the green-eyed monster and samantha brick
Even in the vitriolic playground that is the Internet, rarely have I seen the kind of hostility that has been levelled at Samantha Brick after ‘Why women hate me for being beautiful’ was published. As I read through the countless comments, I wasn’t surprised to read many merely accusing Brick of not being good looking enough to have prompted the kind of treatment she writes of. But I was surprised by the accompanying assertions that women are never hostile to other women based on their attractiveness, and that it’s always for another reason.
If we’re to assume that people always say what they mean, this could well appear to be true. But I think it’s more because we’ll find things not to like about something if they’re attractive. Instead of saying ‘I feel threatened by their looks’ or ‘I wish people would look at me like that’, we instead stew over their genetic gifts until they do something that could potentially be perceived as malicious, or accuse them of flaunting their looks or seemingly overly confident in their appearance. These are socially acceptable reasons not to like someone; resenting them for being good looking, however, is not.
Regardless of whether Brick has indeed experienced aggression to the extent she describes, I have little doubt it does happen to other women.
Some years ago, a vague acquaintance said of one of my close friends, Miss E, that she flaunts her looks to take attention away from other women. Miss E is undoubtedly one of the most attractive women I’ve ever seen, as well as intelligent, well-spoken, funny, and oddly wise. And yet, she is the consistent subject of bitchy mutterings from both men and women she encounters, whether they are trying to undermine her looks by inventing flaws (nothing says ‘I’m not jealous’ like ‘she’s not even that pretty anyway’), or simply assuming she has nothing worthwhile to say because of the perception that females can only have beauty or brains, never both.
The aforementioned vague acquaintance’s opinion doesn’t hold much traction with me, but it did make me think about this notion of “flaunting one’s looks”, and what that even means. When I questioned him as to how Miss E flaunts her looks, he responded by asking, ‘Is her hair really blonde?’
I thought it was rather telling that he couldn’t identify anything about her personality or conduct that would make others dislike her, but nonetheless placed agency with her as to why others treat her as they do. He decided she must be bringing it on herself by dyeing her hair (I took great satisfaction in telling him her hair is indeed blonde).
Many of us make negative assumptions about people based on their good looks, and yet feel uncomfortable saying as much because it’s something they generally have no control over. So we find excuses within their behaviour as to why we’re unkind to them. I suspect that even if Miranda Kerr had written Brick’s article, the response would still have been that other women antagonise her because she’s vain, and not because she’s beautiful.
Obviously, good-looking people aren’t without their personality defects. There might be an attractive woman hitting on your boyfriend, and her looks play no part in your wanting to scratch her eyes out. Or there might be a writer boasting about all the attention they get for their appearance (ahem), and their actual attractiveness does little to mediate your aversion to their ego. But there are likewise many instances where it will be merely stereotypes and assumed attributes that make a good-looking person the recipient of ill will.
I don’t know Samantha Brick personally. I don’t know if women are hostile towards her because she’s beautiful, or conceited, or both. I have no idea if maybe this is just one of those paranoias to be found particularly amongst writerly types, or even just a very successful sensationalist headline. But I do think she’s highlighted a fairly common trend, whether or not she experiences it herself.