Last week in the Post, I read something that infuriated me. It referred to Shoshanna Gruss, president and designer of Shoshanna (a hugely successful fashion line), as "Jerry Seinfeld's ex-girlfriend." OK, sure, there's some truth in that. I am David Carmel's ex-girlfriend. We went out in sixth grade for, I think, two weeks.
The fact that this grown and accomplished woman who dated someone twenty years ago is still being referred to as a famous man's ex-girlfriend is an amazing example of sexism in the press. I took to Instagram to express my rage, but sometimes that's not enough. Even though we just featured Shoshanna in our letter (as a businesswoman with nary a mention of her prom date or anyone else she may have canoodled), I asked her to write about this for Lenny.
When Lena and I started Lenny, we wanted it to be a platform for women to talk about things that excite them and about things that enrage them. And lucky for us, we don't have to follow the usual rules of publication. So here we are, putting out a story about Shoshanna almost right next to another story about Shoshanna. But this is Shoshanna, in her own words, sharing her frustration. And we are proud to be her platform.
My name is Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss. I've been designing and running my own fashion line for almost twenty years. My business is profitable, and it employs hundreds of people. We've shipped over $150 million dollars' worth of clothing since the company began.
I work very hard on my designs, and I can guarantee you that not one woman has spent her hard-earned dollars on one of my dresses because of whom I dated twenty years ago. Not to mention half my customers were not even born twenty years ago.
It saddens me when people (or headlines) refer to me as the ex-girlfriend of someone. It diminishes me as a woman, a mother, a business owner, a philanthropist, and just as a human. To presume that my greatest achievement is that I dated someone famous twenty years ago is completely sexist and anti-woman. It's lazy, nasty journalism that makes me sad about our world.
Can you imagine if you were being defined and judged on a relationship that you had during your college years, that ended before you even graduated from college? Twenty years later? If I were a man who had accomplished what I have, I don't think anyone would ever bring up my past relationships, no matter how famous the people were.
I used to wish and dream I had no public connection to anyone or anything, so I could just start my business as an unknown person, make mistakes quietly, and figure it out. Instead, as I launched my line, there was this big moment where I felt like the world was waiting for that great thud, to watch me fail … and I didn't.
My collection struck a nerve with the women of this country. My business went from 10 stores, to 70, to 150, to eventually being in 500 stores nationwide. I remember the headline of an article that said something like: "Cynics stop snickering." Over the years I have gained confidence as a designer and businesswoman. I have remained profitable for almost twenty years. I have painted a presence in a fickle business, and I couldn't be more proud of my achievements. I have managed to grow and raise my family during this time, through many personal hardships, and kept my head up high.
I work very hard; I have every day since I started my business, even when I was on bed rest during pregnancies, even when I was dealing with a cancer diagnosis and treatment. I am proud of my achievements.
Most important, I am the mother of three delicious angels, and if for no one else, I will not let them watch anyone try to take me down or take away from what I have achieved.
Shoshanna Gruss is the founder and creative director of Shoshanna. She lives in New York City with the three delicious angels mentioned above.