The fine art of the Davos snub

January 27, 2012

To my great surprise this year, the Davos registration forms arrived with a space for Davos Wives to fill in our institutional affiliation. Having written last year about the humiliations of the blank badge, I’ve decided to take full credit for this major step forward for womankind: the recognition that we have lives outside our existence as the Wives of Davos men. My editor Chrystia Freeland is now waiting for a change in policy that would allow Davos mistresses to also list their affiliations.

When I wrote my column last year, I didn’t expect the outpouring of responses from Davos Wives, but I was delighted to find myself buttonholed by many in my cohort who longed to share their experiences of being snubbed at Davos.

While walking down the Promenade of Davos Platz on a sunny winter morning looking for a place to have a decent cup of hot chocolate (tip: better wait till you are in Zurich), I was approached by a Davos wife I’d never seen before. She thanked me for saying in my Reuters columns what she and other white-badged wives had been thinking for years.

She got the absurdity of our situation and knows that the way to cope is to laugh. “I love the snubs,” she said, and then explained how she handles the working lunches. “My strategy is to sit at the end of the table because then only one man is ignoring me while playing with his smartphone.

“The worst was the time I put my bag down, went to get a drink, and then realized I was sitting next to Abdullah Abdullah, who had just lost an election. He didn‘t come to Davos to talk to me, so I got up and moved to another table to sit with some wives.”

She put me in mind of a few other snubs that my own obliviousness had led me into in the days before. As soon as we arrived at the Caixin magazine breakfast, the organizers grabbed my husband and steered him away from me. It was 2:45 a.m. New York time, and I was not at my best. Not knowing where to go, I followed and then sat down next to him, my laptop balanced precariously next to a plate of old ham and a pot of tepid tea. I didn’t realize that I had cheekily invited myself to sit at the speakers table until a China expert from New York City who was at the panel called one of my friends at home a few hours later to report on my pushiness; said friend kindly relayed his comments back to me on a Skype call.

The next evening, entering the Indian cocktail reception on my husband’s arm, I saw a photographer maneuvering to get just the right angle. Helpfully I turned so as to avoid having my hawk-like profile immortalized — only to find that all his maneuverings were aimed at getting me out of the way so he could shoot my husband with a group of more important people.

In these situations, I laugh my head off, but the Promenade wife said stronger measures may be needed.

“It’s that deep-down ambivalence. Every year I sort of hope he won’t get invited. I think we need a therapy group or a spiritual group. I look with envy at the Muslim prayer room. We need a spiritual group,” she concluded before continuing down the Promenade.


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I just had to view this piece just so I could comment…JUST A RIDICULOUS ARTICLE…WHAT IS IT DOING IN A SERIOUS PLACE LIKE REUTERS…

Posted by sarkozyrocks | Report as abusive

I just had to view this piece just so I could comment…JUST A RIDICULOUS ARTICLE…WHAT IS IT DOING IN A SERIOUS PLACE LIKE REUTERS…

Posted by sarkozyrocks | Report as abusive

Ms. Shiffrin: If it’s really this miserable, and if the event organizers and participants truly are as rude and casually insulting as you describe, why do you continue to attend? Why does your spouse?

Posted by gruesomedetails | Report as abusive

I don’t understand why the husbands tolerate this, nor why the wives don’t prevail on their husbands to ‘do something’. But if they know what to expect, why bother to attend? The wives could organize a ‘boycott’ or even a ‘sit-in’ or a —‘occupy Davos’!

Posted by lichtenrade1 | Report as abusive

Life is suffering–and ‘they’ , poor things, must suffer in ‘Davos Style’! Why not just ‘stay home’? If they stay home, they will make an ‘eco-contribution’ by means of the forgone pollution from the forgone- transportation.

Posted by lichtenrade1 | Report as abusive

@sarkozyrocks – the article is NOT completely ridiculous. There are innumerable perspectives, some of which are valid. One potentially valid perspective sees from this article & the one that preceded it (by the same writer on the same subject) that if the female spouse (significant other) of WEF luminaries are thus treated as nonpersons, the question of how much less-valued are those not in attendance (not invited) arises. Such a view might not be the intended message of the writer, & the Forum’s purpose might not be to render non-attendees mere subjects of the invited men; the articles’ anecdotes could still imply that influence over global economic/political/academic agenda belongs to a select few, the billions of uniformed non-attendees mere docile cattle oblivious of their path or purpose. This comment is not to accuse any party of wrongdoing; rather, it searches the status quo for the absolute meaning & relative value of the uninvited-billions’ humanity. One certainly hopes the invited men to attend in service to others & make the world a better place.

Posted by Melos_416BC | Report as abusive

Nice insight to the event.

Posted by orbs | Report as abusive