We all know that the Daily Mail exists in a parallel universe, don’t we? I personally use it for an effective eye workout. You know: as I read an article, I raise my eyebrows, then furrow them, and end with a healthy bout of eye-rolling. See? An effective eye exercise regime. Thanks DM. Most people I know occasionally click on purely for a bit of light entertainment, and best of all, to read the comments section. I’m sure there are people who read it for other reasons. Perhaps the health advice? I.e. Everything gives you cancer, and THIS JUST IN, beer is healthier for you than water, so drink up.
Occasionally though, something from Planet Daily Mail breaks through the space time continuum and penetrates my cosy little world, leading me to put down The Times and pay attention. Usually, that ‘something’ is so monumentally stupid and/or offensive that it goes viral, gets talked about an awful lot, and generally shoves a lot of traffic down the DM autobahn. I usually try not to encourage this, but there are times when I won’t let it drop. Usually Liz Jones is involved – c.f. her appalling and staggeringly offensive “article” on the Joanna Yeates murder, her late night sperm-stealing activities, her belief that – to subvert Orwell, sorry – ‘two legs bad, four legs better’. When I heard a bit of the furore, I was convinced that the high priestess of facelifts and bad taste had to be at the centre.
I was, shockingly, wrong. Nestled among the vital news stories of the day (Lohan partying again, Broken Britain, ‘Women! Get back in the kitchen!’) was a new star in the DM firmament. I didn’t read the article for ages, simply heard the stories about some woman who’d claimed she was too beautiful to lead a normal life, that she was constantly being given things for free, that other women hated her, and that ‘Ten out of ten men’ fancied her. Yes, it’s the Samantha Brick saga, what else?
The backlash was instantaneous, and most of it revolving around rude remarks about the looks of the author. Well, I’ve now read the article, and I’m going to attempt to pull off the feat of writing a riposte to it without actually commenting at any point on Brick’s looks, which I feel would negate or undermine my comments. So let’s unpack this, shall we? Because there’s, quite frankly, an insane amount for me to say. I’m doing two posts: one simply to unpick the article, and another to respond to it on a more personal level.
Woman writes article about how beautiful she is. At a basic level, that’s what this is. Opponents have said ‘ha! Well, she’s not, actually. What an idiot hole! Let’s laugh at her’, while defenders of Brick have claimed ‘It’s a woman being happy with her looks, what’s wrong with that?’ At the heart of it, perhaps it is just that. A woman who has dared to breach the code of the sisters, and has uttered the unspeakable. Because we’re not supposed to say it! We’re certainly not supposed to write an article about it for a national newspaper. Sorry – “newspaper”. And this really is simply an article on looks. Not personality, not being a decent, good, loving, caring person. Purely looks.
So if it is just that – a woman being comfortable with herself and stating it – then what’s the problem? Well, the problem is, there’s a whole lot more to it than that. This wasn’t a charming story of self-acceptance and inner confidence, this was an ill-considered, ill-judged, and dare I say it, poorly written article. From what I gleaned from it, it was certainly lacking in inner beauty. In my opinion, a truly ‘beautiful’ (in all senses of the word) person wouldn’t be quite so venom filled, so arrogant, or so indiscreet. It’s actually a fairly pugilistic piece: a couple of paragraphs in, Brick attacks the women reading her diatribe, saying she’s fairly sure they’ll have made their mind up about her already, and it won’t be flattering. That’s always a good way to get readers on your side, isn’t it, Sam?
And this is really where the article falls apart. It’s one thing to claim happiness with one’s looks, but quite another to state that one is more attractive than others. I found it faintly alarming that this woman seemed to coldly assess herself against everyone around her, always finding them lacking. That’s why this type of article will always provoke a reaction. Even as a reasonably rational girl, I read it and felt slightly affronted by it. I approve of having body confidence, naturally, but the article was…well, rather vulgar, I’d say, if I were to put my Nancy Mitford hat on for a minute. I love that hat.
Brick describes countless situations where she has apparently been the target of ‘girl on girl crime’, as Mean Girls so charmingly put it. The female boss who was almost driven to insanity brought on by jealousy. The chums who lock away their husbands. The fact that she has never been a bridesmaid. Brick attributes all of the above to her marvellous good looks. Ok, well, Dr Amelia will offer a solution here. How about, maybe, it’s actually nothing to do with your looks, Sam – marvellously good or otherwise. I reckon it may well have something to do with the fact that you seem a bit…well, a bit of a SELF-ABSORBED LUNATIC WHO BITCHES ABOUT HER ‘FRIENDS’ IN A NATIONAL NEWSPAPER. Sorry. “Newspaper”. I can’t seem to get that right.
Would that be a fair assessment, maybe? I obviously don’t know the woman, but writing in indiscreet terms about people you know is never exactly conducive to close female friendships. I think we’ve probably all known girls like Samantha, and the world that exists in their head is often not at all relative to the one that everyone else inhabits. The Brickster quite beautifully contradicts herself in the space of a few paragraphs. Initially she says ‘I’m not smug and I’m no flirt’, before going on to state that she’s ‘written for the Mail on how I have flirted to get ahead at work, something I’m sure many women do.’ Just the kind of stable, trustworthy lady who I’d have as a role model.
Quite frankly, the whole thing smacks of selective memory syndrome, or rather a selective, shallow way of viewing the world. Brick clearly focuses on the actions of the men who ‘fancy’ her, probably forgetting all the times she’s gone out WITHOUT someone buying her a drink, or that she’s been rejected. I’d hazard a guess that she has few female friends, if any, because she probably believes they’re all sickeningly jealous of her. I’d also speculate wildly that she’s a bit of a flirt, as she admits, and that while her female acquaintances may well disapprove of her behaviour, possibly a lot of husbands/men do so as well.
The piece has caused such an outcry because it isn’t just a woman stating that she’s happy in her own skin. What Samantha Brick claims instead is infinitely more worrying. She ascribes an almost superpower quality to her looks. Women who find this article offensive do not do so because ‘Samantha Brick is far too confident and that’s intimidating’. No. It’s because it’s so bizarrely expressed, and utterly tiresome. She ends the item by saying she’s welcoming the onset of middle age: ‘I can’t wait for the wrinkles and grey hair that will help me blend into the background’. This is what I find so insidious and distasteful. Like saying “Damn my superb looks, I just keep on making men fall in love with me. Take them away! It’s a blessing and a curse.”
But the other side, of course, is that the Daily Mail have allowed this poor, deluded, arrogant loon to spew forth hundreds of words of brain dribble onto the page, and set her up in a way that will potentially destroy her reputation. Of course they have. It’s the Daily Mail. They know what works for them, which is why I’m absolutely certain they’ve made sure they included a whole slew of photos of Samantha, positively effervescing over the thought that readers will totally slam into her. The Daily Mail have handed their readers all the tools necessary to make a hate figure of Brick, and that is exactly what has happened. I can’t remember whether or not they pulled the Liz Jones travesty on Joanna Yeates, but I’d doubt it. More comments, more tweets, more traffic, more hate. Well done, Daily Mail. Another big pat on the back for you for encouraging women to both hate and fear each other.