Samantha Brick may be the most hated person on the Internet right now. And considering Tonya Harding has a website, that’s saying a lot. She makes the backlash against tragi-comic singer Rebecca Black look like mere backwash. What was her crime against society that earned her such an…honor? Trading on her looks. And then bragging about it. And then writing a piece for the Daily Mail (i.e. Daily Fail) about how all other women are just jealous of her.
The article, ” ‘There are downsides to looking this pretty” – Why women hate me because I’m beautiful“, is a 1200 word screed of entitlement and back-handed bitchery (no other word for it, sorry) and definitely won her no sympathy. In it she recounts ambiguous situations like a neighbor failing to wave hello to her and then interprets them to mean women are totes jels of her for her youth and beauty. There is story after story of how men fancy her and women are threatened by her because “I’m tall, slim, blonde and, so I’m often told, a good-looking woman.” She explains, “I know how lucky I am. But there are downsides to being pretty — the main one being that other women hate me for no other reason than my lovely looks.”
Yeah. Most of the 5000+ comments on the article are calling Brick out for being of only average looks – far from the gorgeousness most of us assume would warrant such attentions as free cab rides, flowers from strange men and a never-ending bar tab. And I’ll admit that my first read through the piece had me going there too. (She is certainly no supermodel but after watching her in video clips I think she’s prettier in person than in the pictures in the Daily Mail post, like the one above – it’s really just her attitude of entitlement that is so ugly.) But as I read it I realized that yet again, we women have been set up by a major media publication to be at war with each other over who is prettiest. Good land, have we not seen Snow White? Nobody wins this battle except the marketers. And maybe the dwarves who get an indentured servant with low self-esteem and iffy judgement.
While I could spend a whole post dismantling her premise, when it comes down to it I think several major factors are being overlooked.
1. The Daily Mail threw Samantha Brick under the bus. I highly doubt that anyone at the newspaper looked at her pictures and read the story and didn’t snicker. They knew that her semi-delusional rant would provoke every woman on the planet and considering we’re slightly more than half the population now that’s a lot of ad clicks coming their way. The fact that she willingly went along with it and is still sticking to her guns makes this feel even smarmier.
2. It’s her personal perception of her own experiences. You can’t argue someone else’s reality. I’m going to guess that if you asked the ex-boss, neighbor and other women accused of slighting Brick out of jealousy of her “lovely looks” (does that sound as silly in British English as it does in American English? It makes her sound like a Pretty Pony commercial.) that they would deny her version of events. But they didn’t write the piece. Brick did. And she’s entitled to her own perception.
3. This is the same woman who wrote the unfortunate post about how her husband very seriously told her that if she ever gained any weight he’d divorce her in a heartbeat so it’s hardly surprising that she sees everything through the lens of her beauty. Indeed a brief look at her previous articles for the Daily Mail include even sadder fare like “I’ll always be the fat girl: Samantha Brick has always been obsessed with her weight” and “I use my sex appeal to get ahead at work and so does any woman with any sense” and of course “The ‘I’m so beautiful’ backlash: bile only proves I’m right’. ” Clearly she’s operating from a very limited perspective. Someone send this woman a copy of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth stat.
The article, however inflammatory, brings up two very important points that warrant serious discussion in our society: Pretty Girl (or Person) Privilege and the marketing ploy of invoking female jealousy. Both are quite true and quite often employed. In regards to the first, Amy Hoover’s comment on my Facebook post about this sums it up perfectly:
“While I do think that some women can be petty and jealous of other women (for a variety of reasons, not always beauty) or stereotype them, I think the many studied and proven benefits of being attractive far outweigh any occasional negatives. And for that reason alone, I think it’s extremely arrogant and narcissitic to complain about being “too” pretty, regardless of where you actually fall on the scale.”
I think this dovetails with “thin privilege” in that while there may be some downsides for some people for being “too” thin or pretty, our society rewards those traits so overwhelmingly that any complaint feels ignorant at best and pretentious and cruel at worst.
In regards to the second, pitting women against each other (usually to get us to buy more beauty products to out-prettify the other girls) only works if we let it. Take the competition out of it and you lose a lot of the jealousy. Do women get jealous of other women and treat them differently because of their looks? Sure, sometimes. I remember in 9th grade being intensely jealous of a petite blond cheerleader with a perfect GPA and the adoration of boys, parents and teachers alike. Being the contrarian and nerdy teen I was, of course I hated her. But most of us have outgrown high school and can now recognize that one person’s accomplishment doesn’t detract from ours. Despite what advertisers would have us believe, there isn’t a limited amount of beauty in the world and each of us already has some that is uniquely ours. If only we can learn to tune out the insanity that tells us that blonds are better than brunettes or pin thin is better than Rubenesque or one color of skin is better than the rest. And that’s really really hard to do. Especially when they keep throwing crap like this at us.
What do you think of Brick’s article? Is “women hate me because I’m beautiful” a contrived maelstrom or legitimate complaint? Anyone else so tired of female jealousy being used as a marketing ploy?