Vanity Fair’s Women on Women by Radhika Jones and David Friend
Published by Penguin Press on October 29th, 2019
Genres: Essays, Feminism, Non-Fiction
“We hereby announce ourselves as determined and bigoted feminists.”
I picked this up because it reminded me so much of the cover for She Said. I also recently finished listening to the New York Times Popcast podcast episode about what it takes to write a great celebrity profile.
Women on Women looks back at the last thirty-five years of Vanity Fair with a selection of the best profiles, essays, and columns on female subjects written by female contributors to the magazine.
They each tell a singular story about female icons and identity over the last four decades as well as talking about the magazine as it has evolved under the different editorial direction of Tina Brown, Graydon Carter, and now Radhika Jones, who has written an introduction to the book.
I’ve always loved reading celebrity profiles. The longer, the better. It was always this rare peek behind the curtain.
How did the rich and famous live? Were they as insecure as we peasants are? And what problems do they have to face?
To be honest, I think as time goes on, the great celebrity profile is dying a slow death. Celebrities aren’t so keen to do them anymore. And why would they? They can’t control what gets written. But they can control exactly what they say and how much they show on social media.
So I think this book was absolutely a perfect collection of older pieces mixed in with a few newer ones. I thought I’d be bored by the essays of the people I already know quite a bit about, but I found that they were refreshing nonetheless.
I particularly loved the profiles on Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Tina Fey, Nicole Kidman, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Princess Diana.
But what surprised me most was the inclusion of some of the most prominent feminist issues of today: The post-#MeToo discussion of the Clinton scandal that was written by Monica Lewinsky herself; and the Silicon Valley’s Boy’s Club.
What works about this book is that it’s entirely from the viewpoint of the female gaze.
These pieces all constitute kind of the first draft of a larger cultural narrative.
It also served as a profile for the magazine itself. It was fascinating to see the ways in which the magazine has evolved and changed. You can see the influence it had on society!
If you’re looking for a quick and easy read, one that you can dip in and out of, I definitely recommend this.
It’s a great history of strong women who are trailblazers in their industry. It’s a book that made me wish I had a subscription to Vanity Fair!