Notes on fashion, style and culture

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Beauty, jealousy and lies: The tale of Samantha Brick

The British have never been a people that liked to blow its own trumpet. It’s considered crass to shout about your achievements from the rooftop. We are a nation that supports the underdog, that believes in a stiff upper lip over overt displays of emotion. Modesty, self-deprecation and understatement are considered the defining virtues. Arrogance and brashness are decidedly un-British.

There is another aspect to British modesty and that is a dislike of those who step beyond the bounds of social propriety. We have even been accused of putting down high-achievers, particularly those that come from nothing to achieve great wealth. We seem to enjoy watching hard-working types fail rather than applauding them for their accomplishments (the Beckhams, the Rooneys etc.) We are not a culture that seems to like winners. Good at losing has become something of a British trait.

So when recently Samantha Brick had an article published in the Daily Mail decrying the woes of being too beautiful for this world and looking forward to old age, so that she could finally be treated like a normalton, it was never going to go down well. But not even she could have anticipated the extreme negative reaction that her misguided article received. By the end of the day her piece had been viewed over one and a half million times, had over five thousand comments left by bemused readers, and was the second top trend of the day on Twitter.

Samantha Brick
I actually read the article early in the morning, well before the furore kicked off. My immediate reaction was ‘not her again’ – she’d written a similar piece several months earlier explaining how she had no problem using her ‘lovely looks’ to get ahead at work, and how she preferred spending her lunchtimes ‘with a male superior’ using her looks to climb the greasy career pole rather than making friends with her female colleagues and wasting her time on office gossip.

Although it meant she had fewer female friends in life, she wasn’t worried as she was a success and they were all jealous of her anyway. Further, any woman who was lucky enough to be born beautiful and did not use her looks to get ahead was not just missing a trick, but being a fool. She signed off with the advice: ‘Define what your best assets are: long legs, lustrous hair or even if you have a particular talent, exploit it. It’s time to be realistic because that is the way the world works for successful women.’ What astonished many was not only that any woman would feel she would need to resort to this to get ahead, but genuinely offer it as career advice to other women.

It was a strange article and stuck in my memory, not just because I was so stunned by her candour, but because I was surprised at what I perceived as her slightly inflated opinion of her looks. You see, Samantha Brick (and I would never judge another woman by her genetic appearance, if she wasn’t directly asking us to do so) is certainly not an unattractive woman – but she is, to all intents and purposes, a very ordinary-looking woman. She is also more than happy to ‘use her sex appeal to get ahead at work’ (and in any situation where she can gain from it). It is perhaps this that the women in her life find so objectionable – for whereas other women attempt to get ahead on merit, Samantha Brick single-handedly puts the Women’s Movement back 60 years, by specifically asking to be judged on her sexuality ahead of any talent.

So I was surprised to see that she had written yet another ‘I’m just too beautiful, sigh’ article. This time bemoaning the difficulties faced by beautiful women such as her, who suffer in a jealous world at the hands of her bitter fellow sex. Other women, she claims – her closest friends even – are so jealous of her as to have made her life utterly miserable.

She complains that friends won’t leave her alone with their husbands in case, overwhelmed by her beauty, her friends’ husbands are forced to ditch their wives to run off with Samantha; friends won’t ask her to be a bridesmaid for fear she’d upstage them and women won’t even stand next to her in a picture for fear she make them look like some ugly troll. According to Brick she has been dumped by ‘countless friends’ who are invariably short, fat and uninterested in their appearance, whereas she puts in the effort at the gym, watches what she eats and drinks, and is always immaculately turned out - always ‘the most attractive girl in the room’ according to Brick herself.

The way Brick describes it men seem to react to her like she’s the Impulse Girl. In Brick’s world, men are constantly running up to her in the street forcing bunches of flowers on her or offering to carry her bags and waiters and bar staff refuse to accept her money for food or drink. When standing in queues to buy train tickets or pay for a taxi, men run up from behind her and pay instead. Most astonishingly, on boarding a plane, a pilot once sent over a bottle of champagne to her for making his day. And what does Samantha claim it is that is making these men go all Mills and Boon over her? According to Brick, it is really quite simple: ‘The donors of these gifts have always said the same thing: my pleasing appearance and pretty smile made their day.’
Samantha Brick’s article that caused a media frenzy
Now if all this is happening to Samantha Brick, who are we to begrudge her good fortune at being born beautiful and working with what nature gifted her to present herself in the best possible light to get ahead? After all, it’s hardly her fault if she has this reaction on men? Why are members of her fellow sex acting like such haters? Wouldn’t anyone do the same?

Samantha Brick appears to have the opposite of body dysmorphic disorder. Does body amorphic disorder exist? It should. In any case, Samantha Brick has just invented it. In a nation where modesty and humility are prized as virtues, Samantha Brick ought to have perhaps considered adopting false modesty as a guise, for all she has done in claiming the entire female sex is jealous of her inescapable beauty, is not only made herself a laughing stock, but bring down a tidal wave of vitriol on her head.

Samantha Brick’s reaction to the backlash
Even more sadly, after ‘one of the most horrendous days of her life’ how did Samantha Brick choose to react to the furore she had caused? She chose to write another article, denouncing all her detractors as, you guessed it, ‘jealous’ trolls whose hateful reaction simply prove her point in the first place. ‘Their level of anger only underlines that no one in this world is more reviled than a pretty woman,’ she claims. Entirely missing the point that it is not her perceived beauty they are objecting to, but her conceitedness, along with the disservice she does, and disrespect she shows, to her own sex.

She still chooses to believe that it is she who is the victim: ‘Without doubt,’ she claims ‘this is a gender issue. For not only is it mostly women who are attacking me, it is also because I am female that I am being attacked for acknowledging my attractiveness.’ Bizarrely, in Brick’s world, she is a female crusader. This coming from a woman who wrote an article suggesting women use their sexuality to get ahead in the office.

Brick goes on to claim that ‘if Brad Pitt were to say: “Yes, I'm a good-looking fella,” then the world would nod sagely in agreement. But if Angelina Jolie uttered something along those lines, she’d be subject to the same foaming-at-the-mouth onslaught hurled at me yesterday’. It does not occur to Samantha Brick that a) Angelina Jolie would never write such an embarrassingly shallow piece, but that b) she is now comparing herself to someone widely considered one of the most beautiful women in the world.

The Twitter storm
Does she regret having written the article? No, for according to her, it has sadly proven her right. Even her fellow journalists – male and female – have joined in lambasting her instead of praising her ‘bravery’, as she sees it. Many questioned if the article were a spoof, a late April Fool’s joke. The comedian Dara O’Brien joked ‘I think the government should intercept Samantha Brick’s email, and find the one with the subject “Great idea for article!!!”’

The majority of comments from the public on social media have gone down the ‘ugly on the inside as well as the outside route.’ Unfortunately for her, people have felt justified in their cruelty in their attempts to enforce some kind of rude awakening on her. If anything, the whole affair is very sad. If Samantha Brick has no close female friends because of her notion that they are all jealous of her beauty, is she not in fact, a victim already, of her own making?

Samantha’s husband has said he will shoot anyone who continues to insult his wife
Samantha Brick has gone through her life sacrificing the joy of close friendships to spend her lunchtimes flirting with lecherous bosses – essentially prostituting herself to get ahead. Hardly a life of joy, well spent. To me this sounds seedy and depressing. More fool her if she thinks she’s the winner in all this.

Samantha Brick has probably missed out on some great things because of her belief that women hate her. She may well be irresistible to men – it’s often confidence – which she clearly has in bucketloads, that is the raw ingredient of ‘it’ (as in, whatever it is that drives the opposite sex to spontaneously buy you flowers or turn to gibbering wrecks in your presence). She clearly has ‘it’ going on in spades if her stories are to be believed. But not because, as she imagines, she is a stone cold fox. I have friends far more physically attractive than Samantha Brick, who have great friendships with their fellow sex, and have not spent their lives locked in conflicts over other’s jealousy of them.

Beauty is definitely handy at times – there’s no denying it – it can open all sorts of doors, and yes it can inspire jealousy in some, but for it to be as destructive a force as Samantha Brick has made out would suggest that it is being either misused, or misinterpreted and that other factors already mentioned might actually be the problem and the reason people respond to her negatively – as she feels they do.

Samantha Brick explaining herself on the ‘Today’ show
Samantha Brick’s problem is that she has misjudged unshakeable confidence for actual physical beauty, and let it cloud her judgement to the extent that she believes her own hype. She reminds me of those embarrassing entrants on the X-Factor who waltz on the stage thinking they're going to blow the judges away with their incredible ‘talent’ and be signed on the spot, but as soon as they open their mouths to sing we discover they are tone deaf and stare dumbfounded that they cannot see it themselves.

Going through life with such a skewed view of things, it was only a matter of time before the false image of herself she had imagined, imploded in on her. Unfortunately for Samantha Brick, the pedestal she put herself on was so high, the fall was always going to be a long way down.

There is also the possibility that Samantha Brick’s article has been edited to serve a particular agenda at the Daily Mail. Indeed this line has been examined by Hadley Freeman of the Guardian who argues in her column that Samantha Brick was simply thrown to the wolves by the tabloid, and that simply ‘the Daily Mail hates women’ . She argues ‘the paper uses its female writers as Trojan horses to voice its most misogynistic attitudes, whether its having them embody the worst kind of female stereotypes  through their confessional journalism, or having them write horrible things about other women.’

Freeman argues that Brick should have been better protected by the paper, claiming ‘it is an employer’s responsibility to maintain some kind of pastoral care for employees’ not to expect its staff to ‘sacrifice their reputation and mental health on the altar of web clicks.’ There is no doubting that the Daily Mail does little to engender positive images for women on its website, with its daily barrage of women in bikinis and celebrity ‘circle of shame’ type pieces. Indeed Freeman cites the cases of several female ex-Daily Mail freelancers who argue that their articles were rewritten almost entirely to push forward the Mail’s right-wing agenda, and left the journalists utterly humiliated with little redress even after they complained.

However, there is no evidence that the same practice occurred with Samantha Brick. In fact, in her follow-up piece to the article, Brick states that she has been offered many opportunities to redress the balance, but continues with the same line she began with – that her detractors are simply ‘jealous’ of her beauty. She even argues ‘Of course, I knew when I came up with the idea that it would provoke debate. I’d even prefaced the idea by explaining to the editor that I was fully aware I was setting myself up for a fall. I knew this was sensitive territory at which women would take umbrage – but I thought it was a taboo that needed shattering.’

Samantha lives in a small village in France with her husband
Unfortunately for Samantha Brick what appears to have offended her readers is not any notion of a taboo that needed breaking, nor even, that she laughably aligned herself with the world’s beautiful people – after all, what harm is she doing? As most have noted, it's pretty funny she thinks she’s the Angelina of the journalism world. She gave us all a good laugh, and made herself look very silly in the process.

What has really offended people was her claim that women were jealous of her for it and the fact that she directly placed herself in the position of competitor with other women instead of aligning herself with them. In fact, ‘competitor’ would suggest that she sees other women as her equal, whereas it is clear that she feels superior to other women – both physically and mentally – since she argues women are intimidated by her beauty and can therefore only respond to her with primitive emotions of  hostility and envy. Samantha Brick goes to pains in her articles to point out that if you are a woman, she is not your friend, unless you can do something for her of course.

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