British Vogue is one of the premier titles in the magazine world. Across its 101-year history, the title of editor-in-chief has been held by a woman.
Until now. Because after months of speculation, the most coveted job in fashion has gone to a man; Edward Enninful, a British fashion stylist.
The appointment of Enninful, who replaced the iconic Alexandra Shulman, the longest serving editor in British Vogue history, was hailed a success for diversity. Born in Ghana, the 45-year-old is the first non-white male editor in the magazine’s history.
Reactions were full of praise:
— Marc Jacobs (@marcjacobs) April 10, 2017
But in some quiet corners of the industry, some have lamented the move. Women have so few high-profile media positions. And if Vogue is a fashion and lifestyle magazine targeted at women, how did it end up with a man at the helm?
It’s the second time in recent memory that the female editor in chief of a women’s magazine has been replaced by a man. After the editor of Italian Vogue, Franca Sozzani died in December 2016, she was replaced by Emanuele Farneti.
Mia Freedman, former Editor of Cosmopolitan, says to see men take these positions is a giant step back, and there were plenty of highly qualified women who were in the running: (post continues after audio)
“There are very few icons that are women in the media. Because women are traditionally not given the opportunity to rise to those levels. The editors of newspapers are routinely, almost without exception, men. The chief programmers of television stations and television networks are almost always men. One of the few areas of in them media where women can rise to prominence, and power, influence and seniority is women’s magazines.” she says.
“So to be saying ‘this is a fantastic step forward’, where we have men editing women’s magazines? But you can’t say it because he is a black man, from a poor background, who is gay.
“I applaud all of those things, but were there no women who were just as qualified?” she says.
British Vogue is the most profitable magazine in the UK, and the third largest Vogue title in the world, behind the US and China. And Enninful, who was appointed an OBE in the Queen’s 2016 Birthday Honours for services to diversity in the fashion industry, has a decades-long fashion pedigree and is well connected.
This is an appointment made in a country where the Prime Minister is now a female. So why can’t a man do traditionally female jobs? And how can we argue that we need more women in male-dominated industries and not vice-versa?
Because, Freedman says, when women get a seat at the men’s table it’s not the same as when men get a seat at the women’s table. Because traditionally, men have had all the seats.
As Jessie Stephens points out, black men haven’t traditionally had a seat at the table either.
Either way, Anna Wintour once said, “Vogue is a fashion magazine, and a fashion magazine is about change.”
Listen to the full episode of Mamamia Out Loud here. It’s the weekly podcast with what women are talking about.