Thursday, April 5, 2012

Is Samantha Brick the Fairest of Them All?

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.

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.


Dennis said...

I have seen things like this happen. I was fronting a big band playing for an ROTC ball at a major university. There were a large number of really striking young women in attendance. They were, in many cases, beautiful.
There was one woman there who was good looking with a beautiful smile. There was not one man in that room who was not smitten with her. She just seemed to have something that appealed to us all. It may be that many women understand sexual, but very few understand what it is to be sensual. That and a beautiful smile, something most women seem to pay little attention to as part of their arsenal, is something quite pleasing to most of us men. A smile just lights up the room and reaches into our hearts.
As a young airman I worked an extra job, to support my family, as a bartender in an officer's club. It was not unusual to see some very striking and beautiful women. I have watched the same thing happen here. One officer I knew had a wife that looked like she stepped out of the centerfold of Playboy magazine. He was smitten by a waitress who worked in the bar who one could not possibly compare to his wife on what could be called outer beauty.
I think that there are women who really enjoy being women and it shows in almost everything they do. Given feminism and its constant debasement of all things feminine I think there are a lot of women who are not sure they like who they are and it shows no matter how much they hide it. Men are far more preceptive about this at a base level than most women would like.
I suspect if far more women were actually happy and in love with being women there would be far less of this happening.
I like being a male and truly enjoy women who like being women. The sad part is that I don't see very many women who like being women.

Pete the Streak said...

Ugh. That shrink could be cute if she'd lighten up a little. She's proving Samantha's point in spades.

Some women just have the 'it' factor. The shrink isn't one of them.

Ari said...

"Instead of trying to beat the competition, she wants to eat the competition..."

Sounds like Idi Amin.

Ari said...

About her appearance you wrote:

"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."

Also, maybe she smiles a lot? In a place I frequently have to go, there are two young ladies who are constantly there. One is off-the-charts beautiful. The other one is attractive, but more modestly so. The second one, however, smiles so much and has such a pleasant, feminine disposition, that the first woman's intense beauty sort of pales in comparison. It's something to behold.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I'm glad that you all see things as I see them. It is a fundamental error to think that what makes a woman attractive is her ability to embody an ideal of beauty. Women who like being women, who are comfortable in their skin, who are not trying to look perfect, and who have a warm and friendly smile are much more interesting and attractive and approachable than women like the therapist.

As Pete says, the therapist needs some serious lightening up. Unfortunately, her face looks like it is so totally numbed that I think she would have difficulty flashing a warm smile. For my part I find her temperament offputting, too.

Nate Whilk said...

I'd say she IS attractive, but not to the point of the reactions she says she's gotten. Perhaps she has a lot of magnetism that's only apparent in person. For instance, on TV, Al Gore comes off as wooden, and Hillary Clinton as repressed. But in person supposedly they're quite charming. Another example is Pope Paul VI, who came off as stiff and unemotional. But people who met him talk about occasional moments where, without him changing in any perceptible way, he radiated tremendous charisma.

"the psychologist is very comely in her own right, until you notice that her face never moves."

Well, it's her forehead and eyebrows that never move. Botox?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

If the psychologist has not been Botoxed, she has certainly had some other kind of work done on her face. I vote for Botox.

I think we're seeing Brick at a bad moment, after having been beaten up by thousands of people. Let's say that she was not at her best.

She also points out-- I don't recall where--that she is now 41 and married. Every woman knows that after a certain age she does not attract the same level of attention or the same kind of looks. And married women do not present themselves in the same way in public. Anyway, the incidents she reports happened some years ago.

At least, she is sufficiently comfortable that she is not trying to hide her age.

Dennis said...

Question. Have you not as a male been around certain women who just made you feel alive and brightened your day? They almost always have a beautiful smile, a lovely approach to life and seem so self assured as a woman that they are a joy.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Absolutely... I think that all men have had the experience... though it seems that there are fewer and fewer women who are happy to be woman,thus, depriving us of the experience.

Robert Pearson said...

Seeing her in the video, in motion, made it more apparent why she has "it." The photos were derided as not showing a really beautiful woman (so she must be an egomaniac) but she's quite magnetic in motion.

It's a fascinating phenomenon. I have had the opportunity to meet a few well-known actresses and models over the years and some don't seem at all as stunning as their reputation. Others, yes indeed. Especially Frenchwomen. Why that is, je ne sais quoi!

Anonymous said...

I am an attractive woman. Have always had many male admirers, but I learned that if I wanted to have GFs, I had to tone down my friendliness around their men. Way way down.

I admire her, "I'm gonna be me" attitude. She may be lonely, but at least she's always in the moment...always her.

Question for the men: Do you ever notice that other pretty woman do this? Are standoffish around you for the sake of harmony w/ their GFs?

Dennis said...

Great comment Robert. Just watch her hand movements which have an almost lyrical quality to them. Just an aside here. I used to watch one of my granddaughters as she practiced her ballet movements and part of dance has to do with hand movement. I am not sure this culture has the same respect for it as many other cultures around the world.
Contrast and compare that to the movement and placement of the other two women.
Then look at her body movement and the quality of motion that seems to be present in comparison to the mostly closed and protective gestures of the other two women.
Interesting contrast if one sees and hears more than just words. Body language says a lot more than words many times. I think we do read a lot of non verbal clues without actually knowing it.

Anonymous said...


It sounds as if your column is describing, exactly, the frenzied and sometimes incoherent reaction of many to the entree of Sarah Palin to the national political stage.

Hangtown Bob

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree fully with Robert and Dennis on the comparison between the two women in the clip.

Amazingly enough, I read on Jezebel this morning a post by Tracie Egan Morrissey saying that the therapist was much, much better looking than Samantha Brick. It shows why it is worthwhile having a place where a man can offer some perspective on the matter.

Here's the link:

Also, Hangtown Bob is more than correct. In any early version of this post I had written a few paragraphs about Sarah Palin. I thought it a bit off topic and did not want to make the post too much longer, but clearly the reaction to Palin is exactly what Brick is pointing to.

Isn't Palin perfectly comfortable in her skin, happy to be a woman, and always charming.

I agree with Anon that very beautiful women tend to tone it down when they are around their friends' husbands and boyfriends. And it is definitely a good idea. Surely, the way Brick presents herself in the interview does not suggest dazzling good looks or flirtatiousness.

Then again, when a woman is looking for a mate, and is socializing with married couples, her attire and demeanor will show her availability in a way that her married girlfriends might not appreciate.

Dennis said...

One last comment. It is interesting how differently men see and assess things. In general we do not see things in the same manner as women. I suspect this is as it should be.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I continue to be amazed at how many women have been so contemptuous of Brick. It should not be a surprise but some men on television seem to feel obliged to agree with the women.

Strange world that we live in.