Vogue magazine has a new editor, Edward Enninful– the first man and the first black person in this role. Do social psychologists have anything to contribute to the debate around this appointment? Yes!
First, social psychologists would note that the appointment is significant because of the importance of having a variety of voices and viewpoints in a public arena. The new Vogue appointment widens that variety. This matters because the media, including fashion media, shape accepted ideas in society, for instance, about who looks good and why. These ideas, or norms, influence how we judge others, and ourselves (Is my body wrong? Am I too fat, too dark, too old to look good?). So the greater the range of people working in the fashion media, the more likely it is that they will challenge norms, presenting new viewpoints and broadening the range of ideas and images in play. And for just the same reasons, academic disciplines, as another kind of arena, need to represent as much of society as possible. The new module Advancing social psychology DD317 looks at the influence of female voices in psychology, a discipline which was originally dominated by men.
A second social psychological issue concerns the relevance of different social categories. Is the appointment more important in terms of race or gender? Is it more significant that the new editor is black or a man? Yes, the fashion world is overwhelmingly white but the status of gender is more complex. Fashion centres on images of (young thin) female beauty. Most of its customers are women. Although fashion magazine editors have traditionally been women, most fashion photographers and designers are men, as are the CEO and Chairman of Condé Nast which owns Vogue magazine. So does the new appointment challenge the currently powerful people in fashion, or does it reinforce an imbalance between the men who are the fashion decision-makers and the women who accept their decisions, including a male view of their appearances?
You'll find more discussion of these and related issues in the new module Advancing social psychology (DD317) in Block 4, Contemporary social psychological subjects, including Chapter 11, New femininities and masculinities.