Dear Vanity Fair, Your New Establishment is Patriarchal AF
Alright, I’ll admit it — I’ve been subscribing to Vanity Fair for like, 10 years (probably more). And if you think this makes me an out-of-touch, liberal elitist — well, I don’t blame you. But in my defense, I also subscribe to BUST Magazine, watch Insecure, and read bell hooks.
I like the political reporting, okay? I love when they do a big investigative series, like their series on Bernie Madoff back in 2009. I even enjoy reading about the royal family, for some reason.
But VF regularly induces the eye roll-iest of eye rolls from me, too.
For example, they’re weirdly fixated on Jackie O. — there’s a feature article on her at least twice a year. Who reads these over and over again? What else can they possibly have to say about this woman?
I never read those. I’d rather hear about Michelle O.
I also don’t identify with the glorification of wealth, privilege, and fashion. I don’t care about a $10,000 watch or what kind of fancy fucking soap Tory Birch uses. (I hate that I even have a vague idea of who Tory Birch is.)
Just cause you’re rich, you can’t use Dr. Bronner’s anymore? Fuck you.
But still. Every year, when my subscription runs out, I renew it — with a gift subscription for my sister, to boot. It seems I just can’t quit you, Graydon Carter.
Every November (but actually it’s October cause that’s when the magazine comes), Vanity Fair releases something called “The New Establishment.”
I’ve never been 100% clear on what this list is all about, but according to them, it’s “a cohesive catalogue of power and influence in the intelligence age… a new wave of innovators and rebellious entrepreneurs who are less interested in stewarding great industries than in overturning them.”
Right. The “disruptors.” (Btw, where are we on our countdown for this word to die? Please let it be soon.)
In years past, I’ve always skimmed The New Establishment with disinterest and cynicism. I remember being excited when Howard Stern made the list for “disrupting” radio as we know it… but his boss at the time, the one he gave the proverbial finger to — also made the list. So what the fuck.
Anyway. I digress.
This year’s New Establishment did not meet with disinterest and cynicism. It didn’t produce the eye roll-iest of eye rolls — it was an exercise in bald-faced disgust and disbelief.
Here, I’ll show you.
What do you notice? Men, men, and more men?
I know. I saw it too.
There are 113 people on the list (some entries contain multiple people). Of those 113, just 26 are women.
Of those 26 women, fifteen live between entries 74 – 100. Numbers 50 through 64 are all male, and because of the layout, you actually have to turn two pages before you see another lady.
Four of the women are pictured in a group shot with other men. Kate McKinnon shares the spotlight with Alec Baldwin; Samantha Bee is a tiny face in a group of late-night personalities.
There are just six women of color on the whole list. Shonda Rhimes is buried on the last page (number 83), while dinosaur Les Moonves — that’s Howard Stern’s old nemesis, by the way — is sitting pretty on the first page (number 13).
Before and after the list, there’s a special write-up about a smaller group of “disruptors.” They both feature zero women.
Now I’m not gonna pretend to understand how they put this together, what with my non-bazillionnaire, non-Silicon-Valley, lady brain and all. But if you call this list “The New Establishment,” and it’s supposed to be about “disruptors,” and yet Zuckerburg’s been on the list for like 6 years…
Isn’t that the old establishment?
I mean, for Chrissakes, we have Rupert Murdoch on this list. He practically personifies both “old” and “establishment.” Discuss.
I’m not saying that Jeff Bezos isn’t taking over our entire world, because he obviously is, and I’m not even mad about my Whole Foods bill going down by ten bucks.
I’m not saying the CEO of Apple shouldn’t be here, or that Samantha Bee is funnier or more relevant than John Oliver, or that Elon Musk isn’t a crazy-ass genius.
But, dude. Check your optics, Vanity Fair.
If you look at the online version of the list, it counts down from 100-1, which means the first three people you see are women, and Shonda and Beyoncé show up way before [insert random white dude]. Much better / less inflammatory presentation.
But it’s still a countdown, and in a countdown, everyone knows number one is the best.
It’s just like when VH1 used to count down the 100 Greatest Videos of All Time — you know who’s going to make number one, long before you get all the way down there. (Like it’s not gonna be Thriller? C’mon.)
Gah! I am so sick of men running everything! Amiright?
Here’s the biggest fuckery of all — it’s not even that Vanity Fair is turning a blind eye to all the women who should be on this list (although they totally are).
It’s that women are still so woefully underrepresented in positions of power. It’s seriously disgusting.
If I saw this list at 19 instead of 39, I’d probably just assume that women didn’t exist. That I should get a waitressing job instead of starting my own writing business. (Oh wait, that’s exactly what I did do, when I was 19.)
At this point in the piece, I could say something like, “As women, we need to insert ourselves into the conversation. We need to assume more positions of power, and show our girls what’s possible. You can’t be what you can’t see.”
Yes. Very Clinton-esque. But you know what?
We’re already doing that, and men (and Vanity Fair) just aren’t paying attention.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve surrounded myself with awesome, powerful women, all of whom are running successful businesses, defying societal expectations, creating thoughtful, original products — and being funny as hell while they’re at it.
We support each other — no catty, girl-on-girl competition here. We promote each other’s work, we send each other business… we’re basically running the world, all by our X-chromosome selves.
We’re not mad — we’re too busy working to be mad. We’re just no longer interested in the white male narrative, because it doesn’t have anything to do with our narrative.
And until the Vanity Fairs of the world catch on to that, we’ll just have to make our own fucking lists.
A few further thoughts:
If Jordan Peele gets his own entry, where’s Issa Rae?
If David Benioff & D.B. Weiss get to be congratulated for all that (female) nudity and violence (against women), and now a new show glorifying the Confederacy — how about Jenji Kohan?
If the old white guy who owns CBS gets to be on this list every single year, then why isn’t Oprah on the list every single year?
I’m all about LeBron. Seriously, go Cavs. Buuuuut… Serena?
Is there anything more disruptive than a comic superhero movie made by women, about women, and for women, sans male gaze — that little boys think is just as awesome as the Transformers?
Do politics not count? Cause I’m pretty sure Elizabeth Warren, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Maxine Waters, and Kamala Harris are missing a spot. Just cause they don’t own tech companies doesn’t mean they’re not “disruptors.”
RBG like, invented disruption.
So. Can we piece together a New New Establishment that’s 100% female?
Add your submissions in the comments below. Maybe I’ll send it to Vanity Fair. 😉
Let’s do this thing.
Samantha Pollack writes creative copy (mostly emails) for feminist companies and/or thought leaders who are working to build a fairer, more connected culture. She’s also the founder of The Highly Sensitive Entrepreneur, a 6-week course that helps HSP business owners create healthier, more sustainable systems in their work.
She publishes frequent essays on feminism, privilege, pop culture, entrepreneurship, the creative process, and more on her website, cultofpersonality.co. She currently lives in Asheville, NC, and while she can *technically* work from anywhere, she prefers her adventures laptop-free.
Emails for cult thought leaders.
Want to learn how to craft emails that inspire action and engagement WITHOUT the “tried and true” (cough: patriarchal) norms we’ve all been taught?
I’m doing it, and I can show you how to do it, too.
(But sometimes, I also like to write about the books I’m reading, or the creative process, or the entrepreneurial experience, or why I hate Steve Jobs, or how I met my BFF. I’ll send you emails like that, too.)
*Just kidding. It’s only an email list.
Books. Cats. Rants. Drawrings.
(and every couple months or so, an unexplained absence 🤷🏻)