Saturday, 21 April 2012

Bricking It

In the last two weeks, Samantha Brick has become a household name thanks to her fabled Daily Mail article on how beautiful she is and how awful it is. At first there seemed to be one resounding reaction from the blogosphere, twitterverse, and real life: you ain't all that, love. Comments focused on the fact that she's not even that pretty and clearly has an inflated sense of self-esteem.

It wasn't until I read a piece in Grazia (of all places! Probably the magazine most devoted to putting women down!) with a different perspective that I started to question the dominant narrative on Samantha Brick. The piece, a letter from the editor, took the view that most women struggle with deep insecurities over our looks, and if there's a woman out there with the confidence to assert that she is beautiful, then good for her.

And I agree with that. But then I thought about it. Brick's article wasn't just a paean to her beauty. It was primarily a criticism of the way other women treat her because, allegedly, of her beauty. She did nothing to suggest that other women should feel just as good as she does about her looks, it was all "you hate me because I'm beautiful, well I don't like you either" bitchy cheerleader bullshit. And I think that's why people have reacted so badly to it. If the angle had been "I'm awesome and stunning, and I wish other women could see themselves the same way" she probably would still have been mocked, but not with the same vitriol. She probably would have even got some applause from the feminist blogosphere.

At the end of the day, 99% of the world reacted to her article the way they did because the stories she tells about being treated differently due to her beauty don't match up with her appearance. I'm trying not to be yet another voice denigrating her face - as the Grazia editor hypocritically pointed out, we have enough of those already - and it's absolutely true she is a conventionally attractive woman. But it doesn't take a close analytical reading to see that it's her attitude and her behaviour, rather than her appearance, that make women turn their backs on her.

This wasn't an article about Samantha Brick, this was an article about the evils of all the women in the world who aren't Samantha Brick, and it was never going to go down well with a female audience who already have to put up with that shit 24/7. I'm all for boosting women's self esteem and I'm glad Brick thinks she's gorgeous. If all women had her self-belief, the world could be a happier, more equal place. But being confident in yourself should mean you don't feel the need to tear other people down, and on that front, Brick has a lot to learn.

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