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Monday, August 24, 2009

Anna Wintour: you are so meh!

There was a Maureen Dowd editorial in the New York Times this weekend. It profiled Vogue's editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour and her diva lifestyle. And then I saw an article about a young Chinese girl named Zhang Chianchian who works with her parents at a local brick factory in rural Guizhou (one of the poorest provinces in China) to help support her family.

On one hand, we have the ice queen with her entourage producing magazines with laughably priced and indeed just plain laughable clothing and accessories modeled by anorexic girls. On the other hand, we have a real girl on the cusp of womanhood who is taking her difficult life in stride. And you know what, I have so much more respect for Chianchian... It only shows that dignity and hardwork never go out of fashion. Here are pictures of Chianchian, she also helps to take care of her younger siblings.


Anonymous said...

True merit, like a river, the deeper it is, the less noise it makes. ~Edward Frederick Halifax

Pei said...

Not to be a downer, but what choice does Chianchian really have? She's not unique or heroic; every village has children just like her. That's how their lives are, and what we perceive as mature self-sacrifice is just their way of life.

Anna Wintour makes a living marketing frivolous products to wealthy women, but she's an astonishing female success in a business dominated by men. It's very unfair for men to be encouraged to be merciless go getters, and then for a not so friendly lady like Wintour to be speared as an "Ice Queen." Wintour didn't get where she is by being everyone's warm fuzzy friend, but I don't see how that makes her a meh person.

I don't know what Wintour's like in her private life is, but I know this: if I lived Chianchian's life, I would very likely be just as hard working as she is. But what would it take for me to achieve what Wintour has achieved? A lot more.

Cat said...

I don't think I was going after Anna Wintour personally, what I find objectionable is the social force/trend that she represents -- shallowness, meanness, one judged solely based on their looks, anorexia, drug use, I think fashion magazines have done more harm to women than good, and yet they are being paid a ton more than people like Chianchian!

Ultimately, I simply don't think Anna Wintour has achieved much, I find her (and the other fashion editors, designers who design clothes by drawing women like they are stick figures) meh.

As to it would take alot more to achieve what Wintour has achieved, but you could easily work as hard as Chianchian, trust me, it's not that easy. The weak ones, the ones who cannot bear the physical and mental hardship, die early. My great-aunt died of starvation and hypothermia (she had a mental breakdown) at age 29.

I am merely saying that we celebrate the celebrities and royalties and treat them like gods, but sometimes, the hardest thing to do is just to survive with dignity. People like Chianchian deserve to be recognized, properly compensated and celebrated too.

Pei said...

I didn't say I could easily be like Chianchian. Nothing about her life is easy. I said the spirit of self-sacrifice that is painted as being so heroic in these human interest stories is, in fact, quite common. If I were in her shoes I'd pull carts all day too. It wouldn't be easy, but I think most children are willing to sacrifice their well-being to help their families. Whether that kind of life is physically sustainable is another matter.

It's easy to paint "Those fashion people" as demons, but we all want to look at pretty things. If Vogue looked like the inside of a JCPenney catalog (lots of every day women!) no one would buy it. We like the shock, the unattainable, the bitchiness, and the occasional "WTF is she wearing!" It's entertainment, but if women want to take it as more than entertainment it's their own fault. People love finger pointing over personal responsibility.

Cat said...

Chianchian's story is quite common, but that does not mean her actions are any less extraordinary or heroic, especially from the perspective of privileged people like us. I put out this post because I find these common people extraordinary. I think we over-worship and over-value celebrities, royalties, fashion foofoos such as Anna Wintour.

I find women in "developed" countries to generally have worse body images of themselves. I wouldn't say the fashion industry is entirely responsible for this. I like reading fashion magazines too. But they certainly have played a tremendously negative role -- look at what's inside those magazines, the women do not look real. And you throw these upon impressionable, insecure 17 year old, voila, anorexia, bulimia, low self esteem.

Pei said...

Okay, I just clicked on the Chianchian link in your blog, and the person who wrote that post should have his ass kicked. What he's doing is certainly not journalism.

There's no accompanying article, in one of the captions he admits Chianchian didn't even want to talk to him, the mom avoided looking at his camera, and yet he's posted a bunch of photos of their family on the internet. I call that exploitation. He obviously did not get their permission, and I'm willing to bet he didn't pay them for their time or to use their images.

Talk about douchey ways of making money: post photos of disenfranchised people on the internet and get a lot of sympathy clicks to your post because people like sensationalist photos. Except then what? He hasn't written anything that can help anyone do anything but say "oh, boo hoo, how sad."

Plus, clicking on the link to the author's site set off my spyware. Great.

Cat said...

Oh yeah, I need to put up a warning to not to click on any links to Chinese sites (they are often infested with spy software)...

I don't think it's exploitive or sensationalistic especially since I have been to China and have seen first hand how difficult the people's lives are. Often the media only shows the shinier side of developments in China, but people like Chianchian and her family (they probably form the majority of the world's population) are often left behind... Their story needs to be told too... I don't think the person who took the photograph is trying to get sympathy points, other than, hey, here are some really under-privileged people in the world, and let's not forget them. At least these pictures shut me up whenever I want to start whining.

Anyways, it was a good debate!

K said...

Here is a site I like:

Steve McCurry is one of the most respected photographers in the world and worked in world's conflict zone for over 20 years.

In my opinion, the purpose of taking photos and posting those photos is to increase awareness, and induce thinking and debates. The photographer did an excellent job of conveying that message, despite his practice. Cat did an excellent job in introducing the story, against a dramatic compare with Anna Wintour.

K said...

One thing I have to disagree with Pei, though. Many photographers going into poverty zone, or war conflict zone, are mostly likely not for money. These people are often more idealistic than us. You can say "Talk about douchey ways of pursuing fame", but not money.

Paparazzi travels around world to shoot celebrities can pocket 100K to 1 million for a exclusive photo. These photographers shooting the poor people and war zone, how much you think publisher will pay for the photos? A few thousands probably. They can make a lot more staying in comfort home doing weddings.

I agree his practice is not a high noble practice of journalism. But suppose you have the skills as a photographer, how many of us will choose to do what he is doing?

I am a photographer-wanna-be. And I know that is not a easy life to choose.

Pei said...

Ah, how I do enjoy these lively debates. Not everyone gets that it's all in good fun. Nicely done, C!

(retracting claws)

Cat said...

LOL... I know, I like these debates too, it's fun, meow!

Loanne said...

PDP is saying, "YAYYYYY ASIAN GIRL" with a big grin on his face. I have ESP and can visualize this.