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A response to Samantha Brick & the idea of "beauty"

Yesterday Samantha Brick, journalist at The Daily Mail, published an article complaining that women loathe her for being so beautiful. Men of course would be overawed by her beauty, offering not just compliments but free champagne and offering to pay for her train tickets. There was an enormous backlash on the internet against the article. People wondered whether it was a late April fool, or confused about where this sense of beauty had come from - not seeing it in her picture. The picture alone wouldn't have prompted abuse but it was her choice of expression which encouraged this - the public seeing her as having delusions of grandeur. Following up from this article, Brick wrote a response which was published today. This claimed that the backlash proved her point - that women were just jealous of her.

You can only know so much about an individual from an article, so it is hard to judge the situation. It may be true that beautiful people will be treated kindly. However I'm finding myself thinking that men behaving in this way was probably less to do with her beauty than with how she presents herself. You can get a lot with a cheeky smile and flirting and it seems naive for Brick to ignore this. She instead puts this down to her beauty and nothing else. Equally women may not be so worried by her beauty, but if she does have this flirtatious manner they may well feel threatened. Of course she does not talk about this, so these are only presumptions.

I think Brick did have a point in there somewhere. However rather than using her own experience of "beauty" as a springboard for discussion on the topic, it becomes the focus of the article and she appears as arrogant. Any real engagement with ideas of self esteem or beauty are lost as the reader focuses on the writer instead.

My point would be that women are insecure and self-deprecating. Ask a woman for something she likes about herself and she will struggle. Ask her for something she doesn't like about herself and she will give you a long list. This is due to genuine deep-rooted insecurities but also due to this equally deep-rooted British fear of appearing arrogant. This also contributes to the difficulty of a woman accepting a compliment.

When Natalie Portman was asked on In The Actor's Studio whether her beauty acted as a blessing or a hindrance in her career she answered it was the former. Of course working in films it was going to help her to be viewed as beautiful. Though I feel what helps Portman get work more is her talent, her strong work ethic and her humility. She comes across as graceful - not revelling in her own beauty.

So yes beauty will help you get ahead. However if someone states the magnitude of their own beauty, they suddenly become very ugly. It is about attitude more than appearance. Acknowledging one's own beauty is not about saying it out loud. It is about carrying yourself with confidence. It is about looking in the mirror and noticing your strengths and what you like, and not worrying too much about what you don't. Wear a smile and be comfortable in your own skin and people will be drawn to you. It is about this internal process rather than enforcing your view of your own beauty to the general public.

In my view women do accept other women's beauty. Back at school it would not have been the case - teenagers have insecurities and focus on appearance more than adults do (one would hope). My friends and I talk about and admire other women's beauty, sometimes with jealous but never with resentment. When I do hear bitching now it is generally about the individual's attitude rather than their appearance and this is what seems to be the case here.

Despite my reservations (to put it lightly) about the writer - I do feel sorry for her. For much of yesterday she was left in tears after constant barrages of attacks on the internet: both on the Daily Mail website, Twitter and even personal emails. With the internet everyone has a voice, and in instances like this they aren't afraid to use it. Brick's response today indicated this proved how jealous people were of her looks and how women couldn't accept beautiful women but felt the need to swipe. However the general reaction seemed to be more a reaction against the attitude Brick presented: of arrogance and superiority. If I passed her in the street I wouldn't think anything of her - not that she was beautiful nor ugly. It was the words in the article which provoked outrage, not the photo. Confidence is attractive: arrogance is not.

The real reason I feel sorry for Brick is that I can't believe this article was published. The article was always going to cause outrage. Though perhaps it couldn't quite have been predicted how many views there would be, or just how many venomous comments the article would receive. It seems to me this is an airing of views which should have stayed within an evening over a few drinks. Her friends wouldn't have liked it of course but they could have told her to pipe down and no more would have been said about it. This didn't happen: the article was published by a national newspaper. I can't quite believe this got passed the editor. The point about beauty, or perceptions of it, was lost in her own arrogance. For this reason it seems like bad journalism to me.

Except I can believe it would get past the editor. This is The Daily Mail and I'm not surprised they care more about views than welfare of the writer. This has given the paper a lot of attention and millions of people have now read this article.

We have seen over the past decade reality television programmes throw vulnerable individuals into the limelight to receive an onslaught of abuse. Producers have come to realise they have an ethical responsibility to the individual: a warning of what is to come and then subsequent after-care. In the world of publishing, or rather the world of The Daily Mail, this is evidently not in practice. Though presenting herself as such a headstrong woman, with no air of self-deprecation or vulnerability about her, surely this was to be expected? The public maybe expected this would have no impact on her - living in the bubble that she does.

Comments

  1. Great piece, very perceptive.

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  2. I think there is a real problem of Tall Poppy Syndrome in the UK. Don't do well and if you do, then don't talk about it. I think there is nothing wrong with confidence, and it is often mistaken for arrogance. I think woman can be very sniping and cruel, and it really pisses me off. Good read, thanks for your views!

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