The demeaning message of Cara Delevingne's gloves: that there is nothing sexier than a scantily-clad woman doing the chores

There is a generation raised on celebrity who risk being riddled with insecurities


It was the elbow-length, designer “Marigolds” that did it. I had been trying to ignore the parade of cleavage and underboob, bikini lines and buttocks. The oiled-up, emaciated thighs and the torsos whittled to xylophones by months of eating nothing but kale juice and tissues. The bejewelled bras that cost more than the annual wages bill for a whole hospital of nurses.

This was the fashion show for a major American lingerie brand that took place in New York this week. To avoid giving it even more publicity, let’s just call it Vera’s Shame. As every year, it presented a model army of honed women in corsets and angel wings, tiny pants and in one case a “Royal Fantasy Bra” that cost $10m, for the world to ogle. It is all nonsense, of course. Better to ignore it. But then they sent Cara Delevingne pretty, approachable young idol for teenage girls, down the catwalk, wearing a black chiffon basque, stilettoes and a pair of luxurious, yellow-leather washing-up gloves. The message was clear. There is nothing sexier than a woman in a demeaning lack of clothes doing chores.

Now, one shouldn’t go looking for feminist iconography at an underwear show. Even so, the more one looks at this display of skeletal sex objects, the more sinister it seems. Those rubber gloves are just the cheeky side of a show that celebrates female submissiveness, gross consumerism and soft-porn aesthetics under the banner of fashion. It is adult stuff, yet, by including teen favourites such as Delevingne and Taylor Swift in the line-up, it is clear its target audience is anything but. 

Ella Hysom, the 15-year-old who went  missing this week while receiving treatment for depression, could be one of that audience. Her Twitter feeds include a picture of Delevingne captioned “Please can I be just like her?” and the declaration that she is “100 per cent sure people walk past me and say how ugly I am”.  What provoked her crisis is not known but there is a growing lost generation of girls who are raised on celebrity and selfies who risk being riddled with insecurities about how they look.

Yesterday this newspaper reported that the number of female genital cosmetic operations has increased fivefold in the past decade. More women and girls are opting for a “designer vagina” to fit the distorted sexual ideals thrust in their faces via porn, pop videos, cosmetic surgery and lingerie advertising. Leading doctors have decreed such procedures should not be offered to under-18s at all. How dispiriting that such a ruling is necessary.

When you look at the rubber gloves and underwear in those contexts, they seem a lot less like cheeky fun and a lot more like damaging propaganda that ought to come with an 18-certificate attached – if it has to be seen at all.

Gift of guns protects spirit of Christmas

Sarah Palin has published a new book. The former VP candidate launched Good Tidings and Great Joy – Protecting the Heart of Christmas in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania wearing a sweater customised with the slogan, “It’s OK to wish me a Merry Christmas!” But it’s only November, Sarah!

Don’t be fooled by the Christmas lights already twinkling above the high streets, or the over-hyped adverts, or the gift guides, or the seasonal sandwiches, or the inflated prices for train and plane tickets, or the parties, or the red Starbucks cups, or the fact that the Western world will all but shut down between 20 December and 6 January. Don’t be fooled by any of that. Christmas is under attack.

According to Palin, come the year 2028, Christmas will have been almost totally marginalised, thanks to the malign efforts of the inclusive “Happy Holidays” lobby. Her book is a call to arms to “bring back the freedom to express the Christian values of the season”, to put Christ back into Christmas. “The war on Christmas”, she writes, “is the tip of the spear in a larger battle to secularise our culture, and make true religious freedom a thing of America’s past.”

Her 256-page fightback includes family snapshots, recipes for Merry Christmoose Chili and festive tips on the best way to dry out a wishbone (on the windowsill), what to do with your Christmas tree after Christmas (chop it up) and the etiquette of giving guns for presents (always good – but just air rifles for the kids). For parodists everywhere who have run out of Pippa Middleton tips to poke fun at, it truly is the gift that will keep on giving.

Coursework does no one any good

The news that a science teacher at Falconwood Academy in South London rewrote the coursework of all 69 of her pupils to bump up their grades is not at all surprising. Coursework always has been a form of assessed cheating. If you had to draw a bar chart, it would come out as 30 per cent pupil’s own work, 25 per cent teacher’s hints, 20 per cent parents’ help and 25 per cent copying from friends/the internet. This breakdown discriminates against pupils who do not have engaged, educated parents – or a computer – at home. So coursework doesn’t work for anyone. Scrapping it is the most sensible idea Michael Gove has had by a long chalk.

Lily and Lady sing up for the sisters

Good on Lily Allen and Lady Gaga, pop stars doing it for the sisters this week. Allen has released a song and video which wittily decries sexism, while Gaga used her acceptance speech at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards to slam her airbrushed look on the December issue cover, saying “I do not look like this”. Finally, the tide is turning – impressionable youngsters have new role models. There would be even more to celebrate if they had spoken out when they didn’t have albums to flog – to those same impressionable youngsters.

Camilla, the thing I’d really like is...

What do you buy the man who has everything, including his own palace, duchy, crown etc? The Duchess of Cornwall has complained that Prince Charles, 65 this week, “is the most difficult person in the world to buy a present for”. She is probably right. There is one thing the Prince doesn’t have which one imagines he might quite like. But, sadly, you can’t buy a coronation at John Lewis.

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