Friday, September 17, 2010

In praise of bitches (a.k.a. in defense of the Anna Wintours of the world)

by Bev Sninchak on Friday, September 17, 2010 at 6:18am

"I don't find her to be accessible to people she doesn't need to be accessible to."
--Vogue publisher Tom Florio, discussing editor-in-chief Anna Wintour

"She's honest. She tells you what she thinks. Yes is yes and no is no"
--Karl Lagerfeld.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Wintour

She's been called Nuclear Wintour, and there's good reason for that. She's been called detached, unapproachable, terse and any number of other things. She doesn't care for small talk, and she isn't a hand-holder. A former assistant says, "She throws you in the water and you'll either sink or swim." Sounds rough, huh? She sounds like a bitch, huh? Well, maybe she is -- probably is -- but guess what else she is? GREAT at what she does, and focused beyond belief. She also manages her atmosphere in such a way that she doesn't allow people to DRAIN her of energy, drag her into drama or distract her from her primary directives. She means what she says and she says what she means, regardless of who approves.

I've noticed that women who are termed "bitches" usually take less crap from other people in general, AND they get more done in their lives. They don't allow themselves to be bullied or intimidated. Let's also not forget that while one person may see another person as a bitch, someone else may not deem that person a bitch at all. It's relative! I'm also not sure being called a bitch is necessarily a bad thing. Usually what it translates to is, "I couldn't manipulate her, so she's a bitch!" or, "I didn't get to bully her and force her to think of me as the main satellite in her universe, so she's obviously a bitch!" In other words, SOMEONE didn't get their way and SOMEONE didn't get his/her ass kissed as they expected. Therefore, the person who refused to be manipulated or refused to kiss ass is that horrible word, "bitch."

Anna once told Morley Safer, "I have so many people here, Morley, that have worked with me for 15, 20 years, and, you know, if I'm such a bitch, they must really be a glutton for punishment because they're still here ... If one comes across sometimes as being cold or brusque, it's simply because I'm striving for the best."

Here's my first thought: if Anna was male, NONE of this would be an issue. Because she's female, there are expectations of her and her personality. For one, she's not a nurturer or a caretaker, and if you're female, it's like an unwritten rule that you MUST be those things or you're -- shall we say -- inhuman or defective. If Anna was male, these things wouldn't be given a second thought, because as a man who is focused on his job, he is expected to display these qualities of assertiveness and high expectations. Now, are there women who can strive for quality and who are still approachable and nice? Yes, I'm sure there are. I know there are. But stick with me. My point is that I believe many women -- including myself -- have been derailed through life by others' expectations of how we should be according to a set of unspoken societal rules for how women should be vs. how most men are.

Lately I've been thinking about how I've wasted many years -- decades -- of my life by giving away most of my energy to other people and things, while putting myself on the back burner. As a woman, I believe I've been groomed and brought up in a society that requires women to always put themselves last and be nurturers/caretakers (even to the detriment of their own mental/physical/emotional health) in lieu of loving themselves, taking care of their own needs and seeing themselves as just as necessary and important as everyone else. Even more so, I would add. If you can't love or take care of yourself first, then how can you do the same for others?

Ah...but we are often told that if we take care of ourselves first, we are SELFISH! *gasp* And NO woman wants to be called selfish, does she? What a cruel cut that is! Well, I'm here to tell you that if you aren't firm and selfish of your time and attention, you end up kowtowing to everyone and everything. What's more, some people (usually toxic ones) will continue to drain your time and attention if you let them. THEY are actually the selfish ones. They believe YOUR universe must always revolve around them, but if you EVER stake a claim for YOUR own time or attention, then you are obviously a bitch. See how that works? Wow!

The older I get, the more I learn that if you don't TAKE the time and energy you need to accomplish your goals, others will take it from you without so much as a thanks or ounce of appreciation. You are expected to be always ready to assist them with their goals and directives, but don't you DARE be assertive and defend your OWN right to those same things! I'm here to tell you that I'm claiming what's mine, and I don't want or need anyone else's approval.

I asked my husband last night what he would do if someone told him his wife was detached or too dismissive when others tried to horn in on her creative and/or work time. His answer was that he would correct them and say that his wife was FOCUSED instead of dismissive. He would tell them that his wife, like most people, had goals and ambition, and she worked hard to strive for them. And what if they didn't like what he said? Pretty much, it came down to, "Who cares what they think? What they think doesn't matter." My husband is a lot better at not allowing people to guilt him in such ways. I'm better than I used to be, but still struggle with it. I do know one thing: the more someone pushes me to do something I don't want to do, the more I'm apt not to EVER do the thing someone's trying to coerce me into doing.

Men, on the other hand, are expected to be focused, driven and productive. Even if they aren't the warmest people while they're doing it. And let's face it: caretaking and nurturing are not integral expectations of most men. For women, they are. I, for one, think that's a load of crap.

If a man says, "I'm busy right now; talk to you later," or, "Can't meet with you for coffee now; we'll have to do it later!" it's acceptable. If a woman like Anna Wintour says the same thing, some people will call her dismissive, insulting, cold, brusque, terse or any other number of unkind adjectives. Because, you know, if you're a woman you certainly aren't doing anything remotely important enough that you can't DROP what you're doing and make yourself available for everyone else. It's their universe, after all. Didn't you know that? (sarcasm) As a woman, many believe you've got to cave in when it comes to ALWAYS pleasing others and ALWAYS taking care of their wants/needs. And if you don't, what a nasty little creature you are!

Many women still buy into the notion that they, somehow, are the only ones responsible for what goes on in their households. God forbid if they don't have a hot meal on the table before the man they love crosses the door's threshhold! But I'd like to ask this: if you are a career woman and YOU are on a tight deadline, why the hell can't HE get dinner together as a favor to YOU? Why the hell can't YOU expect help with household chores? Why is it if he's had a stressful day at the office, he gets to come home, prop his feet up and grab the remote, but YOU are still expected to nurture and caretake everyone else's needs after YOU TOO have had a stressful day at YOUR office as well? Having a uterus doesn't mean you're automatically tagged as "it" when it comes to being everyone's caretaker on every level.

Some women MAY have the situation I have in that my husband and I are equals in that regard. I have lovingly prepared meals for him, but he has also lovingly prepared meals for ME as well. It's a give and take out of respect and care for one another. It's NOT, "You woman, me man, so you COOK!" If it was that, then I wouldn't be married to him. Because, quite frankly, SCREW all that! I have goals and dreams of my own, and he supports those goals and dreams just as much as I support his goals and dreams. We cooperate with one another and it's like a dance where sometimes he takes the lead, and other times I take the lead. When he's sick, I take care of him. When I'm sick, he takes care of me.

Paul knows I'm not the Martha Stewart type, and he knows I'd rather be writing a book than making sure everything in our house is 'just so.' Nobody's tombstone reads, "She was never late with dinner!" Who gives a crap? If it's a busy day -- EAT OUT or CALL FOR DELIVERY! Personally, I'm always suspicious of women who want their houses to look like they've been staged and out of the pages of House & Garden magazine. To me, they're major control freaks who can't control the rest of their lives, so they control their environment to such a degree that it's obsessive. But that's another topic for another time. You only get a limited amount of time in this life, so you'd better spend most of your time LIVING it.

Sure, Anna has many facets of her personality that would grate on my nerves. Sure, she can be off-putting to many people. But guess what? Anna GETS SHIT DONE and Anna manages her world so she remains focused and on point with her life and her work -- period. She's a Scorpio too, I might add. I'm not surprised one bit. Scorpios and Capricorns are usually two of the most reliable workers you can count on (a caveat here that you need to see the whole chart, but usually you can trust them to get the job done, rain or shine).The downside is that SOME of them (READ: not ALL of them!) are insufferable people to be around. My advice: never cross or piss off a Scorpio. As for Capricorns, try to smile (with teeth gritted beneath your grin) and simply BEAR it when you run across the occasional battle-ax of a Capricorn. If you don't stand your ground, they will delight in bulldozing over you -- sometimes for sport! That's where being a fire sign (like me) is beneficial. I can make you think you're getting your way as I smile and nod at you. But rest assured that once I walk away, I'm going to go off and do what I'd planned to do in the first place -- without your permission (as if I ever needed it anyway). ;-) I was married to a Scorpio for 16 years and I have the scars (and the asbestos suit) to prove it. If you can live with a Scorpio and survive it, then you can damn sure tolerate a Capricorn (the kind who have the more negative traits, that is. The ones with mostly positive traits are awesome and so reliable! All without the battle-ax tendencies!)

In the end, Anna is decisive, she gets the work done (and done well) and she's true to who she is, regardless of who approves. Some of the very traits people can't stand in her are the ones that allow her to reach the success she has over the years. Yes, we can discuss how horrible it is that she wears fur or that she allegedly can't stand people who are overweight, but what I want to focus on here is how I find her work ethic and laser-like focus so fascinating.

I also admire her decisiveness. Throughout my life, I've been indecisive on countless occasions. Mainly because I was SO wrapped up in what people would think of me that I was fearful of just making the decision I needed to make -- despite who approved or not. In recent years, I've gotten better about that, but I still need to sharpen and hone that ability. Decisiveness is beneficial and necessary in life. You can't please everyone all the time, period. It just isn't going to happen. More and more, I realize I'd rather be hated for being who I truly am than loved for being someone I'm not. Pretending to be someone you're not means you're insincere, not authentic and not genuine. You are lying to everyone else, but most importantly, you are lying to yourself as well.

Honestly, I'd rather be as decisive and focused as Anna Wintour than be a spaghetti-spined, people-pleasing, mealy-mouthed woman who allowed others to usurp her personal and creative power.

I once had a friend who said there were two Bevs. There's an all-business Bev, and there's a playful Bev, and you're never sure which one you might get. There's truth to that. When I'm focused on something and working toward a goal, I can be terse, abrupt, cold, etc. I'm not touchy-feely or up for small talk. I don't have time for nonsense or shenanigans. Other times, you get the playful Bev. Usually on weekends when I take time off (I used to work seven days a week, I might add). Playful Bev is warmer, less terse, open to laughter/jokes and keen to have conversations. As has often been said, there is a time for everything, and to everything there is an appropriate time. You can't allow others to always bully you into deciding when YOU are ready to address something. You DO get a choice in how you handle things.

Can I be bitchy at times? Yes. Can I be warm and friendly at times? Yes. I am BOTH of those people, and I embrace both of them. And, quite frankly, after studying Anna Wintour, perhaps if I was bitchier and managed my associations tighter, then perhaps I'd increase my productivity and focus, which is what I really NEED to do. I'm trying to do that without having people get butt-hurt, but most of the time they still do. My husband said I should reply by saying, "I'm sorry you feel that way, but this is the way it is right now." I admire my husband's Taurus/Taurus/Leo combination of dealing with things assertively, but in a steady, resolute way.

There's a reason why there are two Bevs, and it's who I am. I won't change for anyone, nor could I change for anyone if I wanted to. I like who I am and I won't make apologies for it. Am I perfect? Hell no! There's a litany of things I could go on about for AGES! If you think I'm critical about other people and things, you should see how brutal I am over my own faults/failings! In the end, I'm what I am and I'm imperfect. However, so are you...and you...and YOU. Wisdom comes from knowing that you do have faults, because then you can work on them. However, faults and quirks give personality and a person TEXTURE. What a boring world it would be if we had NO texture to our personalities! We would be antiseptic, bland human beings. Who wants that? Not me, that's for sure!

Will some people read this and get offended? Oh, I'm sure. But that's okay. I didn't write this for them. I wrote it to get something off my chest AND to speak to those others out there who get what I'm saying and understand it. I'm not censoring my thoughts just because somebody's panties might get in a twist. As my mom often told me when I was growing up, "You can get glad in the same pants you got mad in!" Anna Wintour isn't swayed from calling things as she sees them, and tonight I won't be, either. This is how I see things, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. However, on the off chance that I am, then so be it!

Remember: to thine own self be true. Always!