So I meant to write about several OTHER things today but an exchange on a women's media list in which I participate struck me. I love VOGUE. I used to say that I only read it in the beauty parlor but really I read it – period. I am now hoarding the NYT Sofia Coppola’s Paris fashion supplement to read this weekend. So I was fascinated by the fuss over Fareed Zakaria - whom my younger son totally admires and whose articulateness and cool perspectives also impress me- and his joke at a recent panel at the Council on Foreign Relations Here’s part of the Huffington Post post that started the conversation:
“Last week, Zakaria moderated a Council on Foreign Relations event featuring Afghan President Hamid Karzai, excerpts of which can be found here. Notably absent is an exchange that occurred during the question-and-answer period at the end, when Glamour journalist Shirley Velasquez stood to ask Karzai a question. After identifying herself as a Glamour reporter, Zakaria interrupted her, cracking: "Glamour? Blue burqa vs. black burqa?”
According to Velasquez, the audience erupted with laughter, and Karzai “laughed and said something about being grateful that finally an easy question was going to be asked.” He should have been so lucky: Velasquez came armed with a question about the deplorable treatment of women in Afghanistan, noting that the U.N. estimates that less than half of school-age girls are actually in school and a whopping 70% of married women in Afghanistan suffer from domestic abuse.
Asked Velasquez: “My question, Mr. President is why have these conditions persisted and how is your government improving the lives of women” Oh, ho ho, blue burqa vs. black burqa? According to Velasquez, Karzai seemed taken off guard by the question and responded: “Your first problem is the source you're using. The UN doesn't know what they're saying,” and quoted stats were “absolutely wrong” At this point, says Velasquez, Zakaria actually stepped in and warned Karzai, saying, “Be careful Mr. President. Remember you¹re on the record.”. Way to facilitate the discourse, Fareed.
Karzai continued, maintaining that Afghanistan had “great respect” for its women, more than most other countries in the area. Wow, set that bar high.” You can read the whole post – and a transcript here.
I got kind of obsessed with the history of women’s magazines, which I knew to include publication of many serious and mature writers for much of the past century. Here’s what I said – and what I found in Wikipedia:.
In fact, the late lamented Mademoiselle – and other women’s mags, were outlets for great writers in the first half of the century – albeit often with male editors but editors who clearly thought women could appreciate good fiction and complicated ideas.
Most men today have no idea of the content and influence of these mags (and yes I know Betty Friedan used the change in focus in The Feminine Mystique but I still think we need to remember the proud tradition of these publications.) Even Vogue – the queen of the old fashion books – has always carried substantial content. Most readers enjoy both the fashion and the substance when it’s available. We just don’t feel the need to tell everyone “I only buy it for the interviews”
MADEMOISELLE was an influential women's Magazine published by Condé Nast Publications. Its historically notable contribution to literature was that it published short stories by noted authors such as Truman Capote, which other magazines did not.” Also, Sylvia Plath's experiences during the summer of 1953 — as a guest editor at Mademoiselle in New York City and in deepening depression back home — provided the basis for The Bell Jar, her only Novel" One of the most influential artists of this century, Barbara Kruger Art director and image developer, creating works using Anchorage which was used in the magazine.
LADIES' HOME JOURNAL first published February 16,1883 as a women's supplement to the Tribune and Farmer. The following year it became an Independent publication. It was published by the Curtis Publishing Company and edited by Louisa Knapp until she was replaced by Edward William Bok" in 1919. He published the work of social reformers such as Jane Addams.
MCCALL'S was a monthly women's magazine that enjoyed great popularity through much of the 20th century, peaking at a readership of six million in 1960. It published much fiction, including such authors as Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gelett Burgess, Ray Bradbury, Jack Finney, Anne Tyler and Tim O'Brien.
So did Zakaria overstep? I wonder how anyone can laugh over the humiliation of the burqa. It's almost physically painful to me to imagine. And if you read What do you think?