“Don’t hate me ’cause I’m beautiful,” smirks Kelly LeBrock in this shampoo commercial from the 1980s.
“I won’t, ’cause you’re not!” retorted my child self to the screen.
I thought she was weird looking, with strange slitty nostrils, so it made me question her apparently delusional assumption that all the other females on the planet are jealous of her. I wasn’t the only one, either – “Don’t hate me ’cause I’m beautiful” has become a classic bit of pop-culture sarcasm.
Since then I’ve learned more about what it means to be female in this world, and I’m here to share it with you.
But before I go on, I must apologize to you, readers.
This here is supposed to be an ART blog. With a side of the artist’s personal life. But your hostess can only stand so many Tweets from friends blowing more hot air on the storm o’ misogyny surrounding the woman who wrote this smarmy fluff piece about the advantages of being an attractive female in society. And this one gloating over the reaction it caused. It’s all over the internet now, and the situation needs clarifying. I am sorry for linking to it. I’m sorry it exists. I’m sorry the paper who printed it exists. Anyway.
Heretofore I have been reluctant to put on my hip waders and slog through the stinking cesspool that is the Daily Fail’s women’s section. (“Femail”, they call it. Festooned with pink so the little lady-brains don’t venture out of their subhuman-only ghetto and give themselves a headache trying to understand the serious scholarly articles of journalistic integrity and excellence for which the other sections of the Daily Fail are so universally esteemed.)
Are you thinking to yourself what a delusional slag Samantha Brick is? That she isn’t anywhere as beautiful as she thinks? Did her smug rendition of all the benefits of her alleged beauty annoy the fuck out of you? Do you long to take her down a notch?
Do you now want to tell all your friends on the internet what a ugly stupid cow she is?
Then you’re doing exactly what Samantha Brick and the Daily Fail want you to do.
It’s really easy to hate this woman. Too easy. Whenever anything is too easy it behooves the reader to be suspicious, and proceed with caution.
Here is a woman who is hired to say something stupid in a newspaper, something manipulative and insulting to all women. These articles are written to sound as snotty and self-absorbed as possible, with a side of nationalism thrown in. (Yeah, I didn’t miss the references to American culture and how it’s supposedly better – those were genuinely, if unintentionally, funny.) Why would a newspaper want to provoke the public like this?
All women know what it feels like to be constantly criticized for one’s appearance and found lacking, and we have all fumed inwardly at the sight of some women getting positive attention and unearned rewards just because they look good. Many of us have sneered at women who think they’re far more attractive than they are and dare to go after the crumbs that society has dictated only the beautiful few should get.
The shield of male privilege keeps men’s faces and bodies from being subjected to endless criticism, so they get to be above all this shit. Feeling immune, they don’t hesitate to chime in with their judgments about how unattractive this woman’s appearance is and how unworthy she is as a human being because of it – even to the point of deserving a violent death.
Here’s the thing:
The Daily Mail’s entire Femail section is bear-baiting. (Like the rest of the Daily Fail. At least they are consistent. ) They are poking the public with a stick hoping to get an angry response, and channeling that anger at scapegoats set up for the purpose. Women who have spent their lives trying to live up to an impossible standard are enraged at the smug selfishness of the writer. Men who never question their sense of entitlement to judge women’s faces and bodies, and certainly not inspired by this article to do otherwise, pronounce her a deluded slag.
You see this happening not just in the news but in all kinds of situations:
In a mixed gender group that is otherwise equal in social status, the women have less power than the men do because they lack male privilege. So, for example, political parties on both sides dangle their women like low-hanging fruit for the opposition to swipe at, knowing if there’s one thing that even the most diverse people have in common, it’s misogyny. We’ve been marinating in it for all our lives; many of us don’t even notice it.
Female celebrities are set up to be endlessly mocked and judged. As for Kelly LeBrock, she was reportedly abused for years by her husband Steven Seagal. Being “beautiful” may gain a woman access to the upper tiers of society, but confers no protection on her when she gets there.
The public takes the bait, the woman takes the beating, energy that could be put to better use is wasted, and the puppet-masters backstage escape unnoticed.
Is this article stupid? Yes, of course it is. What were you expecting from the Daily Fail, journalistic integrity? Samantha Brick herself is irrelevant. She writes dumb articles because she can’t get a respectable job. Why are we blaming this woman for writing the article and not the paper that printed it? They only accept articles that reflect their values. Why aren’t we questioning those values? Because it’s easier to hate a single human being with a face that you can know individually? Because a system has no balls you can kick?
As Joe Strummer sang: “Anger can be power.” Hate is a perfectly reasonable response to oppression. But it is a lot more effective when directed at the actual people responsible, who usually are not the pinatas in the public window. If our anger were directed at those who are actually holding us down, we might actually succeed in getting free.
Update, April 2013: Samantha Brick has written another horrid article basically promoting eating disorders. I won’t bother linking to it, but I will share an insightful comment from Sam Connacher, commenting on this blog post:
The Mail encourages female writers to write controversial articles for the sake of controversy, runs them front and centre when fundamentally the editorial buck stops with them. Men attack these women. Other women attack these women. Then we start commenting on the controversy itself. Once again The Mail creates a feedback loop of controversy using Samantha Brick’s infamy as a pawn in its game while it laughs all the way to the bank. It’s a product of patriarchy and we shouldn’t fall for it.
This is excellent, it really is. Fair play to ya, you’re right: my anger should have been primarily directed at the Mail; all the anger does is fuel publicity for that egregious rag. I still loathe the woman for allowing, indeed colluding with, the exploitative infantilisation of her as a person; I still think that with rights come responsibilites, and one of those is, as an adult, to behave like one.We in the West all have the same choices as to how we conduct ourselves in public and private. Shame on her for that.
But shame, shame on the Daily Mail for what was clearly a deeply cynical attempt to boost online circulation.
I wasn’t irritated with you personally, honest. I just saw that thing retweeted so many times I had to say something.
We have choices, sure. But they’re limited by our life circumstances which are in turn limited by the oppressive system. Her behavior *is* collusion and it does reinforce stereotypes. This particular woman seems well off enough to not have to do this for a living, but maybe she isn’t, or maybe she isn’t aware of her own oppression, or maybe she just doesn’t care. We don’t know for sure what her situation is. It’s more effective to criticize the behavior without attacking the person.
But we do know one thing: the media serves the powerful by manipulating the rest of us. Knowing that, we should stop and think critically whenever they want to whip us up into hatred for something or someone.
While I don’t read the Daily Flail in California, I’m certainly familiar with this sort of tripe masquerading as news. The Perks-for-the-Pretty article does nothing but get people arguing over the merits of this one particular newspaper woman’s POV. It’s not news and it’s worse than entertainment because it conceals the more important issues. The term ‘bear-baiting’ seems very apt to describe this common media practice. Genius actually. You’re right, it’s all a distraction to keep people from pinpointing who and what is exactly responsible for their misery. The politicians you can see, but their financiers, the corporations who fund them and pull the strings, have all donned cloaking devices. With diffuse locations, invisible management, utterly opaque customer/citizen redress, no one even knows who, what or where to go to even begin to change things. The only public forum left is the internet. The public square gets you pepper sprayed, tasered, or even worse, maybe shot, over here.
I found your observation that men who have responded negatively to her are still only reaffirming the cultural norm that men get to do the deciding about who is/who isn’t attractive (ergo who is deserving of special attention) very insightful. Didn’t catch that subtle point right off the bat myself.
All in all a very thoughtful post. Really gave me food for thought.
In a world without oppression, beauty would be irrelevant. The only reason the idea of “attractiveness” exists is to identify and punish those who don’t have sufficient levels of it.
Thanks for your comment! Much appreciated.
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