Marks and Spencer’s “fancy little knickers” and nine other awful For Her Christmas presents

A hundred years after getting the vote, today’s woman can access not only Shout Out To My Pout lip pencils, but Perfect In Pink face gems. 

NS

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

It’s often been said that buying gifts for women is difficult. The female of the species is, after all, a mysterious creature, whose inner life – should such a thing exist – remains uncharted territory for the average male.

Thankfully, there are various shortcuts when it comes to satisfying the needs of this curious beast. From overpriced candles to make-up brush cleaners, there are certain gifts which are guaranteed to make her smile.

Below is a list I’ve compiled of the best of this year’s bunch. Pick one of these beauties and we’ll have your shrew tamed until well into 2019!

1. Fancy little knickers

As we all know, normal people like wearing clothes, particularly during those cold winter months. With women, though, it’s a different matter entirely.

Remember those classic GQ Person of the Year covers, in which all the men wore suits while Lana Del Rey was naked? Now that GQ’s moved on to being offensive about Serena Williams, Marks and Spencer has stepped in to offer its own festive take on the clothed men/unclothed women binary.

Its Christmas “must have” window display repeats the age-old truth that while men need “outfits to impress”, there’s nothing women need more than “fancy little knickers”. So why not pick out the scratchiest, most arse-torturing pair you can find? The tinier, the better! There’s nothing she wants more than to feel like a string-wrapped Christmas turkey!

(Note: said pants may later lead to the wearer being blamed for her own sexual assault. Neither the manufacturer nor the future assailant accepts any liability.)

2. An overpriced candle

“Universally popular, a scented candle makes a brilliantly thoughtful gift that will slot into any home,” claims Liberty of London. And there’s so many to choose from! There’s the Dypyique Baies scented candle at £47; the Fornasetti Ortensia scented candle at £140; the Anya Hindmarch pencil shavings candle at £50.

Or how about the 2kg Nuvola Mistero scented candle at £530? It will “infuse your home with pink pepper, cypress, laurel, sandalwood, and musk”, at least until you are evicted for having spent all your rent money on candles.

Women are said to find scented candles very relaxing. That said, I’m a woman and I’m not sure I could cope with lighting one of these ones. I’d basically feel I was acting like the KLF that time they set fire to £1,000,000, i.e. a total wanker. I couldn’t do it. But perhaps the woman in your life could. Why not waste a month’s salary on finding out?

3. Literally anything to do with Prosecco (apart from Prosecco)

The female condition! It’s enough to drive a woman to drink! So why not buy her something to do with drink, but which isn’t actually drink? (What with her having bought plenty of that already and hidden the empties in “mummy’s crying place” under the stairs.)

Buying a woman a Prosecco-themed gift shows you’ve noticed she’s almost always off her face, but that you love her all the same. So why not get her some Prosecco-scented bubble bath? Prosecco-flavoured sweets? A mug that says “Coffee keeps Mummy going until it’s acceptable to drink Prosecco”? You can even get a “Ring for Prosecco” bell. It’s all such fun, at least until you get to the shakes and the existential crises.

You can also do this with gin, but please note that by that point you’re getting quite close to the bone. For the more culturally-minded woman, copies of Leaving Las Vegas and The Lost Weekend could also be thrown in. She’d still probably prefer the scented bath gel.

4. Anything unicorn-related

For the female person who is too young to become an alcoholic, mythical creatures are here to help fill the void. Last year it was mermaids. This year it’s all about the unicorn (according to my fashionista sources, come Christmas 2019 it will be the turn of Grendel’s mother).

How about a Unicorn Sparkles duo nail colour kit? Or, if she’s not bothered by unrealistic beauty standards, an eyeshadow palette which exhorts her to Be A Unicorn? You can even get her make-up brush shampoo in a unicorn horn-shaped bottle. The shampoo is vegan, so no unicorns were harmed during the manufacturing process. 

For the girl who engages in the entirely futile, soul-destroying activity of colouring in mass-produced images, there’s the Unicorns and Rainbows Gorgeous Colouring Book for Girls. Remember to buy her some crayons to go with it. And sod it, maybe also a mini Prosecco.

5. A spa break

There’s nothing a woman likes more than being pampered. The only difficulty with spa breaks is deciding which treatment to have first.

Would she first like her face to be smothered in mud? Her pubic hair to be daubed with hot wax, then ripped out at the root? Hot stones to be placed down her spine for reasons which now escape everyone? Or perhaps she could have some minion file her toenails, which isn’t remotely humiliating for everyone involved.

The main reason women go on spa breaks is obviously because at some point, they get to wear white towelling robes and drink Prosecco, at least according to the photos in the brochures (they are also required to laugh hysterically while lifting a forkful of rocket to their mouths, but on balance it’s a small price to pay).

6. A crazy cat lady mug

It’s almost a week since professional boor Andrew Neil called professional journalist Carole Cadwalladr a “mad cat woman”. As Cadwalladr pointed out, “a “crazy cat lady” isn’t a harmless animal lover with free-thinking views; it’s a woman who’s outside acceptable society”:

“I’m a middle-aged woman, without children. And this is my lot. I occupy one of the last few remaining categories of acceptable prejudice. It’s slut-shaming for the over 30s.”

That said, it may be that you know a middle-aged woman without children. Do you, like Neil, wish to be a complete tosser? Then why not buy her a crazy cat lady mug? There are several versions to choose from.

To be fair, you might just buy it for a woman who likes cats, to whom you will also be making the point that you don’t think she’s one of those other crazy cat ladies (yet). The gift that subtly gaslights is the gift that keeps on giving.

7. A thing to contain another thing

“Though we should all aim to avoid making sweeping generalisations based on gender,” write the editors at Fashionbeans, in an article literally called The 50 Best Christmas Gifts for Her 2018, “there are some that hold water, like the fact that women love handbags and purses.”

This is true. Woman like things in which you can put other things: handbags, purses, make-up bags, tote bags, you name it. This is either because we have some weird innate obsession with bags, or it’s because we have stuff that needs to be transported and none of our clothes have pockets.

In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s feminist utopia Herland, none of the women have handbags. Instead they have “pockets in surprising number and variety […] in all their garments”. This would have made it much harder for people to know what to buy them for Christmas, since bags were not required.

When it comes to feminist utopias, you should be careful what you wish for. Anyhow, just buy her a bag.

8. Stuff left over from Mother’s Day 2018

If the woman in your life is your mum, you’re in luck. All you have to do is buy her some twee tat that informs her how much you know she loves you and not only is your job done, but she’ll secretly feel guilty for not quite living up to the standards outlined in your chosen book or on your chosen mug. It’s less an actual gift, more a statement of requirements.

My favourite mum gift, though, is the personalised family clock, on which one can put a quotation about how time passes within one’s own particular family. The sample text provided is “this house runs on love, laughter and lots of hugs”. If my sons are reading this, I’d prefer something that makes reference to the sands of time and how we’re all going to die and Brexit is only making it worse … Or maybe forget the clock. Let’s get back to the Prosecco.

9. Electrical beauty

Electrical beauty sounds like a mid-80s film in which Andrew McCarthy falls in love with a woman who’s actually a Commodore 64. Or perhaps a late 90s film starring Kevin Spacey, which everyone thought was great at the time but now tries not to recall. Anyhow, it’s neither of these things.

It’s stuff like Rose Gold Stylepro Makeup Brush Cleaner, a contraption which uses centrifugal spin technology (i.e. it goes round and round) to clean your gunky brushes, or the Dermawand Anti-Aging Beauty Tool, which is “clinically proven to help soften fine lines/wrinkles”. These are “beauty gadgets” which, according to Boots, “you never knew you needed”. It’s such a relief they’ve been discovered before it’s too late. 

10. The fall of the patriarchy

Just kidding! The actual fall of the actual patriarchy would be, like, super inconvenient. Therefore, why not pacify the budding feminist firebrand in your life – bless her! – with a Woman Power notebook (Prezzybox, £14.99)? It says “woman” and “power” on the cover! It even contains blank pages onto which she can write down her “thoughts”!

Failing that, why not get your feisty little poppet some LMX make-up by Little Mix? According to the Boots catalogue, it’s “designed to empower”. A hundred years after the first British women got the vote, today’s woman can access not only Shout Out To My Pout lip pencils, but Perfect In Pink face gems. The only thing more empowering than that is a full Hollywood wax in preparation for putting on those fancy little knickers.

Festive liberation awaits.

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.