Thursday, January 27, 2011

Oh! The Problems for Davos Wives and Scheming Mistressess

Anya Schiffrin, the wife of Joseph Stiglitz, spills the beans:

Of Snubs and Men

The point about Davos is that it makes everyone feel wildly insecure. Billionaires and heads of state alike are all convinced that they have been given the worst hotel rooms, put on the least interesting panels and excluded from the most important events/most interesting private dinners. The genius of World Economic Founder Klaus Schwab is that he has been able to persuade hundreds of accomplished businessmen to pay thousands of dollars to attend an event which is largely based on mass humiliation and paranoia.

Wives feel sympathetic to their husbands and share their pain. But we have our own problems to cope with. After all, we are the on the bottom rung of the Davos ladder.

The most revealing sign of our lowly status is that we are forced to wear the ultimate badge of shame — the white name tag.

Here is how it works: everyone at Davos has to wear a name tag and these are color coded by status/occupation (speaker, organizer, journalist etc). Usually these name tags include some kind of affiliation, such as the company or organization you work for.

But wives’ name tags state only their name. This means there is nothing on it that could help a stranger strike up a conversation. If you don’t use your husband’s name then you are guaranteed virtual anonymity. Upon being introduced to someone new, the normal Davos gesture is not to look at the face of the person they are meeting but to look down at his/her name tag.

The wives’ name tag guarantees that the Davos man in question will instantly decide you are of no value and so he immediately looks over your shoulder for the next best opportunity, i.e. someone without a white name tag who is, by definition, more important than you. Many wives refuse to be Davos wives and the white name tag is the reason they most often cite for their decision to stay home.

I have often thought that the WEF should put something, anything, on the wives’ name tags just so as to give us a talking point. I wouldn’t mind wearing a tag that read “loves cooking” or “adores cats” (Not really. I hate ‘em.) Anything so that someone who actually wanted to talk me would know how to strike up a conversation.

People lose their heads in this hothouse atmosphere and behave in ways that they probably would never even consider in another setting. My own introduction to Davos’ competitiveness was years ago. The husband and I had just arrived from a night flight and a limo ride to our spartan but centrally-located hotel room. We dropped off our bags and staggered over to the Congress Centre to pick up our name tags. Winding through the little corridor on the way to the registration we ran into an old colleague of my husband. We stopped to say hello and were greeted with a gloating reply: “I see my book got a better review than yours did in the New York Review of Books this year.” (!).

Read the rest here.

Anya Schiffrin is the author of “Bad News,” and the wife of Nobel Prize Winner Joseph Stiglitz.

1 comment:

  1. Poor soul. With friends like that, enemies are a pleasure.

    I've often thought it quite misplaced to feel resentful toward the power elite.

    The correct sentiment is profound pity....and gratitude: there but for the grace of God...