Samantha Brick again

A comment below from Australia. He says that the "nuclear" global response to her has proved her point.

Like most people, however, he seems to have missed the point that she intended to write in a light-hearted way, hence the apparent narcissism. But the topic was such a fraught one to many that it all came across as deadly serious

As the body count has grown on the streets of Syria, and the people of Burma have enjoyed their first taste of democracy, the number-one issue which has dominated the opinion pages in the western world this past week has involved a column by an English woman called Samantha Brick who is worried about being too pretty.

Brick, a regular columnist with London’s Daily Mail, set some sort of world record for self-absorption with a 1000-word rumination on the curse of being attractive, specifically taking aim at her female friends (and ex-friends) for being intimidated by her apparently stunning looks.

The column was a shining demonstration of first world problems. Brick talked about how she dreaded going to dinner parties and would even dress as a frump so as to not show up the other poor women in attendance, who even then would pale in comparison to her untameable beauty.

“I’m tall, slim, blonde and, so I’m often told, a good-looking woman,” Brick wrote. “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. “

Much of the discussion around Brick’s column has centred on the point that she appears to be labouring under a serious delusion about how hot she is. The one passage of her column which really resonated with me was her brief and uncharacteristically modest disclaimer that she’s “no Elle Macpherson”. On this point she is dead right. Still it is probably best not to dwell on the matter of her looks as her husband, a fiery Frenchman by the name of Pascal Rubenat, has now threatened to kill anyone who ridicules her appearance.

It will be quite a massacre as in the week since she put pen to paper Brick has been the subject of tens of thousands of tweets and dozens of newspaper columns pointing out that she is no oil painting.

In a perverse way the nuclear global response to Brick’s column has proved her central point – that if you are attractive, or if you are simple happy with your looks, you will invite pure hatred from those who are unhappy with their looks or possessed of inferior looks, and that the hatred will come with most venom and intensity from fellow women. However vain and inane Brick’s column was in its execution, it has worked (possibly accidentally) as a demonstration of the body image issues and questions of appearance which bend so many women out of shape.

It is all a bit hard to fathom as a bloke because one of the defining features of being a man is that you don’t fret about your appearance, and you don’t care or even notice what your mates are wearing, or whether they’ve gained or lost a few kilos. When it comes to our appearance the best we generally hope for is the ability to “scrub up alright”, a self-deprecating phrase which suggests that looking good is still not that big an issue anyway.

It’s one of the reasons that men in the public eye who obsess about their appearance, such as the metrosexual Michael Clarke or the man-scapers at the St Kilda Football Club, will be regarded by other blokes as prissy and weird.

Brick’s point about the way women treat each other was beautifully demonstrated on Q and A a few weeks ago, bizarrely enough by the mother of modern feminism, Germaine Greer. By way of a bizarre non sequitur, Greer concluded a negative critique of Prime Minister Julia Gillard by attacking her dress sense and body shape, saying: “You’ve got a big arse Julia, just get over it.” As an amusing aside on the night the program was aired someone inside the ABC’s studio covertly pegged off a close-up photograph of Greer’s backside on their iPhone when the panellists were backstage having drinks.

The image suggests that when it comes to bum size Germaine Greer is standing in a glass house armed with a bucket of rocks. Setting that schoolyard point aside, Greer’s comments that night strongly endorsed Brick’s point about the way women treat other women.

Beyond that though is the bigger issue of the mindless self-absorption and superficiality which defines our culture. Brick might have had a valid point in her column but it still seems remarkable that she would choose to write about it in such an incredibly up-herself fashion, and then feign amazement at the ferocity of the reaction.

The reaction is still amazing though – hundreds of thousands of words across social media, independent blogs and mainstream newspaper pages. The fact that people care about this issue at all suggests that we have all got far too much time on our hands, and are in desperate need of something serious to worry about.


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