Susie Rushton: Stella’s done it, and so can the rest of us

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

Of all the gobby rubbish spoken by the contestants on The Apprentice this year, most outstanding was Stuart Baggs’s claim to Alan Sugar that, “I’m not a one-trick pony. I’m not a 10-trick pony. I’ve got a whole field of ponies”. If I were Sugar, I would pay Baggs a salary just to offer visitors similar gnomic gems as they wait in the lobby.

The winner, Stella English, was also capable of blathering clichés about passion and commitment, just in a less entertaining way. After she won, though, Stella admitted that her drive to succeed wasn’t only because “everything I want, I get” (as she’d said, somewhat unpleasantly, in the boardroom) but also because she wanted to provide for her two young children. With an improved six-figure salary now in her pocket, “hopefully they will have a much more settled life”. Even Lord Sugar, who doesn’t strike me as a feminist, acknowledged that Stella’s dedication to supporting her family was a sign of grit, rather than a reason to reach for the firing finger.

If you believe that women are capable of both having a career and raising children, you had about 10 minutes on Sunday night to enjoy the moment of sanity. Then along came Catherine Hakim, a sociologist from the London School of Economics, with a big bucket of slurry to promote her new study on women and work.

Hakim’s paper, as it was widely reported, concludes that government shouldn’t bother trying to close the gender pay gap in Britain, because the difference in income is simply a result of women’s lifestyle choices. With less commitment to the workplace than men, less hunger to work full time, and less desire for financial independence than the evil feminists would have us believe, women actually earn 17 per cent less than men because they want to.

That’s cleared that up, then.

The topic of why the gap persists, and how it can be addressed, is a fascinating and complex one. What’s frustrating is that Hakim does indeed make some conclusions that bear repeating: it’s true, for instance, that the price for success at the top for either sex is long hours and total dedication to the job. No public policy can change that. Every hard-working mother like Stella English will feel guilty, and tired – but who’s to say she’s wrong to try? Hakim’s hokum even extends to describing the children of such women as “nominal families”.

And to argue, as she does, against the introduction of more family-friendly working arrangements to the antediluvian British workplace is simply mean-spirited, Daily Mail-courting controversialism. Or, to adapt a Baggsism, it’s not just pony, it’s a field of ponies.

I’m dreaming of a sludge-free Christmas

It’s here today, but will it be gone tomorrow – and more crucially, gone on Saturday? Yes, yes, I know it’s causing Chaos and Treacherousness and Nightmares around the country (somebody fling the newsreaders a Thesaurus, please), and it could yet hinder my own reasonably short train journey home on Christmas Eve. But still, I notice that a knot of childish hope and enthusiasm forms in my stomach every time I think of it. This year could be a White Christmas!

Why does the notion of snow falling on 25 December – or even better, starting the night before – have such power in our popular culture? Until the mid-19th century, long, hard, frozen winters in Britain were far more common, yet somehow the inherited traditions of the Victorian Christmas have included snow falling outside the window just as the children hang up their stockings.

As with much of our shared imaginations, the influence of Hollywood can’t be overstated. Not just Bing Crosby in 1954’s White Christmas, but endless movies, from Trading Places to It’s a Wonderful Life, have ensured that, even when there aren’t flakes outside, its all over the Christmas TV schedules, not to mention our Christmas cards and wrapping paper. No nativity play is complete without a roof-insulation of cotton wool “snow”, despite the unlikely occurrence of a flurries in Bethlehem (current temperature, 22c).

I think we return to the fantasy of a White Christmas because it seems to make the day more special, and separates it even further from the drizzle and partly-cloudiness of real life. But will it feel quite as dazzling on Saturday if we wake up not to fresh-fallen snow but six centimetres of grey slush?

A dazzling editor’s reign comes to an end

I’d seen her at dozens of fashion shows, but it was only when I stood behind her in a queue in a shop in New York that I heard her marvelously breathy, squeaky French accent. Carine Roitfeld, who has just announced her exit after a decade in the top job at Paris Vogue, was my favourite Vogue editor. Her appearance gave no hint that she possessed that tiny little voice.

Always towering in borderline vulgar platform sandals, her brown, bony, bare legs were naked in every weather. An enormous cloud of real fur or feathers often covered her top half, giving her the silhouette of an atomic mushroom cloud. Her face was fearsome, strongly androgynous with eyes like a creature who shouldn’t go out in daylight.

Her magazine was pretty fierce too: the intimidating, sexually voracious older cousin of ditzy, uptight US Vogue and earnest posh girl British Vogue, it was a must-read for art-directors, designers and photographers.

I couldn’t decipher the articles, but no matter (I think they said little more than “Coat by Louis Vuitton, €8,000”). Rumour has it that Roitfeld is off to work with her friend, the designer Tom Ford. Sadly, it won’t be a speaking role.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND DARTFORD

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND SWALE

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

Geography Teacher, full time supply role, Thanet Academy

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The School Randstad are proud to...

Science Teacher, full time supply role, Thanet Academy

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The School Randstad are proud to...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The campaigning is over. So now we wait...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
In this handout provided by NASA from the the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, weather system Arthur travels up the east coast of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida in space. The robotic arm of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 is seen at upper right. According to reports, Arthur has begun moving steadily northward at around 5 kt. and the tropical storm is expected to strike the North Carolina Outer Banks  

Thanks to government investment, commercial space travel is becoming a reality

Richard Branson
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week