Guest blog: baking and botox - why I'm depressed by the Apprentice final

(90 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 18-Jul-13 14:35:02

In case you missed it, the latest series of The Apprentice was won last night by Leah Totton, who will now boast Lord Sugar as business partner in her chain of cosmetic surgery outlets.

In this guest post Sara Bran, who blogs over at Notes from the Edge of Motherhood, explains why she found the dramatic dénouement rather dispiriting.

"I have loved The Apprentice this year. As a cultural snap-shot of where we are in 2013, as a Botox frozen moment, the show's denouement has been perfect. Rich in symbolism, its underlying stories have unfolded like a Greek myth. 

Firstly, there is that iconic image of the show; Lord Sugar's podgy finger, the point that accompanies his thunderbolt utterances like the digit of Zeus. There is the mysterious receptionist guarding the frosted screen-doors of the boardroom like the Gates of Hades. And the boardroom itself, a heavenly blue with ethereal under-lighting that intensifies the candidates' eyes so you can see their pupils contract in fear. 

The main story this year, though, was that both finalists were women. The last time there was an all-woman final was 2006, when Michelle Dewberry went head to head with Ruth Badger - but there was nowhere near the level of attention this final generated, largely because the business plans and personal images of the 2013 candidates were so polarizing.

The businesses proposed by Luisa and Leah were a bakery brand and a chain of cosmetic clinics respectively. The Apprentice final pitted the ruthless individuality of the cupcake - designed for one, eaten by one - against a kind of 'medicine' which relies on the broken self-esteem of a largely female consumer.  With both services aimed at a predominantly female market, it was a galling and profoundly soul-less representation of 'what women want'. 

Even more dispiriting was that both businesses touched a deeply emotional terrain around the politics of the body. Lord Sugar had to choose between the illicit, 'naughty', sweetness of the cupcake - with everything that says about women's relationships with food - and the addictive pursuit of Barbie-style perfection. 

How did we get here?  Well, the series' personnel offers some answers, representing what one might - sticking with the mythic theme -  term 'the Three Ages of Feminism'. 

Margaret Mountford, born in 1951, would have been a young girl when Betty Friedan published 'The Feminine Mystique' in 1963. By the time she went to Cambridge to study Law, 'The Female Eunuch' was being discussed in consciousness-raising groups, as Germaine Greer encouraged women to seek equality in the bedroom as a political act. 

Karren Brady, aged 41, is a successful businesswoman, and represents my generation; women in their forties who benefitted from the work of 1970s feminists, and managed - just - to juggle working and family life. When Brady sold Birmingham Football club, an impressive 75% of her senior management team at Director level were women. Karren is presented as a self-assured presence, a woman who has achieved the perfect balance: the feminist dream.
Then we have Leah and Luisa, aged 24 and 25 respectively. Like my own daughters, they have had opportunities in education and the workplace that would be unthinkable without feminism. These are smart women, who you would hope might have read 'How To Be A Woman' -  or perhaps come across the idea that pink might stink.  

But Luisa apparently "hates feminists". Leah was "confused" as to why anyone would have an issue with the ethics of lunchtime Botox treatments. Luisa, admiring the cartoon version of herself that forms her brand logo sighed, "I really like myself."  Leah named her cosmetic procedure brand 'Niks' - lacking any contextual awareness about the word's associations with cutting the skin. And that's what struck me most: we have arrived at a point where there is little, or no, wider consciousness of context - or the connection between personal choices made by individuals and the public sphere. 

In the 1970s, women demanding an orgasm in the private space was considered an act of insurgency that could change the world. There was an understanding that our individual choices have a wider effect. And so it is with Botox and tit jobs: they are a personal choice, yes - but they resonate in the wider world.  They feed and disseminate the fantasy of what women feel they should be.  And it is a shadow over women, this tyranny of the body and the complete rejection of what it is; messy, chaotic, wobbly, bloody, changeable.  It worries me with every wrinkle and arse-dimple I possess.

Even more worrying is an increasingly visible correlation - exemplified by the three ages of feminism on display in the show - between women's rising economic power, and their increasing retreat into the world of fantasy and submission.  In books such as '50 Shades of Grey', in the Renaissance of the 1950s housewife, in the ordinariness of the porno-fied body - these things bespeak a generation which seems terrified of their rising power.  

Its like we're pretending we don't really have it. Look... you can still have me... I may earn more than you - but I'll still bake you a cupcake."

Sara Bran blogs at Notes From The Edge of Motherhood, and also at the Huffington Post, where she interviews writers, artists and musicians about the creative process. She's @sarabran on Twitter.

yamsareyammy Thu 18-Jul-13 15:34:12

Nobody has posted yet, so I will give your educated blog a try.
What sorts of things would you like their business plans to have been about.
I have been on threads on MN before, and have come to the stark realisation that men are in almost infinitely more diverse jobs than women.
From drilling, to fishing to tiling, to central heating engineers to bricklayers to roadmen and on and on.

Whereas womens jobs, even in 2013 are very much limited on the whole, to indoor and desk jobs.

musicalmum40 Thu 18-Jul-13 15:42:14

Great blog - thank you! I was depressed by their vanity, eye-rolling and sheer cattiness even before they reached the final. They had no gravitas. And I like your conept of the polarised business plans. I thought they were naive and weak, but then again young

thismousebites Thu 18-Jul-13 16:19:24

I love this show but did not watch the final as both these women left me cold. Very dissaponted that they were chosen to go trough as- saw both their ideas as a huge step back for women.
(Here are so many options out here now for women and they could have chosen something that would have helped to dispel the myth of "mens jobs" instead they chose to strengthen it even more.

pilotbecky Thu 18-Jul-13 16:20:23

A great post. I can't tell you how disappointed I was that Alan Sugar chose to invest in a Medical Cosmetic Improvement business - or whatever Leah called it. You mentioned Luisa's cartoon, but Leah in person looked like a parody of herself, with her over-inflated and glossed lips, and her bouffant blonde hair.

In all honesty, I was really saddened by the whole thing. Bring back Ruth Badger!


mamaonion Thu 18-Jul-13 16:37:02

Throughout the series I was just dumbstruck by the female candidates! Superficially the amount of hair, leg and cleavage on display was not to my taste,. The towering heals they tottered around on for entire days made me wince, with a fair bit of surgical enhancement already undertaken I'd say. As I've been out of the world of work for a while woth small ones and have never been a city worker I asked my OH 'Is this how women dress in the office?' (He works in the city). 'Errr definitely not' he reassured me. Eeeew girls,

I haven't watched the final and don't know if I can be bothered.
When the apprentice started a few years back, the women wore trouser suits and were just like the usual women in any office.

Then in recent years the contestants have been wearing skirts (nothing wrong with that) but the hemlines have gone higher and higher as the hair extensions have come lower and lower.
When Ruth Badger and Michelle were in the final, were they all over the papers for how they looked, no they weren't. They were judged on their business ability.

This year the two finalists bodies/looks/hair has had more attention than their business acumen.

Coming a week after John Inverdale's comments on the tennis player (sorry don't follow tennis I don't know her name) I want to throw my hands up in despair.

I am very disappointed that Sralan has decided to put his money into a plastic (non)surgery clinic and saddened that a young woman with all those brains, and her medical training (after uni) supported by the nhs and taxpayers, now wants to make her living by injecting women with botox.

I gasped in the interview round when the male interviewer asked her what she would recommend for him in the way of facial improvements, and she rattled off a list!! I thought he is a pretty handsome chap and didn't need any improvement!!

Does anyone else think that Sralan looks at the business plans at the application stage, works out which ones he thinks will make money and then doesn't sack those contestants all the way through? I'm sure that's what happened with Tom Pellereau, cos he didn't perform very well during the tasks yet ended up winning...

anklebitersmum Thu 18-Jul-13 16:46:21

I read this. Mum read this.

Mum wanted to know who on earth was having to 'go public' to demand private orgasms in the 70's. Insurgency in her era apparently was being married in the 60's and trying to get the contraceptive pill from your doctor.

One is capitalising on the ongoing trend for women who aspire to be a vapid, physical charicature of themselves. Distasteful. Exactly like those dreadful over-preened cupcakes the other one totes, a sweet, sickly mouthful of fluff with no actual depth of flavour.

Neither awe-inspiring and both a little niave as musicalmum40 said.

Fozziebearmum2be Thu 18-Jul-13 18:12:59

I found it depressing too, on the one hand Luisa, who is anything but a feminists dream, all over the tabloids for going to sex parties and being part of threesomes and on the other a practice to make people feel bad about themselves and turn into plastic people...

What a choice! Sir Alan would have to stay away from Luisa for any level of credibility, but not that he has any with the other business either....

Rock and a hard place.. I'm sure he would have known all this though if the researchers had done their job properly and the cynical me thinks that they knew this would make high viewing figures...

WilsonFrickett Thu 18-Jul-13 18:48:35

Well, yes, but... I don't disagree with the overall thrust of the blog but
1) why are we focusing on these women's appearance? Surely the whole point of feminism is free choice (albeit against a background of 'how free are our choices?'). I would be uncomfortable with people criticising women for not wearing make-up, so it follows that I'm uncomfortable with people criticising women for wearing make-up. Their appearance is up to them. And the men were - ime - hyper-groomed as well.

2) musicalmum No-one had any gravitas - not just the women. There was not one single person in the programme I would have trusted with £25 of my money, let alone £250,000. To single the women out for this criticism is unfair.

3) yes, personally the rise of cosmetic surgery disturbs me greatly as a woman and as a feminist. But while bemoaning the fact these places exist, why should the only people to make money out of them be men? (I do realise there's some fairly muddled thinking going on there but bear with). Criticising Leah for being involved in this industry just because she's a woman isn't really fair.

4) It's common I think for small-scale entrepreneurs to begin by looking inward. Both Leah and Francesca (the third place contestant) are taking their personal skills and looking to spin those into businesses. I really don't see what's wrong with that. Yes, perhaps it would be preferable if one of those skills was less 'pink' but you can't blame them for that. Again, it's a tv entertainment show - not a documentary.

5) A number of the men were actually quite stupid. No-one's calling them on that, are they?

It's disappointing for sure. One contestant looked like she was a parody of a business woman - off to a stag night rather than to a boardroom.

However I'm equally reluctant to make women responsible for other woman .... Until the male contestants are seen as speaking for men then we shouldn't think these young women do either. I'm unsure on this point though.

For a state educated, NHS trained doctor to secure financing via a publicly funded TV show to set up a chain of Botox drop in shops tells me all I need to know about vanity, greed and reality TV.

yamsareyammy Thu 18-Jul-13 19:09:34

Rarely do women do science, technology, inventions even social enterprise, which is what other male winners have done or are doing.
The only one on the list they do as much as men is the restaurant bunsiness like Simon Ambrose.

MN is chocabloc with lawyers, teachers, accedemics and desk job workers.

As Wilson's point 4 says, they looked inwards.

Very interesting blog Sara.
The only thing I slightly disagree with you about is at the end where you mention "the rise of the 1950s housewife"
I think feminism is about choices for women.
If it suits some individuals to have some time in the home environment raising their own children then I think that's a perfectly valid choice.
Of course working pressures and realities mean it's not always a completely free choice, or what any given woman would ideally choose.

I'm not working at the moment.
Ideally I'd like to work P/T and be well paid for the valuable work of educating and caring for young children - which is my area of professional expertise (with much experience and good qualifications)
I have had some success with these aspirations, but some frustrations - in an imperfect world (especially for women) - as well

Dozer Thu 18-Jul-13 19:14:02

"Mum wanted to know who on earth was having to 'go public' to demand private orgasms in the 70's"

grin anklebitersmum

Good blog!

The cupcake business was so pink, and unoriginal, and botox etc is depressing, but probably good for money making.

WilsonFrickett Thu 18-Jul-13 19:40:03

yams not saying I wouldnt have preferred it - loved it in fact - if one of the women's business plans was based on technology, science, etc. I would have infinitely preferred it. But until a critical mass of women are 'in' these skills at school/uni level we're not going to get that level of female entrepreneurs who are

Although there is a parallel point that Leah is a science/ tech person, what with the doctoring and all.

WilsonFrickett Thu 18-Jul-13 19:57:05

And the guy from two years ago (Tom? Inventor guy?) is inventing nail clippers. Beauty-related. No-ones giving him a hard time for that.

yamsareyammy Thu 18-Jul-13 20:39:41

That is a good point with Leah being a science/tech person.
Which has made me think quite why women with those skills still largely end up in the caring profession.

Another point this thread has made me think, that as Juggling says, isnt feminism about choices?
Because it was say men telling women what to do, and now it is feminists.

russetbella1000 Thu 18-Jul-13 20:41:28

Also agree with Mamaonion and others of you who talked of the vanity and superficiality of the women. I feel that such women just do not understand how much they are manipulated by the sexist marketing etc and the general conditioning which we are ALL subject to. Indeed they are completely naive to who is actually in control of them-(it's certainly not them). They can be part of this business game but it comes with conditions and they are perfect specimens of the coquettish individuals who are allowed in that world because when all said and done they fulfill the 'idea' of female for the men (and so are never a real threat) and hate their fellow woman seeing her only as rivals for the prize!

Grown up women don't do this. I'm 37 but I've felt this for a long time...Competitiveness between these kinds of women is very ugly but in a man's world some feel it's the only thing to do. They evidently have fallen prey to. They will believe that they are emancipated 'modern' women but the reality is that they have become caricatures hardly recognisable as living breathing human beings as they are waxed and plucked to within an inch of their lives and don stilletoes 24/7....They made me shudder.

WilsonFrickett Thu 18-Jul-13 20:48:16

Not all feminists yams wink

I suspect that every single person who goes on to the Apprentice is looking for a media career (and I expect that drives a lot of the appearance stuff too) but I believe just as I choose to rarely wear make-up, it's fine to choose to wear a face full of it if that's what you choose.

Granted, always with the disclaimer that free choice isn't usually free, but I completely refute for example russet's post above. It's not on to slag people off for their appearance in my book.

russetbella1000 Thu 18-Jul-13 21:33:53

I am not slagging off anyone for their appearance (I think I spoke factually-maybe they did kick off the heels when they slipped into their hot pant pyjamas??:0) and indeed I do question the idea of free choice that women (and men) think they get (MYSELF included. I of course am subject to the conditioning of our society which we all feed into/off. ) and I just felt the women there represented were as usual rather one-dimensional and not anyone I could identify with and were merely who I now expect to see on the sofa with Lorraine or indeed one of the newsreaders on GMTV/This Morning...

And I'm certainly not bashing the individual women but the media machine which I feel these women by the particular (one-dimensional/ cliche) choices they make help oil.... I digress, but don't we all just do a dis-service to each other when we allow ad breaks which feature waxing of hair-less legs on air. When will we all just be honest about who we are as women?........Not sure, meantime I do believe that the Apprentice does nothing to progress the cause.

Of course they are women and they have every right to 'think' (promote) what they do but given the air time they have you would be forgiven if you did indeed believe they were at least representative of women...

I just felt that the women cast were so similar to each other in terms of their appearance and personality whereas I didn't feel this the case for the men. Camera shots were also deliberate (yes perhaps i do look for these things and once you do it's really annoying...)taking in length of legs/cleavage before focusing on one of the women talking...

Anyway, I do of course agree that probably the bottom line is that this was a media stunt. Both businesses probably aren't even theirs and someone, not them, will be making even more money...

...But then it's announced in the news for goodness sake and that's what I mean-kept as entertainment it's fine but it's sold on as actual real and important-it is none of these.

HuwEdwards Thu 18-Jul-13 21:52:46

Neither idea, from a purely business perspective (i.e. demand and supply) was weak.

I do think that if the 2 finalists had been more 'ordinary' in their appearance, then the disappointment many of us feel would be softened. The idea that these 2 young, intelligent, fairly gorgeous and advantaged women, chose business ideas that typify female sexual sterotypes, is was bites.

Had Alex (or any of the men) had the cupcake idea, or had Leah been a 5ft 2inch 40-odd something with a nice bob, would we have felt the same?

HuwEdwards Thu 18-Jul-13 21:53:52

what not was

yamsareyammy Thu 18-Jul-13 22:01:25

russetbella1000, it does come across to me that you are very much slagging them off for their appearance.

Huw, what specific business's would you have liked to see them promote?

russetbella1000 Thu 18-Jul-13 22:02:49

...I'm not even that concerned about the actual business ideas. They are both purely to make money, so yes Alex could have had the cupcake idea, and Leah be somewhat different but the businesses were neither here nor there. Business is there to make money and does so based on supply and demand of course. That said whether it's a man or woman heading a cosmetic surgery business, it will be more women than men manipulated...Also, it is well known that while men might control business it is women who are the biggest consumers and so women must be led to believe all sorts of lies so they continue to pay for it in more ways than one...

WilsonFrickett Thu 18-Jul-13 22:07:05

^ they have become caricatures hardly recognisable as living breathing human beings as they are waxed and plucked to within an inch of their lives and don stilletoes 24/7....They made me shudder.^

russet how is that not judging someone based on their behaviour? Or bashing the individual women? Your second post is really interesting, but if we are to have this debate I do believe it has to be on general terms. Your point about this bring on the news is extrememely valid. I despair of the news in this country, it surely has to be more than another channel in the media mix?

And I don't agree the men were more 2-dimensional.

huw as a 40 something 5 ft 2 with a bob, I dunno. You tell me. I think people either buy this kind of beauty treatment from a male Harley st plastic surgeon oozing gravitas, or someone who looks like Leah. No-ones gonna buy fillers from me. Leah's marketing is very, very strong in that respect.

russetbella1000 Thu 18-Jul-13 22:07:57

Yams, I've read through the whole thread and my messages again and I don't think I've been any harsher than anyone else and apart from the 'hot pant pyjama comment' (tongue slightly in cheek there) I think I was just being factual. Stilettos were worn and ok maybe it was just me but their appearance was honestly so distracting all I could do was think about how long it must have taken them to get ready...

WilsonFrickett Thu 18-Jul-13 22:08:07

Behaviour = appearance ^^.

HuwEdwards Thu 18-Jul-13 22:13:53

Yammy, I would've liked that Leah's business didn't prey on some womens insecurities, also that as an A&E doc, she couldn't see how superficial her business is! I honestly didn't object violently to Luisa's business idea, but all the pink was lazy (and stereo-typical) marketing or at best lacked imagination. She did irritate me and was quite unlikeable throughout the series until the last episode.

What I did like, was that by the final episode they had a mutual respect and friendship and the 'cat fight' as I'm sure some areas of the media would've loved, simply didn't transpire.

russetbella1000 Thu 18-Jul-13 22:20:21

I would say I am still not judging them. I am stating how they looked and the fact that I did not feel this was representative or should be used as representative for women. Yes it is an aspect of us all (maybe) at some point in our lives_ I'll prob be doing a bit at the weekend ( bit of eyeliner/mascara -whatever- indeed up to me blah blah...) but it was just the fact that there was no other 'female image' projected (as that's all I am commenting on not the individuals themselves)

...Anyway, it's late :0)

MmeLindor Thu 18-Jul-13 22:23:34

I was so disappointed with the choice of business proposal. I made a comment on Twitter about being back in 1952. Botox or boob jobs. What a choice.

I am not a regular viewer, but watched because I knew that two female contestants had made it through to the final. What a disappointment.

The other thing that struck me was that they both basically built their business idea on their current job/business. It seems a waste of the weeks and weeks of 'training' if they are simply to do a bit of a Dragon's Den pitch.

Great blog, Sara.

yamsareyammy Thu 18-Jul-13 22:39:57

russet, are you ok with them looking and being as they choose?

You did said they were vain and superficial.

MmeLindor. It was the baking business or botox stuff.

And again, I would like to ask almost everyone on this thread, including the blogger, which businesses are acceptable?
And again, why cant women decided for themselves. Why should other women [replacing the men], tell them what is, and what is not acceptable?
What right do you have to do that?

mummy2benji Thu 18-Jul-13 22:55:23

As a doctor myself, I was quite affronted by the fact that Leah referred to herself as an expert in this chosen field of hers, and Sir Alan was happy to accept and agree with her. Most of us don't refer to ourselves as an 'expert' in our chosen field until after a decade or so of postgraduate experience, training and intensive exams. Leah is 24 (the age I was when I graduated medical school) and cannot have been qualified for more than a year or 18 months, unless she was put a year ahead at school - possible, but still only an extra year. So, she is currently a junior doctor in A&E. She has done the courses which qualify you to give botox and facial treatments, which to be honest are short courses and provide the essential facts but do not in any way constitute years of experience and acquisition of skills. So Sir Alan has invested in a botox business run by an albeit talented businesswoman but essentially a junior doctor with little on the job experience. Even if I was considering botox, which I am not, I would boycott this entire franchise as I think they are misleading people into thinking this venture is run by an experienced doctor.

russetbella1000 Thu 18-Jul-13 23:02:40

As long as they understand what they are choosing then of course... But there's the paradox how much do we really know when we're not free...?

Anyway honestly I'm not here to tell anyone what to do/think or anything else just giving my opinion (I guess I could call myself a feminist but that's rather divisive isn't it -just another label- especially when I heard somebody in this stream saying that feminists were telling women what to do....Surely people speak and people listen or choose not to...I would never tell anyone what to do only what my opinion is...I hope we're free to do that (as much as we dare!)

Honestly, misogyny is so ingrained in the social world we live in that people don't even recognise where we get 'our choices' from.

I'm a teacher and there is just so much everywhere which reinforces the ideas for each gender which are so subtle unless you are looking for them you wouldn't notice them but when you start looking it's actually shocking.

Reading a book just last week and two female characters were immediately described with quite contrasting appearances...Words such as, large, ugly, light, beautiful were all included in the description. I asked them if they could give their opinions about the characters from the description so far. The sad thing was that they could and very definite it was too. Of course I then challenged them to wonder if we really could tell what they were like but I do wonder whether it's worth it...

yamsareyammy Thu 18-Jul-13 23:08:23

mummy, I was very surprised too. I think, somewhere in the programme she suggested that she had started her medical training at 16, but I wasnt sure if I heard or understood that correctly.

WilsonFrickett Thu 18-Jul-13 23:15:55

But Russet! You are saying one thing then posting another... Can you really tell what these two women are like simply from their appearance (and the way the programme edited them)? Because you think you aren't judging them, but by your posts you really, really were.

Yams/mummy I'm sure the 'behind the scenes' programme said Leah went to uni at 16? But it was only on in the background so can't be sure. She's NI so the school system is slightly different I think? But yes, agree, very young to be such an 'expert'.

russetbella1000 Thu 18-Jul-13 23:27:04

No I'm judging the image of woman as projected by females on the programme. I have no idea who the women actually are, what they think or anything but what I can see is just the same one-dimensional view that every single channel seems to project...And we are therefore 'invited' to judge them by their appearance by the camera angles etc which you just do not get for men...

That is my opinion.

thismousebites Thu 18-Jul-13 23:43:55

The main disapointment for me was how a great opportunity to reach out to young women was completely missed.

What should (could) have been two strong confident women with unique and innovative business plans turned out to be yet the usual "womens" jobs.
Young women ready to leave school could have been really inspired by this programme. They could have spent 10 weeks watching & following some possible great role models who could have inspired them to throw over the typical female employment choices and decide that they were equally capable of following the same path as men.
Instead, sadly, all they ended up with was the typical female stereotype who is concerned only with making loads of ££££ becoming as famous as possible, and, if need be, pouting & posing for the media.
What message does this send to young teenage girls? The very same message that says " if you have big hair, big boobs, and a vacant expression, you can become famous by sleeping with (marrying a footballer).
A missed opportunity to influence teenage girls big time.

HuwEdwards Thu 18-Jul-13 23:49:33

But mouse they don't go into it to be role models for young people, there's nothing altruistic about it. It's purely for selfish game, that's what Apprentice is about.

thismousebites Thu 18-Jul-13 23:54:27

But THAT is what is so sad about it.
If my DD watched this when she was say 15, She would have been left with the impression that this is how you get on in life, by making cupcakes or filling womens faces with poison.
Very sad.

ringaringarosy Fri 19-Jul-13 08:18:41

im not sure how to put this into words but i dont see what is wrong with cupcakes or cosmetic surgery,if thats what people want.Men can do it if they want to,just as women can be builders if they want to,the choice is there,i also think that judging a woman because she wears fake tan and stilettos is just wrong!!!

WilsonFrickett Fri 19-Jul-13 08:56:17

Personally, I do have issues with cosmetic surgery, as I've said before.

But that aside, there is nothing wrong with women making money out of it - plenty men do. And it is actually quite diminishing to accuse a young woman who already has three successful businesses and the potential for another to simply be 'a cupcake baker', imo. Did I like her pink packaging - well, no. But I think it's wrong to diminish Luiza's fairly substantial achievements because they are based on a traditional female skill.

If feminism means it's OK for women to SAH and bake cupcakes (which it totally is in my book) then it's also OK for women to make a shedload of money out of a cupcake baking business. Don't diminish her because it's 'pink'.

MmeLindor Fri 19-Jul-13 09:06:25

Yes, to what ThisMouse said.

Of course every woman should be able to choose the business that she wants to start/support/invest in.

At the same time, I find it depressing that they chose the businesses that they did, reinforcing the old stereotypes. And not even anything particularly revolutionary or exciting.

The baking was one step up from the thousands of mums baking cakes from their home (not that I am dissing the home baking industry, but it has arisen imo because women are not able to pay for childcare, so look for jobs that fit around having children).

The botox (sorry, not boobs as I said earlier) didn't seem to be very different from the thousands of other clinics offering this already. What was their USP, aside from Sir Alan?

What an amazing example to young women and girls this could have been, had they put forward a proposition in tech, or science.

courgetteDOTcom Fri 19-Jul-13 09:29:05

The USP is that it's not traditionally cosmetic surgery, she's done minimal medical training and using it to make beauty therapy look more official (?)

I don't like the idea that a beauty therapist has been funded through medical school just to work as a beauty therapist. I don't think the problem is what they do but that it's the best on offer. I do feel they got to the final by default. The men who got to the end shouldn't have got that far without having their business plans checked, so I wonder what the last two knocked out would have offered or maybe another one that didn't get into the programme because someone without their own business got in.

merrymouse Fri 19-Jul-13 09:52:18

I haven't seen any of this series - did she explain why she didn't want to be a doctor?

Young women ready to leave school could have been really inspired by this programme.

I only watched the first few series, and I think the last one I saw was the one with Katie Hopkins - has it become more professional since then?

I agree that the business choices are a bit depressing, however, given that, from what I remember, its basically a reality show, and the contestants seem to conform to a stereotype (male or female), is it surprising that they would come up with this kind of idea? I can't remember anybody on the apprentice ever being that successful in business as opposed to media?

MmeLindor Fri 19-Jul-13 10:02:01

That is a good question, Merrymouse. Have any previous winners been successful in business rather than in media?

WilsonFrickett Fri 19-Jul-13 10:09:15

Young women... could have been inspired

But I think that's pre-supposing The Apprentice wants to be inspirational. It's not a serious programme (although it presents itself as one). Apart from inventor-guy from two years ago (who is inventing beauty products and no-one's giving him a hard time about that), no merry I think you'd be hard-pushed to find a business-person ex-Apprentice as opposed to a media-person ex-Apprentice.

I think if Luiza's plan had come to fruition and she'd build a massive wholesale empire selling to the thousands of small bakeries on Britain's streets, it would have been quite a few steps up from someone baking on their kitchen table hmm. And again, Leah is a science/technology candidate - its just unfortunate she's using these skills to inject plastic into women's faces, I suppose.

Personally, I think every young person who opens their own business is an amazing example. I think people are perhaps viewing this through a very UK/maybe even middle-class lens? I have worked with young people in a voluntary capacity and been asked to attend in a suit. Because the young women in the group don't know that women could wear suits.

When we talk of empowering women in developing countries, it's all about micro-business in traditional skill areas. No-one's telling a women's co-op in India they're failures because they're weaving carpets rather than doing tech jobs.

MmeLindor Fri 19-Jul-13 10:33:13

Yes, it would have been a step up, but why did she then present is like every other cupcake bakery website that is on the market? I don't dismiss the actual proposition, but I do think the branding was way off target.

DH also made the comment that 'guaranteed 3 day delivery' doesn't sound like great service. Are there really no wholesalers who offer this?

Comparing traditional 'women's industries' in the developing world with UK isn't all that helpful. They generally don't have the technical and IT skills (or the larger investment) to do anything else.

MmeLindor Fri 19-Jul-13 10:34:16

"I have worked with young people in a voluntary capacity and been asked to attend in a suit. Because the young women in the group don't know that women could wear suits"

That is really sad.

disclosure: I haven't seen the appprentice, nor even read the whole thread. What I have gleaned thoguh, is that the finalist businesses were either cupcakes or botox. Just find that a bit sad. If it was proper artisan baking at least; there's an art and satisfaction in that which is wonderful for anyone (except those with gluten allergy). I worked in such a bakery once upon a time. Lovely smell, very heavy work.
Also have to wave to yams, from the feminist thread a few weeks back. I see your point re office work, and if a mother needing work to fit around childcare options. But I'm straying from the herd, and studying science, hoping to get a job in wave/tide energy = outside working!
I would love it if the telly could highlight women in such roles, working innovatively to secure energy for the future! Working in science or farming or something considered a bit more unusual.

Would that work on the Apprentice?

stopgap Fri 19-Jul-13 11:54:18

Aside from the feminist ethics of botox, there are questionable health ethics regarding these Botox clinics popping up on every high street in the UK. I'm overseas, so can't fully comment on a programme I haven't seen, but cosmetic surgery bodies have for a long time been pushing for stricter regulation of such clinics, with the ideal scenario being that botox and fillers are only offered by plastic surgeons or dermatologists with years of training behind them.

tobiasfunke Fri 19-Jul-13 12:12:06

This was a very interesting piece OP. Interestingly I thought the baking/botox thing was more Sralan making a decision about which bandwagon he was going to jump on.

I had huge issues with Leah selling her business as some sort of safer clinical version of what's on the high street. She's only just qualified FFS. I wouldn't trust a doctor who was just out of University setting themselves up as an expert. Essentially the staff in her shops are going to have the same training as any other bog standard outlet. My dentist does botox (apparently) as a side line and she will have had more medical training than one of Leah's staff.

As for the high heels- every week I would watch those poor women and think how ridiculous they looked- is it really empowering to basically be unable to walk properly?

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 19-Jul-13 13:02:15

What a sad and depressing post.sad

Both women reached the final because of their intelligence, drive and the profitability of their business plans. And yet they are being judged by feminists on their looks and the fact that their products are seen as feminine.

Is it any wonder that Luisa and many other young women now do not identify as feminist.

merrymouse Fri 19-Jul-13 13:31:23

And yet they are being judged by feminists on their looks

They are not being judged for their looks. They are being judged for dressing as people on a reality TV show rather than business people and wearing stupid shoes. There is a difference.

OhDearNigel Fri 19-Jul-13 13:37:12

As a professional cake decorator I thought Luisa's business plan was by far the best one on offer, and the likeliest to succeed. Those of you that are dismissing it as "1950s housewife sugary cupcakes" obviously have no comprehension of what she was proposing or the enormous market out there. She was going to self-manufacture and sell mainly to trade customers. That is not a sugary, pink business. I did hate the packaging though.

A one-stop, meet all your requirements online manufacturer would be great. I currently order from some 5-6 suppliers because each one has something the other ones dont. If I want to order sugarveil icing and a particular alphabet cutter I have to go to two different retailers. A lot of online cake decorating suppliers are very small and often run out of stock for months at a time. If Luisa was manufacturing herself she would be in control of the supply chain and the onward sale. I never understood why Sugar had such a problem with her other businesses - they were natural sales windows to launch her brand.

I was quite excited at the proposal on the table and was looking forward to seeing what she was going to be offering. Or maybe I'll just develop the brand myself

OhDearNigel Fri 19-Jul-13 13:56:09

DH also made the comment that 'guaranteed 3 day delivery' doesn't sound like great service. Are there really no wholesalers who offer this?

Not that I've come across. And I've used pretty much every online sugarcraft supplier out there. Sometimes you get it quickly but it's never guaranteed.

fibrecruncher Fri 19-Jul-13 14:56:13

I haven't watched any of the series but was curious to see the final with two female contestants. I was a tad dissappointed. With regards to the Luisa and Leahs appearances - I would say that they are rather over sexualised, meet a typical stereotype of what a woman should look like and that they looked fairly similar to eachother. I think this is not a conincidence and that in order to suceed on this kind of program this is apparently the only image with which to present yourself. I would say that the two women were clearly driven and intelligent - and if they didn't have to spend so much time blowdrying their hair and applying mascara they may have been able to come up with more intellectually and artistically challenging business plans & brands.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 19-Jul-13 15:15:33

Oh right, they're not being judged on their looks, *they're being judged on their clothes and shoes.*hmm Well I guess that's feminism in the 21st century for you. Is it any wonder women are distancing themselves from the word.angry

Read rest of thread now. It is sad that their looks are being discussed so much. Who cares? Pick a fight with the producers then, who I'm guessing are in charge of the look of the contestants.
Interesting to read Ohnigel's post, I had no idea about the cupcake market, so this gave a whole new depth to her concept for me.
the botox thing is just sad on so many levels. I don't get that there should ever be a need for it but clearly there is.

limitedperiodonly Fri 19-Jul-13 18:10:22

if they didn't have to spend so much time blowdrying their hair and applying mascara they may have been able to come up with more intellectually and artistically challenging business plans & brands.

What a fatuous thing to say. It was the frequent refrain of a woman at my second job when I was 23. I used to wear mascara, foundation, blusher, took great care over my rather conservative clothes and brushed my hair which was usually in a long ponytail. I was hardly Katie Price, but so what if I was?

She simply didn't like me. It may or may not have had something to do with the fact that we were the only two women in an otherwise all-male office and I was younger than she was and she was insecure.

Who knows? I didn't care then, and I don't care now because I was focused on my job, good at it and had a social life that most definitely didn't include the men in my office.

I didn't care for Leah or Luisa's looks, much less their personalities, but that's by the by. If you admire that look, you can achieve it, but it's not compulsory.

As for their business plans: I expect Leah's will make a lot of money, as do the other successful cosmetic chains, whether for injectables, surgery, hair, tanning or other body treatments.

I've no idea about Luisa's but ohdearnigel is her target and seems to think it would have worked.

Business is about making money, I hope legally, and that's what these two women proposed to do. They aren't obliged to be role models as well.

WilsonFrickett Fri 19-Jul-13 18:17:14

I have to say, as a feminist, this is the first thread I've been on here which has made me not want to call myself a feminist.

It's been judgy, reductive and sneery, mostly.

limitedperiodonly Fri 19-Jul-13 18:33:43

wilsonfrickett nothing would ever stop me from calling myself a feminist.

Nothing would ever stop me from judging judgy people either. grin

WilsonFrickett Fri 19-Jul-13 18:54:50

I'll be back on it tomorrow limited. And then I shall take over the world with my feminist cupcakes...

Yes, how on earth is it "feminist" to say you don't get to be young and beautiful on the telly? They are far from what I look like, but I see many young girls with similar looks, and it seems to be the way to be pretty for those who follow fashion? (oh dear, I'm totally out of touch. Have spent ages being a frump smile )
From a health perspective high heels should be banned, the damage caused to many a spine, not to mention the bunions. Yuk. Apart from that I really do think that as long as it's within reason people can wear what they like on tv. They were not in their thongs, were they?
If they can make business, good on them. I still find it sad that botox is such big business though. My personal view on "bodysculpting" is that unless you have disfigurement or it is health related, it really is unnecessary. I just don't like the way it makes people look, sort of plasticky. Apart from that, live and let live, please. You feminists too!

PS. i am a feminist. A bit crap at it, but still wanting that eliusive equality for education and work.

limitedperiodonly Fri 19-Jul-13 19:19:15

At nearly 50 I'm still trying to work this out. I imagine I'll be trying to work it out until the day I die.

I love this choon

But the video and the lyrics offend me beyond belief. Thicke and Williams are cunts. And I use that word deliberately.

Do I hate the women in it? No.

We are making our way in the world. If you don't like it, say so, and don't follow it.

russetbella1000 Fri 19-Jul-13 20:52:08

Limited when you said:

It may or may not have had something to do with the fact that we were the only two women in an otherwise all-male office and I was younger than she was and she was insecure.

This is what we, as women need to get away from.....I know you said 'may or may not' but you still have so instilled in you a sense of competition with your fellow woman and it is based on 'image'

This is sad.

Maybe there were issues beyond how you loooked/fact you were younger...Maybe you never think about that because you don't question the conditioning which makes you think as you do...

limitedperiodonly Fri 19-Jul-13 21:42:50

russet Sorry, but I'm going to drip-feed. It's not done, but I'm going to have to do it. Please forgive me.

She was doing a secretarial job and presumably wanted to stay there, whereas I was doing what she thought was a 'man' job which for some reason offended her.

I'd previously done a secretarial job but had switched. It was always my intention to do the 'man' job; I just had to mark time.

Save your sadness because I expect she was the one who was conditioned and had a concept of image, not I.

The reason I think that is because though she was 20 years older than me, my own mother was 42 years older than me and wanted me to be whatever I wanted to be.

Though I note it, I won't excuse it. And I do recognise it in women today. It's depressing.

Now I'm older than her, I don't bitch about women at work who're 20 or 30 years younger than me unless there's something wrong with their work ethic. If that's the case, I bitch about the men too.

I have no problem with people's jobs or the route they take to other careers as long as they're competent.

If anything was instilled, it was in her head and not mine.

yamsareyammy Fri 19-Jul-13 22:20:01

I am getting the idea, from this thread and others, that there is a feminist divide between older feminists and younger ones.
Older ones think it just isnt quite right for feminists to "look plasticy", have botox etc, whereas younger ones either couldnt give two hoots, or go and do it anyway and still think of themselves as feminists.

limitedperiodonly Fri 19-Jul-13 22:26:08

What's older, do you think yammy?

WilsonFrickett Fri 19-Jul-13 22:29:55

Och I dunno yam, I'm an old gimmer. grin

yamsareyammy Fri 19-Jul-13 22:33:53

I didnt think you fitted Wilson! grin

limited. I think you have probably been on MN longer than me. I think you may know the rough ages of some.
2 including yourself have said their ages. I know, near enough 2 more.

I think rl, you can see it a bit too, would you not say?

limitedperiodonly Fri 19-Jul-13 22:40:33

I think rl, you can see it a bit too, would you not say?

Eh? grin

I am knocking on a bit, though wink

WilsonFrickett Fri 19-Jul-13 22:45:18

I think in life there is always a bit of head shaking at younger generations, isn't there? I know I'm guilty of that myself. Shorts with bum cheeks hanging down, that sort of thing. even the music is just noise It's normal to do a bit of tutting. And it is perfectly acceptable to think about this on a broader societal level too. If you look at the group of Apprentices this year and compare it to the group in the first series, you would definitely see a trend towards hyper-polished, hyper-groomed people - and that's just the men.

What's not ok though is then to judge an individual on that basis. When I was taken aside in the workplace and 'counselled' that wearing more make up would make a difference to my career I made it quite clear that that was a crock of bolleaux and pointed to my achievements. The reverse has to be true too.

But I am very much starting to repeat myself. That's a sign of gimmer hood too, no?

yamsareyammy Fri 19-Jul-13 22:46:47


Where is the op btw.
Aren't they supposed to contribute?

yamsareyammy Fri 19-Jul-13 22:51:06

On another thread about the Apprentice, even last years contestants, we decided they were nowhere near as groomed as this years bunch.Cant be bothered to link to thread, or link to pictures of previous years candidates.
We concluded, on the other thread, that there were probably a different group of selectors this year. Or the particular canditates were chosen specifically, in part,so as to make more talking points for the programme. In which case, I think it worked.

limitedperiodonly Fri 19-Jul-13 22:54:05

I'm not sure we had designers in the '80s but I'm bloody sure we had feminism and I still wore things like this

and this

Designed by women, actually.

limitedperiodonly Fri 19-Jul-13 22:58:56

Think that second outfit was some kind of nurse dressing up kit hangover. Mine had silver polka dots. It was the '80s.

yamsareyammy Fri 19-Jul-13 23:00:43

I think we agree, limited, in that women shouldnt be told by other women who are feminists, how to dress.

I keep wanting to ask you why you didnt socialise with the men in your office?
Feel like though, that you may not like the question? If so, dont answer..

limitedperiodonly Fri 19-Jul-13 23:24:49

No, that's okay. smile

I liked most of the men I worked with very much. I just don't shit where I eat.

Luckily, I didn't fancy any of them, except one, but I didn't like mixing business with pleasure and didn't have to, so I resisted.

I had a really good social life away from work back then so I had plenty of choice. In another life I might be different. People do whatever's right for them. A relationship with a colleague wasn't right for me.

When I married someone from another world, I invited six of them. They had wives and girlfriends. I'm still in touch with two of them. I also invited four women workmates too and I'm still in touch with one of them.

With that 20-years-older colleague, I decided to save us both the embarrassment wink

Oblomov Sat 20-Jul-13 06:37:46

Well, I am not a feminist, particularly. And I do judge on appearance. I thought we all did, in the first 5 seconds. Appearances tell us a lot about people. Not all , but a lot.
I find a lot of young girls just look the same. Attractive, but all the same. Toned down Barbour doll look.
I found the 2 finalists unappealing. They way they dressed, over attention to hair and make up, the previous cattiness. I found dim and shallow , and I don't have a daughter, but if I did the 2 finalists are certainly not what I would want my daughter yo replicate.
And yes I am a 40 yr old dumpy minger, who wears wedge sandals to my p/t job !!

gotthemoononastick Sat 20-Jul-13 11:48:07

Fuel to the fire of many men in my life,who think women waste a precious university place.

yamsareyammy Sat 20-Jul-13 12:32:47

That is naive and harsh of the, got!
Isnt it a fact that 40% of women are still single nowadays at 40?

yamsareyammy Sat 20-Jul-13 12:33:22

them not the

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 20-Jul-13 12:48:56

In what way gotthemoon?confused

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 20-Jul-13 15:46:18

Oblomov you say you found the contestants dim and shallow, yet you seem to be judging them, not on their outstanding academic achievement, or due to their success in business whilst being a single parent, but on their looks.sad

I'm not old. 33yrs. I still don't like the botox, but then I'm no fashion queen either.
Is this a bit like that article in the Guradian where a woman was complaining about not getting on in the world because she was too pretty. I can now see her point of view, a bit. I don't pesonally find the look of many women in the public domain pretty. The women themselves are, but not necessarily the look they've chosen.
The problem with botox, however artfully done, was highlighted beautifully in a Dawn and French sketch, where one of them could not hold on to her cigarette because she had injection smile There's weird plasticky stuff where there should be flesh and muscle. You just lose out on expressivity (is that a word?) and to my eyes does not look nice.
I don't find it particularly empowering to get a foot forward by playing on sex either, so if that is an issue here I can see why people get all riled up of it. I have tried it in small situations, and it does work, but to me is not something to base lifes achievements on.

limitedperiodonly Sat 20-Jul-13 19:09:35

I think that if botox and fillers are done well you don't notice them. But then I use them so I could be deluded. Anyway, I'm happy with the way I look.

My job depends on using my personality and personal attributes - as I imagine lots of other people's jobs do. Again, I'm happy with my personal boundaries and don't care what colleagues do.

A straight male colleague used to loudly accuse anyone who beat him to work - either straight females or gay men - of fucking clients. Obviously he discounted the idea of gay women or powerful straight ones wink

It goes on but that said more about him than them.

In short, I don't care what other people do as long as it doesn't hurt me, and I don't consider someone looking like Barbie, as some people have said on this thread, to be hurting me.

If I can be bothered, I'm more offended by the act of dismissing another human being as a Barbie.

DioneTheDiabolist Sat 20-Jul-13 19:34:33

I agree Limited, given the outrage regarding John Inverdale and recent comments about Mary Beard, I find it very depressing that so many feminist commentators think it's Ok to judge these women on how they look.

DonDrapersAltrEgoBigglesDraper Sat 20-Jul-13 20:05:44

In all my 39 years on this planet, I have never been able to fathom why any woman would not want to identify as a feminist. To me, feminism is as right and as natural as breathing oxygen.

This thread has finally given me that insight.


BlueStones Sun 21-Jul-13 10:01:44

Don - the acceptance of gender equality is a characteristic of all reasonable people (I believe the Aztecs were the first civilisation to write it into law). As you say, it is as natural as breathing to me, and in my view requires no additional label.

arsenaltilidie Tue 23-Jul-13 14:32:46

The candidate looking for a job is the sort of person that's likely to conform, whereas an entrepreneur is for someone that offers something a bit different.
Hence Dragons' Den candidates where different to candidates on the old apprentice.
Imagine Levi roots (raggae raggae sauce) being judged by black people because of the way he looks.

Its a shame that even on a feminist forum, women are being judged on how they look and behave instead of their brains.

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