vogue article, where she’s stretched out on a lounge chair in a Michael Kors dress and Saint Laurent shoes. Perhaps if they bothered to read the feature article, written by Jacob Weisberg, they would discover a number of enlightening things about Marissa Mayer, the businesswoman; this isn’t some fluffy little piece about what’s in her handbag.
In short, the entire article is about her sheer competence. It may be accompanied by a photo of Ms. Mayer looking attractive and wearing designer clothes, but if that’s all you see, maybe you just don’t want to admit that a fashion magazine like Vogue has a substantial audience of smart women, who aren’t willing to be defined by just one thing they’re interested in: fashion. Women are a little bit more multidimensional than that – some of us even have careers, watch the news, attend college and read books and stuff.
Pepper Schwartz also says Mayer “has to take note of how pained a lot of women are about this fashion photo. Not just a few women felt hurt looking at the Mayer layout, wondering silently or out loud if acquiescing to this kind of shot means that for Mayer, and perhaps for other women, that “making it” and “having it all” needs to include being publicly admired for one’s allure. That’s a depressing thought for many talented women who are not beautiful or not sexy. They do not have that card to play and this layout could certainly make them wonder if selection for the top job requires being lovely. “
I think it’s insulting to suggest that talented women might be depressed and think they can’t make it to the top if they’re not pretty. The women I know who have made it to the top of their professions have relied less on their talent and looks, and a lot more on hard work. I doubt they look at Marissa Mayer and silently think the only reason she is one of a handful of female executives running a tech company is because she’s pretty.
Here’s a newsflash: Women know that appearing in Vogue and looking pretty doesn’t mean you don’t contribute to society in meaningful ways.
Michelle Obama has been on the cover twice. She looks pretty; that must be why.
Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who survived a violent gun attack and now speaks out for gun control, looked pretty in the March 2013 issue. Of course, we’ll never forget her Ralph Lauren turtleneck and the soft lighting.
And then there are those pesky celebrities who get featured in Vogue for doing good in the world. I mean really, an entire article devoted to Charlize Theron supporting aids prevention in South Africa ? How confusing for all of us Vogue readers to have to separate that from her Dior ads.
Personally, I’m much more offended by people who think if you like fashion, you must not be smart enough to care about real issues. Reading Vogue, or Elle, or any of the other substantive fashion magazines, doesn’t make you some shallow little twit. It’s ridiculous to suggest that because a woman appreciates fashion, or beautiful clothes, or a lovely photograph, she’s incapable of forming intelligent opinions about people in the spotlight.
While there are certainly many occasions for women to grouse about gratuitous sexy photos being used to draw attention to meaningless issues, Marissa Mayer’s photo in Vogue isn’t one of them.
Please weigh in below, smart girls. Do you agree that this is much ado about nothing ?
(Photo credits: Marissa Mayer in Vogue, photo by Mikael Jannson, found on CNN.com. Michelle Obama, Vogue covers, from Huffington Post. Gabriele Giffords photo, Livewire Talking Points. )