Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – well, at least until the object of attention takes note of their attractiveness, then all hell breaks loose.
If you’ve been living under a rock – and have yet to crawl out from under it like most seem to have – here’s the simple facts about the furore surrounding Samantha Brick.
On Tuesday the Daily Mail published her article “'There are downsides to looking this pretty': Why women hate me for being beautiful”.
In it she acknowledged that she is “no Elle Macpherson”, but said that she considers herself pretty, thanks to having been told that she’s a good-looking woman in the past as well as receiving gifts by those who have appreciated her appearance.
Within the piece she describes the attention she’s received and describes some of the hurdles she feels have been put in her way by the way she looks.
Some of the claims – such as that she’s never been a bridesmaid and lost friends because other females feel threatened – appear fanciful, not least since she doesn’t acknowledge these events could be explained by other factors. Brick’s lack of self-awareness – and that fantastically blunt headline – proved extremely easy to parody, which quite a few such as VICE magazine, myself on this very website and Tim Dowling in The Guardian did to varying degrees of success.
However, within the article she doesn’t attack anyone, or do anyone any real damage (other than herself). It’s important to bear that in mind when you consider the enormity of the vicious backlash which was to greet Brick, with thousands of comments on the article webpage itself, hundreds of articles about the article, and the likes of Twitter and Facebook crammed with astonished and enraged reactions from thousands upon thousands of people.
Despite the fact that she never claimed to be a beauty, her appearance in the article’s accompanying photos was ripped apart, the “top” three comments on the website saying that she is “only marginally ok looking”, “only moderately pretty” and a lot less attractive than she “evidently” thinks she is.
If so, what exactly is wrong with that – isn’t it a positive thing that someone might receive flattering attention without resembling a supermodel? She didn’t claim to be the best-looking woman in the country, merely that over the years she’s found herself the subject of complimentary attention.
I’ve had female friends tell me about being treated to free drinks in bars or having meals bought for them in restaurants, and I’ve never thought that they must consider themselves the Queen of Egypt for recounting tales which attest to the fact that someone, somewhere deems them worthy of flattering attention.
But that a large amount of women might have similar stories mattered not; what was most amazing was how cruelly those pounced who might normally refrain from commenting on the looks of others. (I hope most of them have at least a moment of self-reflection the next time they launch into a tirade because a tabloid has called a normal-sized celeb “frumpy” or “matronly”, or when they watch the latest Gok Wan show and pat themselves on the back for thinking that attractiveness comes in all shapes and sizes, the brazen hypocrites.)
“Oh, but this is different!” I guess they would cry. But why? The crux of things seems to be that Samantha Brick is a deluded fool, with ideas above their station. All that simply because she’s been open enough to explain how she believes her looks have affected her path through life, something that surely most of us have also considered, whether or not we place quite such importance on their effect.
It’s a pathetic reaction, symptomatic of a society that sympathises with the underdog, but attacks those with the temerity to lack low self-esteem. If you dare to have confidence in yourself, we’ll cut you down to size. No wonder the country’s stuffed with bitter whingers while those who make successes of themselves are inclined to jet off to somewhere where they’re allowed to hold a high opinion of themselves.
If Samantha Brick had written an article with the headline “'There are downsides to looking this unattractive': Why women hate me for being ugly” with exactly the same photos – well, except with a forlorn frown instead of a forced smile – she’d doubtless have had plenty on hand to reassure her about how pretty she is, and why she shouldn’t pay attention to those who have done her down.
To be fair, those commenters would have been about as risible as this week’s mob are, for ignoring a chance to discuss the issue at hand – whether a person’s looks can have such a debilitating effect in life – to instead sympathise with the writer and tell their own horror stories.
But as least their attempts to pull somebody up by their bootstraps would have been commendable in a sense. What exactly is laudable about ganging up en masse to attack a woman never previously in the public eye who was bound to be left reeling by such opprobrium?
I guess the argument goes that it wasn’t her looks that people were attacking, but her unfathomable attitude. Except that still doesn’t explain why in articles about the surrounding issues, such as Hadley Freeman’s brilliant piece on the Daily Mail’s attitude to its female contributors, there’s still those popping up to ignore what’s actually being discussed and instead just take Brick to task for her “average” looks, as though we should all judge attractiveness by their standards.
Funnily enough, I’d say it was her attitude that should be commended and admired. Brick stuck her neck out, knowing full well that there was plenty out there nasty enough to instantly seize upon what she had to say.
What was disgraceful – and the true source of shame – was the baying mob who feasted upon her with a shameful pack mentality, and who then further went into a frothing fury when she wrote again in the next day’s Daily Mail and appeared on yesterday’s This Morning and rather wonderfully refused to be bullied into a submissive recantation of that first article.
Whether or not you agreed with her, it ought to be whole-heartedly admired that she has stuck to her guns amid such fierce criticism, rather than being humiliated into adopting a negative body image (by means of a manner strangely similar to how the “ordinary woman” is harangued by a constant barrage of unrealistic images in the press). For that reason alone I’ll happily pay for her next meal whenever she’s in Glasgow, so long as she doesn’t mind settling for a Pizza Hut buffet. (Times are tough and all that.)
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