Monday, February 8, 2010

Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour

It's about to be Valentine's Day and I can't say I hate it because I love v-day decorations so much. I keep them up all year in my apt and simple red hearts just make me happy. My roommate/life partner and I already have our plans made for the big day. We will be making the trek out to the Norridge Arby's. I'm a big fan of their mini southwest egg rolls. We're really excited!

People like to tease Kelly and me about our relationship because we are pretty much attached at the hip (and apparently, to some, the idea of people being gay is still funny). We have a completely a non-sexual relationship which I need to stress because #1 it is and #2 I think it’s important to show that healthy female friendships are important and just as necessary as other types of relationships. Kelly came into my life at a point of great uncertainty. I didn't have a place to live, a job, or any type of direction. I could have made any number of life decisions that would have put me on a different path than the one I am on now and I am so grateful to have met her because she really is a great deal of support in my life.

"Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough" is all about encouraging women to marry the guy who may not be your ideal match because it’s important to have a life partner and women are apparently exponentially happier when they have a man in their lives. The author, Lori Gottlieb is a female who considers herself a feminist because she believes feminism is only about equality in areas like work and pay and has never said anything about dating. She targets upper-class women who have careers and independent lives. She tells them to just marry any guy who will have them because there is no reason to be single. I'm not going to get into all of the problems I have with this ideology but I will say its damaging advice at best. Encouraging frivolous marriage in a society that has a ridiculously high divorce rate and discriminates against part of the population by not allowing them to marry is incredibly misguided.

Even though I see the problems with this advice, there is a part of me that understands the mindset. I think about my life if I didn't have Kelly in it and I can't help but wonder if I would be actively trying to find a husband. There must be countless women who marry for that reason. It’s hard to be alone. But why does the help have to come in male form? If there are so many of us unmarried people out there, why can't we be encouraged to support one another?

Perhaps if being single were an acceptable, even valued, lifestyle, partnerships might develop more out of choice and less out of necessity or a desperate grab for salvation.

This quote, floating around the Tumblr world, is from Dossie Easton and Jane W. Hardy. They are authors and sex educators who challenge the core American beliefs about monogamy and traditional marriage. Their mentality seems to be self acceptance at the individual level first, can lead to a more honest sense of what type of partnership will work best for you. They offer the antidote to the advice Gottlieb doles out. It is  more beneficial to chase self love than this idea that we are incomplete without a husband. Loneliness can take root in weak marriages just as it can when we are insecurely single. Encouraging new types of partnership opens us to companionship in all stages of life. Marriages can be wonderful, but they can also end. Divorce, death, living apart for whatever reason, can land you back in a single world you may have not been expecting. If we begin to value friendship, specifically female friendships, like we currently do marriage, we can expect more honest loving relationships throughout our lives in many different capacities which will assuage any angst over finding "Prince Charming" while eliminating the need for "Mr. Good Enough".

Back in September, Kelly and I went to see the movie "The September Issue". It is a documentary about the creation of the largest issue of Vogue magazine. I was expecting to see a detailed account of how a magazine is created and instead I saw a movie about the lifelong friendship of two women. Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour have become two of the most influential women in the fashion industry and they have done it together. Anna gets most of the credit/flack for being the editor of the mag and Grace is 
widely considered to be one of the greatest stylists and fashion artists of all time.

Wintour gained some notoriety after "The Devil Wears Prada" was published which portrayed a character based off of her in an unflattering light. While I don't think she is an example of the most loving person in the world, it’s interesting that as a woman with power and authority (fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry) she is considered to be a bitch on the job. A man in her position would just be considered to be a shrewd, level headed businessman, certainly not an "ice king".

Coddington generally hasn't had the same amount of attention outside of the fashion world, but is known for her keen eye and beautiful styling abilities. I do appreciate Vogue for the beauty in its photography which is clearly largely due to Grace.

What struck me most about the portrayal of their partnership in the doc was their genuine respect and admiration for one another. They didn't see eye to eye on everything which was evidenced throughout the movie but at the end of the day what existed was support without competition. They began their careers at the same place and moved up together. This is rare trait to have in a friendship that is based in a professional environment.

Whether or not you understand or agree with the fashion world, it can't be denied that these two are at the top of their game. They direct men with great power on a daily basis. They have the ability to sell an idea about what life should look like for the rest of us and that cannot be a responsibility taken lightly. They have also done it as a team. Given the amount of time they devote to their work, it’s a fair assumption their friendship bleeds into their personal lives. Anna is a divorced, now re-married mother and Grace is a divorced single woman (a basic statement of their personal relationships). The brief look into their personal lives was almost painful because even with their success the people closest to them struggled to understand what makes their work valid. In many instances, Grace and Anna found total acceptance from one another alone which makes the case for developing and maintaining partnerships outside of traditional marriages.

Their friendship is not perfect and working so closely with anyone for that long of a time would cause certain disagreements and frustrations. Such is life. The remarkable thing is they have remained by one another's side. This doc provided an example for women to live the lives they want for themselves and proved that it is OK to rely on one another to achieve our goals. Anna and Grace have a respect for one another that comes out of trust and true understanding. This film was so worthwhile I saw it a second time with my friend Jenny, and afterwards we talked forever about friendship and how important it is to us. And about how happy we were to see it portrayed in the movie. I feel like the doc could have easily highlighted the tension in their relationship but it was so refreshing to see the positives and the partnership.    

Grace and Anna front row at a runway show

For Kelly and me, who knows what life will hold. We probably won't live together forever, we will continue to meet guys and have different projects and goals for ourselves. But for the time being, we are depending on one another for day to day necessities, and we are happy. We haven't made rushed choices due to the fear of being alone because together we aren't alone. I'm proud of us for denying the belief that just anyone would be good enough and that you have to have a male life partner in order to have worthwhile companionship. 

I guess this post isn't so much about Grace and Anna, or me and Kelly. Strong female relationships are an integral part of active feminism. It’s important to have a group of women who encourage and help sustain our self confidence. This of course is not to say that male relationships are any less important. It’s just a good thing to be aware that they aren't any more important. Settling shouldn't be an option and diverse examples of what fulfilling companionship can look like are important.

On a cute, happy note, this Valentine's Day I have lots of love to celebrate and look forward to doing so with a strawberry shake from Arby's ;)

Me and Kelly 2010
Since the original posting, a lot has changed but Kelly and I are still BFFs 4 lyfe! She started a blog too! Check it out here!