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Thursday, April 5, 2012

In which I find myself defending Samantha Brick...

Samantha Brick has caused a firestorm by announcing in a bold article that she is quite the prettiest thing in any house in the town in which she lives. Moreover, she gets all kinds of preferential treatment from men as a result. But the main point she would like to make is: women generally hate her because they feel so threatened by her astonishing good looks.

Let me just say up front that I don't know whether she is right or "deluded" about her own good looks, and I don't care. What I do care very deeply about, however, is the fact that she is under attack from all sides for having said her life is made more difficult by being so beautiful--and I think it's worth taking a deep breath and doing some good, hard self-examination before we hurl invectives her way.

If you haven't read the article, it is worth a gander so that you can get a sense of just how extensively she makes her argument. But if you pop over to the Daily Mail to read it, you really ought to browse some of the comments too. Their vitriol is breath-taking.

There is no doubt that Brick does a painfully thorough job elaborating just how many free gifts she's been given by doting men, just how many female bosses have apparently found her looks threatening, just how many friends have dropped her because, she laments, they were insanely jealous that their men might be flirting with her. One might have wished for a shorter catalogue of examples ostensibly supporting the idea "men love me, so women hate me." The article could have been far more powerful if she'd spent more time analyzing WHY all of these things really happen, instead of just assuming it is obviously because she is so beautiful.

But the comments she is getting do not take her to task for being a redundant writer or an over-simplifying thinker. Instead, they accuse her of being far uglier than she realizes, stuck up, full of herself, delusional.

Her syllogism is: "Women hate me. I am beautiful. Therefore, women must hate me because I am beautiful." 

The logic is unsound. But her enraged detractors cry out in personal, vile, angry attacks: "You are an arrogant bitch." "You are narcissistic." "You are ugly on the inside, and that is why women hate you." "You are attractive enough for men to want to do you, but not so attractive that you look out of their league. Men give you things because they think you will be easy." Most of all, they tell her, in so many words: "You are plain. You are ugly. You have bad teeth. You would not be considered beautiful in my town," where, implicitly, the standards are a whole lot higher than they apparently are where she lives.

Of course, comments aren't limited to the article. They are all over NPR and late-night TV and the blogosphere and Facebook and Twitter and everywhere else you can possibly imagine anyone speaking out against the horrifying egotism of a woman daring to purr, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful." (Those of you over a certain age will remember those ads.)

But here's the thing: the amount of vitriol that her article has spawned suggests she's really hit a nerve. And, quite frankly, I think the nerve is: women aren't allowed to say that they are comfortable with--even more, HAPPY ABOUT--how they look

We are supposed to be modest, demure, and insecure. Aloud, we are supposed to insist that we believe all of our friends are prettier than we are. Silently, in our own minds, we are supposed to believe that all of our friends are prettier than we are. Insidiously, we have become acculturated so that we actually do believe that most women are thinner than we are, with better features, nicer hair, and bodies better suited to whatever style is currently the rage. 

Most importantly, we are never, ever supposed to say aloud that we are wholly comfortable with our own levels of attractiveness--because, implicitly, we are never supposed to be wholly comfortable with our own levels of attractiveness.

Sure, we are allowed to have good days. On our wedding days, we are allowed to feel beautiful. For the rest of the afternoon, after we walk out of the hair salon, we are allowed to have that spring in our steps that makes our hair swish pleasantly over our shoulders. 

But we have to credit the princess dress and the months of preparation and the being thoroughly in love for our beauty on our wedding days. And although we are allowed to agree with our friends who tell us our new haircuts look great, the acceptable way to do this is to say, "I know, right?! She [the stylist] is so good. Of course, it won't look like this again until the next time I get it cut." And then we laugh that particular laugh that is self-deprecating, and take a deep breath of satisfaction in knowing that we are not egotistical. That it is not that we have nice hair. It is just that we have paid a good stylist to make it seem so.

It is so deeply ingrained in us that we do not measure up that when someone says aloud that not only does she think she measures up, she thinks the female half of her world hates her for knowing it, our first response is to come up with a hundred other reasons to hate her even more.

And, to tell her she is ugly.

In short, I think it's probably true that women hate Samantha Brick for her beauty--but not precisely for the reasons she gives. I do not think women hate her because she represents some empirical standard of physical perfection (which, anyway, is somewhat subjective). I think women hate her because she dares to find herself beautiful. Because she thinks she is gorgeous and is not afraid to say so.

Now, you might argue that she could keep her mouth shut on that score a bit more. Perhaps she announces her own self-satisfaction with her looks too often for culturally accepted norms of modesty about any kind of accomplishment. I can't say what she does in the rest of her life, although this article certainly belabors her own assets in a way that might rankle whether the assets were beauty, brains, money, social connections, or any other litmus test of success. No one likes a braggart, whatever the category of bragging.

On the other hand, I think that people are reacting much more strongly to this article than they would to one by a man that said, "men hate me and are intimidated by me because I'm so smart and went to Yale."

And I think the reason people--not surprisingly, many many of these people are women--are commenting with such hatred, is that deep-down, we know that Samantha Brick does have something we don't. She is perfectly secure and comfortable in her own skin.


Jeanie B said...

At last - some perspective on the whole sorry affair. Well said.

Ann Wyse said...

Yes. And yes. Thank you for saying so well what I've been struggling to articulate.

Fawn said...

MommyTime, you are fabulous. (Also, you are gorgeous!) I was nodding my head the whole time. I was almost afraid it might fall off from the vigorous nodding, but then I had to tone it down, anyway, because it's difficult to read when one is nodding so hard.

(I've had a couple of chocolate-nougat Easter eggs, if you are wondering why I sound slightly drunk. But that does not detract from how squarely you hit the nail on the head with this post.)

Fawn said...

MommyTime, you are fabulous. (Also, you are gorgeous!) I was nodding my head the whole time. I was almost afraid it might fall off from the vigorous nodding, but then I had to tone it down, anyway, because it's difficult to read when one is nodding so hard.

(I've had a couple of chocolate-nougat Easter eggs, if you are wondering why I sound slightly drunk. But that does not detract from how squarely you hit the nail on the head with this post.)

Suburban Kamikaze said...

I smell a book deal. Also, I am pretty sure it will be shelved under "humor." Samantha Brick is funny and pretty.


DaddyDazed said...

Throughout my life as a dad, I’ve regularly had women hit upon me. Once, a well-dressed lady bought me a chocolate cookie when I was standing behind her in the queue at the bakery (it was yummy, although looking back maybe it was intended for baby)

I have written a spoof of sam brick about being an incredibly hot dad at my blog.

Audrey at Barking Mad said...

I don't know how I missed the hoopla over this (I didn't even see it in my Facebook stream when the article hit the newsstands - and being married to a Brit, I have a lot of British friends and family in my feed!)but it boils down to one simple fact . . .

We are told day in and day out by society that we don't measure up and we aren't pretty enough. You can't get through a day without being assaulted by this message via TV, radio, print media, or social media.

We women KNOW we don't measure up, no matter how much we starve ourselves, botox ourselves, inject our bodies with plastics and silicone, and exercise ourselves to nearly death . . . we still aren't the model of perfection that's been dictated by society. So to have another women step forward and not only accept her outward appearance, but admit that while being physically attractive has it's upsides, that there's also this seedy, nasty underbelly of being pretty that comes from the animosity of other women.

I've been blessed with two insanely gorgeous daughters (well I'm their mom, I'm allowed to say that.) and there's not a day that goes by that I don't wonder if I'm going to be able to teach them to weight the scales on the side of brains and heart, because beauty is only going to get them so far, and in our backwards society, it might even get them vitriol from their own sex, despite receiving positive acknowledgements from men.

I've lived this my entire life, except from the opposite end of the stick, so to speak. "OMG! You're far too pretty to be so fat!"

In my head, I know when this comes from a woman, I know what she's actually saying is, "OMG thank goodness you're so fat because at least I know I look better than you!"

It's sad to be so jaded and think the worst all the time, but again, this is our society for you.

Beta Mother said...

Never heard of Samantha Brick so can't comment on that but I sooo agree with your points re how we are encouraged by other women to think negatively about our own body. If I had a quid for every time I've been part of a female conversation where it's been implied that, of course, I must be unhappy with my appearance and somewhat self hating for how much chocolate I eat. Erm, no. Genuinely. I have been at a lunch with 3 girlfriends and had my plate removed mid-eating because 'we need to be good'. I kicked up a hoop-la about this that made the recent US election look like a 50 word space filling para in Anglers Quarterly mag. Needless to say I no longer lunch with people who can't look at food without feeling bad about themselves. I like cake. I like me. It's much more fun to eat with folk who think similarly. We really should be beyond this low self esteem nonsense by now - we owe it to each other to point and shriek with hysterical hilarity everytime it raises its boring, paranoid head. Thx for doing just that.


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