Men compete with men for status, standing and privilege. The game is judged in terms of wealth and position, the ability to provide and protect. The more men gain in competition the better their chances with women.
Women compete with women for men. The evidence suggests that the game is played in terms of beauty. Being more beautiful, women believe, will make them more desirable as mates. Staying beautiful will allow them to keep their mates.
Women compete more ferociously when marriageable men are relatively scarce. They also become more competitive when the institution of marriage has been weakened.
When divorce becomes destigmatized and commonplace, married women find attractive women to be especially threatening.
It’s an old story, as old as the fairy tale about Snow White. In the story a wicked stepmother stands in front of her magic mirror every day and asks: Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
Every day the mirror tells her that she, the Queen, is the most beautiful in the land. But then, one day the mirror declares that her stepdaughter, Snow White, is the most beautiful.
Consumed by envy the Queen orders her stepdaughter Snow White to be killed.
Being a member of the kinder, gentler sex she tells her hired assassins to bring her Snow White’s lungs and liver. This will prove that the fair Snow White is really dead, but it will also provide a repast for the Queen.
Perhaps she believes that cannibalizing Snow White will enhance her youthful good looks. Instead of trying to beat the competition, she wants to eat the competition, the better to absorb her erotic aura.
Enter Samantha Brick.
A few days ago Brick, a 41 year-old married woman, wrote an article for the London Daily Mail in which she tried to describe what it was like to live her life as a beautiful woman.
In her experience, being beautiful meant being showered with gifts. Even men she had never met where so taken by her beauty that they would celebrate it by offering her champagne, flowers, train tickets… and so on.
In her words:
Throughout my adult life, I’ve regularly had bottles of bubbly or wine sent to my restaurant table by men I don’t know. Once, a well-dressed chap bought my train ticket when I was standing behind him in the queue, while there was another occasion when a charming gentleman paid my fare as I stepped out of a cab in Paris.
Another time, as I was walking through London’s Portobello Road market, I was tapped on the shoulder and presented with a beautiful bunch of flowers. Even bar tenders frequently shoo my credit card away when I try to settle my bill.
And whenever I’ve asked what I’ve done to deserve such treatment, the donors of these gifts have always said the same thing: my pleasing appearance and pretty smile made their day.
How did this affect her relationships with other women?
Not very well.
Women have envied Samantha Brick. They have felt threatened; they have refused to let her be alone with their husbands; they have denied her job opportunities.
As she recounts it, the story feels plausible. In a world where marriages are unsettled women do well to keep a close eye on their husbands.
It is common knowledge that young women do not want to work for women bosses. Could it be that the older women feel so consumed by envy for younger, more beautiful women that they cannot manage them well?
From the limited information that I possess, these notions make good sense.
Large numbers of British women did not see it my way. They rose up in a frenzy and attacked Samantha Brick.
On the Mail website, on Facebook and Twitter, and in personal emails Brick was showered with vitriol and invective. She was accused of being far less beautiful than she claimed to be.
Hanging on to a tiny shred of their dignity many of these commenters claimed that they were criticizing Brick because she was arrogant and immodest to advertise her good looks.
The truth is, the story was about beauty and the ability to attract men. That is what set women off, not the question of Brick’s modesty.
Brick’s mini-memoir elicited a phenomenon that is roughly akin to (a mob) casting the evil eye.
Aside from trying to look better herself, a woman who feels threatened by another woman’s looks can attack her, malign her reputation, treat her like dirt… thereby undermining the good attitude that contributes to beauty.
Cast in the direction of a beautiful woman the evil eye wants to uglify the women in question.
It didn’t take too long, but the vicious attacks on Samantha Brick became a story of their own. They became the story.
As Brick pointed out, there could not have been a better demonstration of women’s hatred of beautiful women.
Let’s try to see our way through this miasma and ask a few questions about the controversy.
Women who rejected the idea that Samantha Brick was beautiful were basing their judgment on pictures published in the Mail.
Unless Brick is lying about her everyday encounters with men, whose judgment would you trust: a mob of jealous women or the men who encounter her in the real world?
Of course, beauty is shorthand here. The real issue is sex appeal. The pictures do not tell you how Brick presents herself to men. She might be naturally flirtatious; she might emit an aura of sensuality; she might even be an uncommonly good listener.
Since Brick is not a professional model she seems not to be capable of presenting those qualities in a photo shoot.
When it comes to sex appeal, women are notorious poor judges of other women.
The most beautiful woman in the world can lack sensuality while a woman of middling beauty might be filled with it.
On this score most adult women know that their own sensors are not necessarily telling them the truth. They have learned to key off of the reactions they observe in men.
A woman will observe the way men react when another woman walks into a room and when they converse with her. She might look homely to them, but if men are responding to her they will find her threatening.
If Samantha Brick is telling the truth, and we have no reason to think otherwise, she must have had a very strong sexual aura.
Men responded to it. Women envied it. In the person of the thousands of women who criticized Brick, they set out to destroy her.
Brick described the reaction in a follow-up article:
Yet even I could never have imagined the fury my piece would spawn and the thousands upon thousands of nasty comments I've been subjected to since it was published.
I've been lambasted on Twitter. Dragons' Den judge Duncan Bannatyne has asked if what I've written is 'a joke', DJ Lauren Laverne tweeted about me all day (none of it nice) and countless so-called comedians have written unprintable things about me.
Other people who don't know me have queued up to call me ugly, stupid, a b****.
Then there are those who have sought out my email address and bombarded my inbox with bile-filled messages — over 1,000 so far.
I've had malicious mail from everyone from Swedish crime writers to bored housewives asking me what planet I'm on for daring to write such a feature.
This was all from strangers. But far worse came from those I had considered friends. When I logged on to Facebook, I found a group of them had torn me to shreds. Some were asking: 'What the hell does Sam think she's on?'
Others I haven't seen since college had crawled out of the woodwork to criticise me for 'always being like that' — and even for having a 'girly voice'.
For your edification I include a link to an interview that Samantha Brick did on British television this morning.
You can judge for yourself, first, whether she was as beautiful as she says she was; and second, how much she has been hurt by the violent attacks on her.
Naturally, Brick is accompanied by a psychologist. The television show wants to imply that her account of her experience demonstrated of a mental health issue. The psychologist herself questioned Brick's version because she herself claims never to have been subjected to the same level of doting male attention. Might it have something to do with her personality?
As might be expected, the psychologist is very comely in her own right, until you notice that her face never moves. At least Samantha Brick’s face is her own.