Samantha Brick: why I find this ‘controversy’ infuriating


by Sian Norris    
11:29 am - April 5th 2012

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On Tuesday 3rd April, Samantha Brick wrote a rather dull article about how women didn’t like her because she was so pretty. Never a bridesmaid. Disliked by women bosses. Hated by jealous wives, etc.

So far, so boring Mail troll article. Then the backlash started.

On Twitter, women and men talking about how even if Samantha Brick thought she was attractive, they certainly didn’t think she was fit, they didn’t fancy her etc. It’s kind of understandable that this would be the reaction. And sometimes it’s hard to respond in a measured and politic way. However, that doesn’t make it right.

As soon as we criticise a woman by bringing it back to whether she is attractive or not, then we are buying into the lie that the most important thing about a woman is whether she fits the beauty ideal.

It’s still the easiest way to put down a woman, to silence a woman – tell her she isn’t hot, that you wouldn’t fuck her.

Because we, as a society, still place a woman’s value on her ability to fit into a false and narrow beauty ideal; we still think it’s acceptable to make any woman’s worth all about whether or not she ‘measures up’.

It’s why, when Claire Short protested against Page 3, the Sun stuck her head on a topless model. Or why, when I speak out as a feminist, I have legions of people speculating on what I look like.

Or why, when there’s an article about eating disorders, you get men commenting that they ‘don’t fancy skinny women anyway’ (cue: it’s not all about whether you fancy us or not!).

Which brings me on to my second feminist issue with Brick’s article. And that’s about power.

Brick writes about how men buy her bottle of bubbly, pay for her cabs and generally ‘treat her nice’ because she’s beautiful.

But the reason they actually do this is because she currently conforms to the current beauty ideal – she’s slim, white, blonde and looks young. What happens then, if the beauty ideal changes? Or when you no longer match it?

In another article, Brick explains how her husband will divorce her if she gets fat. It’s very scary when our worth as women is predicated on how men respond to what we look like. It leaves us very vulnerable.

The reasons articles like Brick’s make me angry as a feminist is because they are so disempowering.

They perpetuate the idea that women are worth so little, that our success and power is based on our looks, and they remind us that if we fail to conform to that ideal, then we have failed.

Power doesn’t lie in men buying you champagne because they think you’re pretty. It lies in being valued as a full human being, with a voice.


A longer version of this article is at Sian’s blog

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About the author
Sian Norris is an occasional contributor. She is a Bristol based writer who likes to write short stories and muse on feminist debates.
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Reader comments


It’s hard, in all fairness, to blame Brick for taking what she can get from the system – the bubbly, the cab rides, the superficial approval. The narrow world in which the Daily Mail allows women to move is completely bereft of any meaningful rewards: the first, last and only judgement on any woman is her degree of fuckability, and of course the sting in the tail is that there is no woman who is ever fuckable enough.

Too young, old, thin, fat, tan, pale, tall, short, happy, miserable, dressed, undressed… Never ever good enough. In such a dystopian sphere of constant judgement and criticism, who can begrudge a woman what little positive reinforcement she can squeeze out?

The problem is, Samantha Brick defined the terms of the debate herself when she wrote an article all about how her problems are caused by her being (in her own opinion) beautiful. It’s difficult to respond to that article in any other way.

There’s no doubt the men who have allegedly tried to buy her affections have ulterior motives – we can’t know exactly why they are apparently falling over themselves because no one has asked them.

But there’s a massive flaw in the character of a woman who assumes everyone’s reactions to her are based around what she looks like. If someone dislikes me, I generally assume it’s because either I’m saying something they don’t want to hear, or because I’m being a bit of an idiot. My looks don’t enter into the equation. Maybe that makes me naive, I don’t know.

Brick deserves to be called on her looks, because she’s not devaluing just women with her claims. She’s also tarring all men with the same brush, and by perpetuating the myth that it’s all about looks, she deserves to have the truth laid at her door – namely, most people think she’s actually not all that, and it’s her personality that’s probably caused the problems.

3. Bill Kristol-Balls
4. the a&e charge nurse

“They perpetuate the idea that women are worth so little, that our success and power is based on our looks, and they remind us that if we fail to conform to that ideal, then we have failed” – ahh, the old chestnut, love me for who I am, not what I look like.

Attraction is usually determined within seconds, and is not something that can be faked (in the long term).
What’s the point in men kidding themselves they do not have certain preferences when it comes to looks – repression only intensifies sexual feelings.

It’s very scary when our worth as women is predicated on how men respond to what we look like. It leaves us very vulnerable.

Why?

What was the point of universal suffrage, equal rights and equal pay etc if it wasn’t to make unattractive women feel more secure about themselves?

Do you mean it was all a waste of time?

To be fair to the Mail, by trolling its own readers it was at least being original. And what a prime example of the art!

The genius of Brick’s article was that those she didn’t annoy by being sexist, she annoyed by being unattractive. So whether you read Red Pepper or the Sun, you were pretty much guaranteed to drop your monocle :)

In reality, men are visual creatures who do like what they see first, whereas women look deeper generally. Women know this (either subconsciously or not) and dislike other women who they percieve as a threat; we are, after all, only here to procreate and pass our own genes on.

Women have been so disempowered by some feminists, who don’t seem to want equality but for everyone to be the same.

If you are a feminine woman who, driven by evolutionary influence, chooses to look after your own child and, God forbid, run a home, you are castigated by society and treated as stupid.

I am not stupid, I have a psychology degree and an IQ of 154 (although that is only a measure of white, western world, middle class men anyway) but feel no need to manage huge companies or compete with men; I am a woman not a man. If others feel they need to prove something, that’s fine, I don’t.

I have had similar experiences to Samantha, involving everything from being ignored to threatening behaviour, particularly when I was a 30 something divorcee. It was once said to me, by another woman, that I was a threat to women of all ages at that time.

I am not arrogant enough to think either I’m that attractive or that the issue has been with all women, only certain ones but, to deny that this phenomenon exists is unrealistic and, of course, if you are not that attractive, it won’t happen to you!

8. Luis Enrique

not sure if this is gated or not, but interesting in this context:

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful

(research showing good looking women are less likely to be given job interviews when the attach photos to CV, suggested explanation – people who work in HR are mostly women too)

the role of physical attractiveness in life is one of the least-palatable, most unavoidable things I can think of. It really is outrageously unfair that physical appearance is so important. It’s not just true of women, by the way, handsome men have very different lives from ugly ones. Although your appearance no doubt matters more if you are a woman.

“As soon as we criticise a woman by bringing it back to whether she is attractive or not, then we are buying into the lie that the most important thing about a woman is whether she fits the beauty ideal. ”

True, unless of course this is the whole point of the discussion. Which it was. Point A was given, and then refuted.

What the majority comments actually said (I assume you haven’t read them or are deliberately mis-interpreting them in order to have something to write today) was that she wasn’t that good lokking and women probably dislike her because she is vain and narcisstic (sic)

Which is a critique not of her looks but of her personality. I usually enjoy what you write but I think you’ve just jumped on the bandwagon in order to fulfill your own sense of ego.

10. Chaise Guevara

@ Sian Norris

“As soon as we criticise a woman by bringing it back to whether she is attractive or not, then we are buying into the lie that the most important thing about a woman is whether she fits the beauty ideal.”

What? Brick brought the topic up. People now saying that she’s ugly – however unpleasant their behaviour – are simply disagreeing with her. Is it impossible to even discuss beauty, or admit who you do and don’t find attractive, without being a nasty old sexist?

There is a problem with people very overtly judging women on their looks when they wouldn’t do the same to men. There’s a couple of forms it tends to take in terms of Twitter and BTL comments: female politicians being dismissed as “fat” or “ugly” without any attempt to discuss their policies, and people actually getting angry at women for not being attractive enough.

This isn’t one of those cases, though. Talking about beauty when beauty is the subject matter is expected. It’s when it’s introduced as a non-sequitur that it becomes creepy.

Like pretty much any accusation of objectification, this article seems to conflate “This person is X” with “This person is X and therefore none of her other characteristics are worth mentioning”.

Marina S – well said!

somerandombint – i agree in part but i think this is a bigger issue than what Brick said, it’s about how we value women and the ever changing beauty ideal. It is tricky as she did make it all about what she looks like, and what i want is to get away from what we look like.

Yesterday on local radio i was asked to talk about this and the presenter asked whether it’s possible to be beautiful and a feminist. Which i think is a prime example of how it always has to be about what women look like, not about what we say. SO when people criticised Brick (as on this thread!) they’ve gone ‘she’s ugly’ not ‘what she said was offensive and incredibly derogatory towards women’.

A&E charge nurse – i don’t think i’m talking about attraction so much as valuing women by how they look. So of course we all fancy different people and we might even have a ‘type’ when it comes to fancying someone. But outside of that, women are all too often judged as a success or failure in public life (and by that i mean outside of our relationships as opposed to just famous people) according to whether they fit the beauty ideal. And that’s why we call women ‘ugly’ and ‘unfanciable’ when we want to attack them, or make comments about their shoes or cleavage when we want to diminish them. In a way that we do far less for men because we are more likely to value men for what they do or say (not always of course).

Carol – that is not my experience of feminism and not my feminism. To me, feminism is about liberation from patriarchy and part of patriarchy is the idea that raising a family is ‘lesser’ than going out to work – e.g. it isn’t considered ‘real work’ when it is work! I also don’t place much weight on evolutionary psych ideas about men being visual and women not being – we all have our sexuality and we all find different things attractive about different people. Women can certainly be visual!

“In reality, men are visual creatures who do like what they see first, whereas women look deeper generally. ”

How do you know? There are 3 billion women on the planet and you only know 1 of them that intimately.

Dave – i don’t write my blog to feed my ego (if i did i’d be pretty depressed – it’s hardly taken me to the dizzy heights of fame!) but because i like writing. after the BBC presenter asked me whether it was possible to be beautiful and a feminist i felt that i wanted to write about how we value women for what they look like, and why that is problematic.

@10 but i think the point stands because all too often when we want to criticise a woman we call her ugly or speculate that she is ugly. I know this because it happens to me all the time – it’s happened on this site and on many many other places! And we don’t do this for men. By calling Brick ugly we were completely playing her game and giving her a reason to say she was justified in what she had written. Yes she made it about what she looks like but we did the same with Hakim and it just left everyone with a very weak argument.

14. Chaise Guevara

@ 8 Luis

“the role of physical attractiveness in life is one of the least-palatable, most unavoidable things I can think of. It really is outrageously unfair that physical appearance is so important. It’s not just true of women, by the way, handsome men have very different lives from ugly ones. Although your appearance no doubt matters more if you are a woman.”

Apparently, attractiveness of the defendant influences both the chance of conviction and the average sentence in court cases (good-looking people do better on both counts). And it’s not even purely an instinct saying “I want to sleep with that person so I’ll be nice to them”: the effect remains in place even when people are being judged by members of their own gender (presumably most of whom are straight).

It appears to be halo effect – if someone has one observable positive characteristic, we instinctively rate them higher on other metrics, like trustworthiness and kindness. The fact that it affects court cases moves the bar from “nasty” to “scary”.

15. Cheesy Monkey

Godbuggeringfuckingchrist, I don’t give a cunting fuck.

@15 well mate, no one forced you to click the link and then go to all the trouble of leaving a comment ;-)

17. Chaise Guevara

@ 13 Sian

“but i think the point stands because all too often when we want to criticise a woman we call her ugly or speculate that she is ugly. I know this because it happens to me all the time – it’s happened on this site and on many many other places! And we don’t do this for men. By calling Brick ugly we were completely playing her game and giving her a reason to say she was justified in what she had written. Yes she made it about what she looks like but we did the same with Hakim and it just left everyone with a very weak argument.”

These are two different issues. Disagreeing with Brick may have been playing her game, but it doesn’t make you a misogynist. The point *generally* stands, but you’re picking out a non-valid example of it IMO. And it’s hard to fight sexism if you denounce everything as sexist automatically, regardless of whether the accusation is reasonable. Like I say, I agree with the background issue, but this isn’t it.

[Oh, and we do do it with men - just go on any thread that mentions Eric Pickles and see how long it takes for people to start talking about pies, and who ate them all. It just seems to be much more front-of-mind when we're talking about or to women. I would agree that we tend to think attractiveness is a more important part of a woman's makeup than a man's.]

In reality, men are visual creatures who do like what they see first, whereas women look deeper generally.

Quite apart from the fact that this sentence makes no grammatical sense (you can’t “look” deeper, and if you could – that would just show that women are also visual creatures), it’s not true, in “reality” or anywhere else.

Men and women have the same part of their brains dedicated to visual processing (which is a lot of it), and there is zero evidence from cognitive and brain science to show that women process images differently, or that men process non-visual sexual cues like pheromones differently. There are doubtless individual differences, but at the aggregate level, as in most cases of such broad claims of “hard wired” sex differences, the populations are broadly the same.

Men (hetero ones) however do receive significantly more visual stimulation than women: we live in a world in which the semi-nude female form is a ubiquitous backdrop, a form of street furniture and the key medium for cultural messages. If the streets were plastered in as many provocatively posed, almost-naked, idealised male bodies as we do female ones, it’s not at all unlikely to expect girls to grow up into women who are more easily aroused by sexualised visual imagery, simply because they’d have had the same amount of practice at it as their male counterparts.

19. Paul Newnan

[deleted]

20. the a&e charge nurse

[18] “Men (hetero ones) however do receive significantly more visual stimulation than women” – yes, that’s true – I am told there are even daytime channels on Sky TV were scantily glad women receive mysterious phone calls all day, and that these phone calls are mostly from chaps?

I wonder what the purpose of such channels are, and why there is no equivalent female wanking, sorry I meant call in station?

21. Cheesy Monkey

@16

I suppose what I was trying to say is that as the Brick article was obviously shameless link bait, the best response was to leave it alone. Only winners here with all this additional coverage is the Maily Fail itself. And yes, I get my own stupidity about commenting about not commenting… :-p

@20 – Who knows. Perhaps when women are allowed to create tv channels and magazines we might finally see some.

@13. thanks for the reply Sian

I think writing to feed your ego or because you like doing it is the same thing. I didnt mean ego in the more insulting big-headed way it probably was perceived.

I think your off the mark on this one, as Chaise said pretty well.

However, you are right in general, I must admit I went to your blog to see if you had a photo on there. Im not so self reflective that I could tell you why I felt the urge as it has no impact on what you say at all. Id like to say it was to put a face to the name but it was probably driven by testicles.

“As soon as we criticise a woman by bringing it back to whether she is attractive or not, then we are buying into the lie that the most important thing about a woman is whether she fits the beauty ideal. ”

Good luck with changing that in a mammalian species.

Jeez. Why is it that so many lefties are simply blind to the implications of evoultion?

The whole point of this stay on Earth is the perpetuation of our own genes. That’s it, there is no more. Thus a large part of our actions are determined by strategies to do that perpetuating.

Why do men consider some women “hot”? It’s not just changing fashions: we can show a very close connection between what a specific society thinks is “hot” and female fertility in that society. Youth, perky tits, hip shape, symmetry, etc etc etc.

Given that God didn’t put us here and that that mixing of the gametes really is what it’s all about then why in buggery do people complain about the implications of that?

The whole point of this stay on Earth is the perpetuation of our own genes. That’s it, there is no more. Thus a large part of our actions are determined by strategies to do that perpetuating.

Like vasectomies, marriage, suicides, endangering of one’s life in the pursuit of excitement or some such?

@19 aww, sorry you feel bad for calling me ugly, you have my sympathies.

@17 – i agree we do it with men but i still believe it is more automatic with women. for example, when cameron announced his cabinet, whilst the men were described in terms of what they did, more attention was paid to May’s prediliction for kitten heels. There are more examples. I don’t think i said that disagreeing with Brick made you a misogynist – if it did then god knows that makes me one! Perhaps i wasn’t clear – it wasn’t the disagreeing but the fact that she places women’s value on looks and that this reflects something we do as society,and that the response she got shows that it is always easier and more silencing to call a woman ugly than to call her argument ugly. I completely disagreed with every word in her article because it perpetuates the idea that women are only and always ‘worthwhile’ if they fit a beauty ideal, and those who don’t are jealous and catty. What i want to see is a world where none of us are valued for what we look like and then silenced/demeaned for what we look like.

@23 – see what you mean re ego. it’s ok for people not to like or agree with everything i write ;-)
Plus i don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to know what people look like! it’s the ‘well i won’t listen to her because she’s ugly’ or ‘she can’t have an opinion because she’s pretty’ element that has to change. god knows i’m pretty nosy…

@24 but that’s bullshit isn’t it?

plus it isn’t necessarily what men think is hot. currently the beauty ideal is very slim and god knows there’s enough men going on about how they don’t like skinny girls.

in the fifties the beauty ideal was curvy. in the 1560s the beauty ideal was Liz 1st. In the 1660s the beauty ideal was Nell Gwynn.

If it was all about evolution then it wouldn’t change and it would always be what is evolutionarily satisfactory which has nothing to do with ‘perkiness’.

As a female around the same age as Samantha Brick, I was intrigued when I saw the headline of her article and got lured into reading it. When I was finished, my first, guttural reaction was, “People don’t hate you because you’re beautiful, they hate you because you’re arrogant”. Obviously, I don’t know the woman but I assumed that anyone who would use a national newspaper to talk about how beautiful they are, is arrogant. While I’m all for self-esteem and self-empowerment and I compliment my friends all the time, I would never (and neither would my friends) publicly claim to be beautiful. It just doesn’t seem respectful. She says she was surprised by the vitriol but I’m not sure what she expected. I’m not saying she deserves the horrible things that are being said about her, only that she is incredibly naive if she didn’t anticipate it. When people encounter excessive bragging (even if it’s cloaked in a complaint), I think their first reaction is to try to “cut the person down to size’. In this case, they went for the jugular and attacked the very thing she wrote about, her looks. Another thing I find odd, but it might be geographical, is that, I have some very beautiful friends (of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities) who are in their 40s. We got out quite a lot to restaurants and dinners, etc. and while they are considered attractive to men, I never see them getting the kind of attention (e.g. not having to pay for champagne) that this woman seems to get. Alas, it seems to be reserved for much younger women and if a waiter is going to risk his job by not having a patron pay for drinks, is he going to do it with a 40-something married woman?

29. the a&e charge nurse

[22] “Who knows. Perhaps when women are allowed to create tv channels and magazines we might finally see some” – so, are you blaming SKY for telly related wanking patterns (amongst men) while suggesting that women might produce a similar type of phone-in-show if only more of them had greater control over program making …….. interesting?

Another question – are you in control of your unconscious mind, or is it in control of you?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3mrZ0b8LHc

@24: Should we describe yours as an ad hominid argument, Tim? You old caveman, you! *goes back to Higher Thought stuff*

Gabby Logan’s programme about sexism in football last night is worth catching up on.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/17598719

Gabby Logan is (to me) a rather attractive woman – who might not be where she is today if she didn’t look like she does.
One of the main people on that programme was the (quite fabulous) Karren Brady, the current vice-chairman of West Ham United.
I heard her being interviewd on the radio the other day and I had to stop what I was doing to listen to her every word. She’s great. But she must have been helped by how she looked, when she became the managing director of Birmingham City at about the age of 23.
She was on the radio promoting her new book called ”Strong Woman: Ambition, Grit and a Great Pair of Heels”.

She said she really didn’t like the title. It was her publisher who coined it.

@29 – Lol, sorry it was a poor attempt at sarcasm. As for the link, I cant watch vids at work but I sometimes doubt the existence of the mind and conciousness at all.

Try reading straw dogs, quite interesting and argues against conciousness

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Straw-Dogs-Thoughts-Humans-Animals/dp/1862075964

“Or why, when there’s an article about eating disorders, you get men commenting that they ‘don’t fancy skinny women anyway’ (cue: it’s not all about whether you fancy us or not!).”

Sure, but given that the prevalence of skinny women in advertising, modelling etc. is supposed to be a response to such ‘facts’ as ‘men only fancy skinny women’ and ‘women won’t buy a magazine with a larger model on the cover’, isn’t it worth people debunking those ideas? (Assuming you think eating disorders are at least partly driven by cultural norms of beauty as reflected in advertising etc.?) If you’re a bloke who doesn’t fancy skinny women, or a woman who prefers to see clothes modelled by larger women, it must be bloody annoying to keep being told it’s your fault there are all these skinny models everywhere.

@33 but sometimes you read articles that are simply about eating disorders, not about media imagery. and you have commenters saying ‘don’t worry, men don’t even fancy skinny women!’ as if the cause of eating disorders is wanting to be sexually attractive to men.

just something that i’ve noticed that frustrates me.

I agree that blaming men and women for skinny models is infuriating and misplaced. research by UWE for example has found that the size of the model makes no difference in consumer response, so long as the model is conventionally attractive.

35. Luis Enrique

a restatement of Tim at 24 – we cannot avoid that fact that people (men and women) will always have some idea of who is attractive, even if opinions do differ and the precise cultural ideal form varies over time. And this does look like the archetype of something it’s not worth complaining about, the wiser course being to come to an accommodation with reality. However, I sympathise with those who can’t help but rail against it, it does contravene everything we think of as fair in other aspects of life. It’s like having to live in a caste system. It means some people have miserable lives through no fault of their own, whilst others are adored through no merit of their own, other than being pleasing to the eye, or not. Whilst it might be true that our culture is making the problem worse rather than better, so it might make sense to complain about and try and change the aspects of our culture responsible for so doing, I can’t really imagine a society without it. I think we stand more chance of technology allowing everybody to choose their own appearance than we do have society evolving so that appearance doesn’t matter.

36. Planeshift

“Why do men consider some women “hot”? It’s not just changing fashions: we can show a very close connection between what a specific society thinks is “hot” and female fertility in that society. ”

There are enough different forms of perversions and fetishes out there that clearly demonstrates this isn’t true. Minorities they may be, but some people clearly find conventional notions of beauty to be boring and prefer weird stuff definitely not associated with fertility.

But then you’re public school educated in the pre-internet porn era, so you probably never even saw a pair of breasts from anyone other than your mother until university ;-) Even then your first reaction was probably “that graph isn’t in equilibrium….must be the result of government intervention”.

37. Planeshift

Also @ Tim W

If attraction was purely associated with fertility, then homosexuality would be impossible.

(I had thought you were intelligent enough to realise 99% of evolutionary psychology is about as scientifically robust as astrology, and largely made up by bored press officers in universities)

38. Torquil Macneil

“in the fifties the beauty ideal was curvy. in the 1560s the beauty ideal was Liz 1st. In the 1660s the beauty ideal was Nell Gwynn.”

And the ideal still is curvy and always was. Nell Gwynn was extremely curvy (Liz 1st was only an ideal of beauty at the point of a sword). For straight men that is. Women edit and write most of the magazines aimed at women these days, and the clothes are largely designed by gay men, so an alternative ideal gets a good airing, but nothing has changed in the hetero-world, for better or for worse. If you want to know what the straight ideal of feminine beauty is you had best look at Nuts or GQ rather than Vogue.

My problem with this woman is she is delusional. She contradicts herself during the article. First she claims pilots have bought her bottles of champagne on flights, and that barman have offered to pay her slate because she is pretty. Then she explains that the reason she is pretty is because she does not drink.

She claims she is terribly successful in the TV world, so successful in fact that she set her own company up in 2005. Trouble is,she later admits the same company folded in 2007. Does not sound very successful to me. Plus, if you add in the fact that her lovely life in France at her chocolate box cottage are not hers, but rented. So this incredible successful career has not yielded any real money as a result. In fact she tells us that if either she or a husband can’t work for very long they will be fucked financially .

She boasts of being able to talk in fluent French, and then says she can only just have the courage to pick up the phone and talk in French. And on and on it goes. Contradictions and delusions . And then she poses with her husband holding an assault rifle. I don’t think it will end well.

“so you probably never even saw a pair of breasts from anyone other than your mother until university”

A slight correction please…..there were three years between school and uni, years where I did learn some things…

“If attraction was purely associated with fertility,”

That’s not quite what I said.

“we can show a very close connection between what a specific society thinks is “hot” and female fertility in that society.”

That is what I said. And there is such a close connection….although as you point out, it’s obviously not 100 %.

So, to say it again: the general standard of what is considered “hot” for females closely tracks what indicates fertility in that society. When (and where) lack of calories is the major problem then “large” women were the ideal of female beuaty. For they’re clearly well nourished enough to be fertile. Symmetry, indicating sometimes lack of parasitic infection during development, is always considered hot. In our day obesity is a sign of ill health, not good, given the availability of calories. Thus what is hot has changed. But not actually all that much: erotic models are a very different shape to catwalk models for example. And it ain’t just boobies either.

“I had thought you were intelligent enough to realise 99% of evolutionary psychology is about as scientifically robust as astrology,”

Sure, much is. But to deny the influence of sex and reproduction on the behaviour of a species that reproduces through sex is even crazier than that.

“and it would always be what is evolutionarily satisfactory which has nothing to do with ‘perkiness’.”

Rather my point. “Perkiness” here refers to the not yet affected by gravity/childbirth and suckling angle at which boobies stick out from the chest. This is a good indication of youth and thus likely fertility.

It’s also mimicking this which explains the existence of the Wonderbra.

41. Chaise Guevara

@ 26 sian

” i agree we do it with men but i still believe it is more automatic with women. for example, when cameron announced his cabinet, whilst the men were described in terms of what they did, more attention was paid to May’s prediliction for kitten heels.”

Agreed. It’s built in at the societal or bone level, maybe both

“There are more examples. I don’t think i said that disagreeing with Brick made you a misogynist – if it did then god knows that makes me one! Perhaps i wasn’t clear – it wasn’t the disagreeing but the fact that she places women’s value on looks and that this reflects something we do as society,and that the response she got shows that it is always easier and more silencing to call a woman ugly than to call her argument ugly.”

I promise I’m not trying to be antagonistic here, but the above seems to read: “I’m not saying you’re a misogynist for disagreeing with Brick, I’m just saying you’re a misogynist for disagreeing with Brick.”

Brick’s “argument”, if so it can be called, IS that she is beautiful. So when someone disagrees with that, and voices their opinion, you’re then drawing all kinds of conclusions that they’re shouting a woman down by insulting her appearence rather than addressing the issue. But her appearance IS the issue! And she raised it!

All of which seems to lead towards the idea that, in men, failing to act totally asexual makes you guilty of misogyny.

I’ve avoided saying this so far, but I don’t think she’s beautiful. From my subjective, personal POV, she’s plain. So does saying this – and bear in mind that it’s a statement of fact – make me sexist, NOT when used as an ad hom non-sequitur, but when it’s the topic of conversation, raised by the woman in question herself?

Because that’s what you seem to be saying, and to me that sounds like the kind of feminism that goes out of its way to find bigotry where none exists.

@41

maybe the issue is the Brick hook. because if we take Brick out of it, and talk about how we silence or diminish women and men when we disagree with them by calling them ugly (as comments on this thread have helpfully proven!) I think we agree.

I understand what you’re saying that because Brick was talking about being beautiful, so to show disagreement people called her ugly.

My point is that, in general, commenting on what someone looks like, rather than what they are saying, is problematic. And that because society places so much value on women fitting a beauty ideal, the easiest way to silence a woman is to call her ugly.

43. Torquil Macneil

“My point is that, in general, commenting on what someone looks like, rather than what they are saying, is problematic.2

I completely agree, in fact I think it is always wrong (unless, as in this case, their looks are the subject under discussion). I think its true even when we are talking about David Cameron or Ed Miliband.

“And that because society places so much value on women fitting a beauty ideal, the easiest way to silence a woman is to call her ugly.”

I sympathise with women who are brow-beaten over their looks, but is it as common as all that? I have never witnessed it and I would say that of the women I know good-looks do not seem to be closely correlated with success. I think there may be an element of meeja types over-generalising from the peculiar standards of their own tiny world.

44. Shatterface

I dread the day I lose my boyish good looks and have to earn a living.

In another article, Brick explains how her husband will divorce her if she gets fat. It’s very scary when our worth as women is predicated on how men respond to what we look like. It leaves us very vulnerable.

Balls. Lets rephrase that so it makes sense:

In another article, Brick explains how she believes her husband will divorce her if she gets fat. It’s very scary when our worth as women is predicated on unfounded assumptions about how men respond to what we look like. It leaves us very vulnerable.

If she really thinks her husband is a total cockweasel she should divorce him now.

@ Sally 39.

It’s a hunting rifle – but apart from that, I agree with everything you say.

46. Torquil Macneil

Easy for you to say Shatterface. You haven’t seen his enormous gun!

@43
Well, it’s already happened on this thread, with a commenter calling me ugly. I’ve seen it happen a lot online. But the other example that comes to mind is the one i mentioned earlier, where we talk about what a woman is wearing or her body in a way we don’t with men.

E.g. The BBC talking about Theresa May’s kitten heels, as opposed to David Cameron’s ties.

@44
is that what the article said? i read it as he told her he would divorce her if she gets fat.

#24 Tim Worstall

“As soon as we criticise a woman by bringing it back to whether she is attractive or not, then we are buying into the lie that the most important thing about a woman is whether she fits the beauty ideal. ”

Good luck with changing that in a mammalian species.

Jeez. Why is it that so many lefties are simply blind to the implications of evoultion?

I know! I mean, you just have to look at does, with their magnificent antlers designed to attract the visually-stimulated bucks. Or lionesses with their luxurious manes. And mandrill ladies? Do not even get me started! They just be struttin’ their stuff for the males, yo!

Why oh why are those feminists so BLIND to the beauty of SCIENCE!

Are you really this stupid, or just really, really determined to ignore reality if it disagrees with your tabloid understanding of evolution?

50. Chaise Guevara

@ 42 Sian

Yeah – I think if we take Brick out of it then we’re pretty much on the same page.

51. Churm Rincewind

@ 40: “the general standard of what is considered “hot” for females closely tracks what indicates fertility in that society. When (and where) lack of calories is the major problem then “large” women were the ideal of female beauty.”

I can see that in societies where lack of calories is a problem then fat would be admired. For example, when rationing was in place in the UK during and after WW2, fat babies became the ideal – see any photos of the “Bonny Baby” competitions so popular in the forties and fifties. And of course Buddha – the very embodiment of the ideal – is usually represented as a fat man, a tradition which presumably grew up for the same reason.

But these ideals have never been gender-specific. Nor can I see that they have any connection with fertility – fat babies certainly don’t.

Sianuska – there’s a big difference between saying someone is mistaken in their beliefs (ie Brick claiming she is very attractive and that’s the root of all her problems) and calling someone ugly.

I can say I don’t think she’s so attractive as to warrant comment on it. That doesn’t mean that I’m saying she isn’t at all attractive. And I suspect a lot of the backlash comes not from the fact that she is/isn’t beautiful, but instead from the fact that she saw fit to announce to the world how beautiful she thinks she is.

Perhaps a truly feminist society would mean that women could say how beautiful they are without anyone suggesting there’s a problem with it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all.

53. Planeshift

@worstall

Not really, there are numerous men who like fat women, and vice versa. There are young men like older women, others have fetishes for missing limbs, and other all sorts of weird and wonderful things that have nothing to do with evolutionary impulse. Its a weak correlation at best, and there are lots more things going on than an evolutionary impulse. Not all sex is penetrative, contraception is commonly used etc. Explain how cock and ball torture is part of the evolutionary impulse?

If you’re going to justify all sorts of unpleasant aspects of current culture based on what is ‘natural’ or ‘evolutionary’ I think you’ll need something better than a stereotype. Lets put it this way – you have a daughter. Would you like all the cultural and societal pressures to be in the direction of making her try and look a certain way, even if that means she risks an eating disorder, mental ill health or low self esteem should she fail to live up to that ideal? Or would you rather these pressures directed her in a more positive manner?

54. the a&e charge nurse

If too much emphasis being placed on a person’s looks, especially a woman’s looks, is bad, then banning programs like ‘extreme makeover’ would be good?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inT4y5e3tE4&feature=relmfu

Or put another way, what consequences should arise for those with an unhealthy interest in appearance?

Nowadays, a few drunken racist comments on the net are likely to result in a custodial sentence, so are we just talking about censorship here, or does it follow that the courts should decide were to draw the line when comments are made about how somebody looks?

55. the a&e charge nurse

[53] “Would you like all the cultural and societal pressures to be in the direction of making her try and look a certain way, even if that means she risks an eating disorder, mental ill health or low self esteem should she fail to live up to that ideal? Or would you rather these pressures directed her in a more positive manner?” – well the better off we become the more anxious we seem to be?

A lot of this stuff is discussed in “Affluenza” – according to Oliver James “Selfish capitalism causes mental illness by spawning materialism, or, as I put it, the affluenza virus – placing a high value on money, possessions, appearances (social and physical) and fame. English-speaking nations are more infected with the virus than mainland western European ones. Studies in many nations prove that people who strongly subscribe to virus values are at significantly greater risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and personality disorder”.

James picks up on obsession with appearance, but goes further by blaming other toxic ingredients like money, possessions, and fame – since most of us remain perennially disappointed we compensate with drink, drugs, low grade forms of mental illness, not to mention long phone calls to the scantily clad women on SKY phone in shows.

56. Phillip Bell

I hate being rich. I mean, it’s OK most of the time, but I hate how people treat me. Men are always trying to prove that they have more worth than me, even though thtey have less money. Oh, sure, they start with good conversation like “hey, nice car”, but then it quickly turns into “how fast have you driven? I once drove 300 MPH on the autobahn.” Do you think those same men invite me to their homes for some beer and tele and male-bonding time? No! I don’t get to smoke cigars with them, talk about our female conquests, go fishing with them, or wrestle around like drunken frat boys. They are convinced that I’m some sort of stuck-up prissy that doesn’t enjoy a good mouth-bashing brawl in a dive bar once in a while.

Women are constantly throwing themselves at me, too. And many of them aren’t even very nice women. Why can’t they see that I’m actually a nice and interesting person? How come it’s all about my money? I actually had two women get into a fist-fight to decide who would ride passenger in my Bentley, and who would sit on my lap. Of course all this female attention just makes men hate me more.

Of course, my super-wealthy associates don’t think I’m rich at all, and compared to them, I’m not. They always say things like “you’re just a poor pauper”, while we sip expensive champagne on their personal yachts in the Rivera. People think it’s easy being wealthy, but it’s not. It’s really, really hard. All I want is to be accepted as an equal.

Of course, that’s a lot to ask for. We are shallow creatures, driven by base needs, with reproduction being close to the top of that list. As long as Samantha Brick is attractive, and I am rich, we are going to get undue attention from the opposite sex, and undue vilification by the same sex. All of the talking in the world won’t reprogram millions of years of evolutionary compulsion.

The problem is not that’s she’s beautiful or not beautiful; the problem is that she is clearly deluded and arrogant, and also a liar. I mean, I’ve never seen a bloke rush up to a complete stranger at a train station and offer to buy her ticket because she was so pretty. Just think about it: would you rush up to a stranger and buy their train ticket? And how many plane pilots ever meet their passengers, let alone spot them out of the cockpit window and rush to get a bottle of bubbly sent back to them? What sort of fantasy land is Brick living in?

58. Charlieman

@49. MarinaS: “Why oh why are those feminists so BLIND to the beauty of SCIENCE!”

I don’t understand why you capitalise some words. Nor do I fully understand your attack on Tim Worstall.

Your argument about animal differences is more flawed than TW’s. You both fail to note that Peacocks are more brightly coloured than Peafowl, but MarinaS had the opportunity to make that point. It ain’t just mammals.

Another thing that you both miss is that evolutionary behaviour discriminates against men and women. Traditionally, male bosses are tall and classically good looking; compare Fred MacMurray with Jack Lemmon in The Apartment, a film that must be close to the heart of most social liberals. Counterwise Captain Mainwaring of Dad’s Army was an outlier, a conundrum addressed in the fictitious TV programme by Sergeant Wilson.

Acknowledge that looks make a difference in the world. Acknowledge that male/female makes a difference, plus gay and transgendered. Acknowledge that it isn’t simple.

59. Chaise Guevara

@ 57 test

“The problem is not that’s she’s beautiful or not beautiful; the problem is that she is clearly deluded and arrogant, and also a liar. ”

I don’t know for certain, but my best guess is that you’re right (except perhaps about the “liar” bit, on a technicality). Brick seems to have convinced herself that she is a modern-day Helen of Troy. If so, this probably means that every time someone is nice to her, she assumes it’s because they’re smitten by her beauty – and that every time someone is rude or unkind, that they’re burning with jealousy.

This is still a guess, but I suspect she’s then exaggerated these events in her head into the highly dubious claims you describe above, and then convinced herself that they’re real. So perhaps a standard complimentary glass of champagne becomes a personal gift from the captain.

Even if she was one of those people who ticks so many boxes that 95% of people think they’re stunning (and she’s not), this would still be a very strange article. I could respect someone for pointing out that beauty can be a curse as well as a blessing, and for breaking the taboo of admitting that you are beautiful. But she doesn’t break it; she HAMMERS it. The article is basically a love poem to herself, with a “point” tacked onto it.

My working hypothesis is that she’s not well. Which makes me feel even worse about all these people going online and saying that she’s disgusting (which again, she’s not. She’s normal-looking).

60. the a&e charge nurse

I’ve now got this mental picture of the little old lady with the oxygen tank I helped in a shop a couple of weeks ago going home, looking at herself in the mirror and going ‘You’ve still got it sister.’

Sometimes people are kind to people because they are kind, and that’s it.

Also I laughed at someone treating evo-psych as if it was a serious thing, if anyone is playing internet wingnut bingo that might finish your line.

Bryony Gordon wrote a pretty good piece in today’s Telegraph about the ugliness (pun intended) of the attacks on Samantha Brick. Her argument is basically that Brick went viral for liking herself too much, where hating herself and writing terrible confessional pieces about her life in the past had gone unnoticed because self loathing is what’s expected of women.

The second commenter below the line was giving Gordon marks out of ten for attractiveness. And not in an ironic way.

What more do you need in order to see that there’s a problem here?

38
I might be wrong but I think Marina’s comments were meant as irony which sometimes fails over the internet. However, I think the inferred point is, that in many animals (including mammals) it is the male who displays the ‘beauty’ as in lions and peacocks and the males who have to compete for females.

That should have read @58

65. the a&e charge nurse

[62] yes, of course there are problems related to gender identity – hard to imagine anybody writing a song called. ‘A girl named Steve’, for example.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKWsAEFko94&feature=related

In some respects a ‘weak’ man can be seen as culturally equivalent to an ‘unattractive’ woman.

66. Steve Stevens

Can we not just call this for what it is — which is someone living by the sword and dying by the sword?

Yes, in most cases telling a man or a woman they are ugly is a horrible thing to do. But when someone has the arrogance and vanity to claim in public they are beautiful, frankly they deserve to be put straight. It’s not a case of sexism.

It would be more apt to point out that this is also a case of ugliness being more than skin deep.

For historical comparisons on the role of women, try this on women in Sparta, where they enjoyed a great deal of independence compared with their status in other ancient civilisations:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_ancient_Sparta

Thucydides reports that when a Spartan man went to war, his wife (or another woman of some significance) would customarily present him with his shield and say: “With this, or upon this”, meaning that true Spartans could only return to Sparta either victorious (with their shield in hand) or dead (carried upon it). [Wikipedia]

68. Stephen Barton

I’m sure it’s an annoying fact for many women, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true – How a woman looks is important, much more important than it is for a man.

This fact is so self-evident and ubiquitous that it would be pointless for me to highlight the many ways in which it daily reveals itself. It is, you might say, a truth universally acknowledged.

And here’s the crucial point– things aren’t going to change. Write as many articles you like complaining that it’s not fair and still women will continue to jostle each other for a higher place in the league of physical attractiveness. This kind of thing is hard-wired in to human nature and you simply waste energy pretending it isn’t so.

As a role model, King Solomon has much to answer for:

And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
1 Kings 11: 3

She’s got teeth like a horse. Unfortunately, when she hides this by keeping her mouth shut she looks like a man. She’s not what you’d call well endowed, either. That’s probably why she’s married to a gallic Keith Lemon lookalike who lost his wig.

71. Robin Levett

@Sianushka #42:

<blockquote.I understand what you’re saying that because Brick was talking about being beautiful, so to show disagreement people called her ugly.

With respect, I don’t think you do understand what Chaise is saying; certainly, unless I am now misunderstanding you, this sentence misses the point.

Her argument was based on the premise that she was beautiful; responding with adverse comments on her physical appearance wasn’t a way of disagreeing with the argument – it was attacking the premise, and justifiably so. Your own article accepts the premise – your comment that:

(,blockquote>But the reason they actually do this is because she currently conforms to the current beauty ideal – she’s slim, white, blonde and looks young.

is quite simply, with respect, hogwash. She is white and blonde(d?), I accept – but she has a spare tyre, and my guess from the photos, before I looked for her age in the Mail article was that she was mid-40s – and that eventual estimate is lower than I started with from the first few photos.

The problem is that your own article also relies on the validity of that premise. You say that:

The reasons articles like Brick’s make me angry as a feminist is because they are so disempowering.

They perpetuate the idea that women are worth so little, that our success and power is based on our looks, and they remind us that if we fail to conform to that ideal, then we have failed.

When IMHO the real problem with the article is (subtly, perhaps) different. It’s not only that she is buying into the idea that women should only be judged by their looks; it is that by claiming to have suffered from being so judged, she is devaluing the argument when it comes from someone who has genuinely so suffered.

There’s also the Ali G factor; “Is it because I is beautiful?” won’t be taken seriously when you’re not.

72. Chaise Guevara

@ Robin

“There’s also the Ali G factor; “Is it because I is beautiful?” won’t be taken seriously when you’re not.”

I suspect that’s the cornerstone of the backlash, although even if an unbelievably beautiful woman had written this article I’m sure she’d have got some stick. People don’t like privileged braggarts.

[That said, what about all those annoying pop and R&B songs in which the singer goes on about how attractive they are? "Hot Like Me" and so on? Is this accepted because the listener sees the singer as a role model or a personal avatar, or what?]

73. White Trash

68 “Write as many articles as you like complaining that it’s not fair and still women will continue to jostle each other for a higher place in the league of physical attractiveness.”

Your comments are spot on imo.

Status anxiety. That’s the key. See 56, yeah it’s funny, partly because it’s so true. But have to partly take issue with A&E 55 – status anxiety and the need to flaunt and display wealth and desirability is a deep-rooted animal trait that you can see going way back through human cultures into our far ancestry.

Like test says, 55, this woman appears to have lost or be losing any contact with reality, but sadly has now opened herself up to be exploited by everyone for their amusement or to make political points.

73
I’m not sure that I agree with @68, there is an enormous power balance deficit which favours males, in particularly their control of the economy. As was pointed out up thread, with most mammals it is the males who have to compete for females by displaying their well-endowed main, antlers etc.
Control of survival is everything and traditionally that has fallen to the male, even if things are slowly changing, the culture of control persists.

75. White Trash

jojo “As was pointed out up thread, with most mammals it is the males who have to compete for females”

Not entirely sure I understand what point you’re making, but to address the sentence above, yes, many (but not by any means all) mating systems revolve around female choice, but these species tend to be animal societies where very, very few males ever get to mate and pass on their genes, in contrast to here in the Judeo-Xian permeated West where we are conditioned into long monogamous unions, and male and female individual reproductive rates are probably around equal.

Those animal societies also do not have the huge wealth of social and cutural trappings that we humans have, especially the Meeja.

All too many women in our society are extremely competitive against each other for social status, and it is too many women imo, who are particularly keen on competing over material status; looks and money.

Let’s face it many blokes aren’t bothered about all that, they just want to fuck and they don’t care that much whether you’re good looking or rich, so long as you put out, as I believe it is termed.

75
I probably didn’t signpost my sentence very well, but @68 suggests that females are ‘hard wired’ to jostle with each other, my point is that it is an environmentally influenced behaviour which translates into a culture rather than being innate.
Otherwise, I don’t disagree with the rest of your post.

Did anyone mention Laurie Penny in all this? She’s been in a bit of a media storm too about getting saved from being run over by Ryan Gosling. I thinl LP is fine and quite fun, but I wasn’t the only person who had thought of Samantha Brick when I read about it.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/laurie-penny-the-tweet-that-had-ryan-gosling-fans-in-a-spin-7619129.html

78. White Trash

Jojo, with you now :-)

“@68 suggests that females are ‘hard wired’ to jostle with each other”

Well if 68 was suggesting it’s only females that compete then I also don’t agree with that. Females and males all compete, but in different ways, both within our gender groupings, and outside them on the common platform. imo. Of course some of us co-operate as well, depending upon the circumstances and relationship, but that does not negate all the competition that is rampant. Perhaps unfortunately to some people’s way of seeing, but humans have only arrived where we are now through several billions of years of constant massive evolutionary pressures, just like every other animal (pace God-botherers and Biblical literalists).

If we weren’t hard-wired to compete, we’d be dead.

78

I also believe that if we didn’t co-operate we would also be dead. :-)

80. White Trash

For sure. As social animals we have both. We need both.
Some call it yin/yang, dark/light, positive/negative female/male….
Both are equally valuable in their own way.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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    Samantha Brick: why I find this 'controversy' infuriating http://t.co/QvGCYhoC

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    Samantha Brick: why I find this ‘controversy’ infuriating http://t.co/rjV1M0Nu

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    Moi, on @libcon http://t.co/l8j0U9xt

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    'Samantha Brick: why she disempowers other women' – by @sianushka is really good – http://t.co/qhwUOQRr

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    YES: Samantha Brick: why I find this ‘controversy’ infuriating | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/4bc4Tj4I via @libcon

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    Samantha Brick: why I find this ‘controversy’ infuriating | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/ws0BJ0Nz <- some sense of Brick debacle

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