Anya Hindmarch, Vivienne Westwood and why 'Women of the Year' is no way to celebrate women

Two Women of the Year awards ceremonies took place this week, both fell prey to sexual-political correctness by including token awards for men.

Share

These are boom times for manufacturers of ugly Perspex keepsakes. This week, London hosted not one, but two Women of the Year awards ceremonies, on consecutive nights.

On Tuesday, at Cosmopolitan’s Ultimate Women of the Year Awards, sponsored by hair product, the Kardashians were voted “Ultimate Confidence Queens”, Sarah Storey “Ultimate Paralympian” while those famously accomplished women, the boy band One Direction and the gymnast Louis Smith were also honoured (as “Ultimate Men” and “Ultimate Hottie” respectively).

On Wednesday, Harper’s Bazaar honoured Anya Hindmarch as Business Woman of the Year, Vivienne Westwood as Inspiration of the Year, and the Queen as Queen of the Year. Not really. She was voted Icon of the Year; about time, too, after all those years of hard work posing on stamps and coins and things.

Like Cosmo, Harper’s fell prey to sexual-political correctness, squeezing in the fashion designer Raf Simons for a “Man in a Woman’s World” prize. And, in an odd show of gender-blindness for a women’s award ceremony, it eschewed the word “actress” to award prizes for British Actor of the Year and TV Actor of the Year to Emily Blunt and Michelle Dockery.

Clearly, very little about these award ceremonies makes sense. If the idea is to honour women in a man’s world, why sneak in a couple of random consolation prizes for men? Because they’ll sulk if they’re ignored for one whole evening? No prizes for having the courage of their convictions there.

Nor is it clear what these awards are celebrating. Jessica Ennis was, deservedly, honoured at both ceremonies – as Ultimate Olympian and British Ambassador – but neither plastic mantelpiece-clutterer comes close to her original achievement of an Olympic gold.

So what is the point of these prizes? To judge from reports on the evenings, they are little more than shop windows for fashion and gossip. Harper’s accompanied its write-up with a slideshow of the Best Dressed on the night. Cosmo, meanwhile, guided its readers through the hottest hair and most fabulous frocks of the evening.

Less a celebration of women’s lib than a celebration of women’s lipstick, the accomplishments of the winners are swept aside in a wave of chit-chat about their nude heels, daring splits and on-trend peplums. Heaven knows what there would be to talk about if everyone showed up, like men, in identikit dinner suits – their accomplishments, probably.

I wonder if this latest glut of women’s awards might mark the last hurrah of an inexplicable trend. Women don’t need their own ceremonies to celebrate their achievements; they do just fine when they’re allowed to compete against the big boys. Just ask Hilary Mantel.

Portrait of the artist as a grumpy old man

Behind every tortured writer is an equally tortured family. Take Ian Rankin’s, for example. No, really, take them – he won’t notice. According to his wife, Miranda Harvey, the crime writer, 52, behaves like a “teenage student” when he’s midway through a thriller, locking himself away, listening to music and refusing to communicate with her and their two sons.

“The role of his family, chiefly, during this period, is trying to get out from under his feet… It’s not that he is a person who doesn’t care about his family and is not going to interact with us on a human basis; it’s just how he is ‘now’ and it will be a passing phase,” she says on Imagine. Given that Rankin averages a thriller a year, those phases must pass by disconcertingly often.

Still, Harvey has her revenge, also telling the BBC documentary that she frequently has to soothe Rankin when he panics about running out of steam around page 65 or worries two-thirds of the way through a novel that he still doesn’t know how it is going to end.

These glimpses into life with a writer are revelatory indeed, giving piquant voice to the silent, long-suffering victims of the creative muse. I certainly enjoyed them. In fact, I think there could be a book in them.

Do we really need to import snobbery?

Thunk. The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook lands on my desk with the dispiriting thud of an unwanted satsuma rolling out of a Christmas stocking. In it are recipes for the Classic Cucumber Sandwich, Working-Class Porridge and, umm, Downstairs Toad in the Hole. There are helpful etiquette lessons, too – about not blowing on your soup, how to hold a teacup and why “it is considered unseemly for a lady to require another glass of wine with dessert”. It is written by a female baker from New York who “hopes one day [to be] as poised and elegant as the ladies of Downton”. Someone send her a corset.

This is the second wave of Downtonmania, coming from the US. They’ve really gone for it and now they’re sending their hastily assimilated class prejudices back over here. December’s Vanity Fair features the show’s writer Julian Fellowes in his self-awarded role of Guardian of English Etiquette No One Has Cared About for a Century and then attacks him for his rather non-U habit of watching TV with dinner. Given that he has tricked the world into yearning for the jolly old days of “working-class porridge”, he probably deserves everything he gets.

React Now

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

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears