(Response to this article by Samantha Brick in The Daily Mail, 03 April 2012, in which Brick claims that “women hate beautiful women”.)
I’m gonna massively mess with your mind right now: I’m not gonna tell you what I look like. I’m not gonna say what my ethnicity is, my hair or eye colour, my height, weight, shoe size: Nothing. I’m also not going to give my opinion of your looks. All we need to know about each other is that we are both women, and one of us wrote an article that made me want to peel all my skin off (Hint: That was you).
Samantha. Sam. Sammy. ‘Manth. Mantha Ray. Manny. Man. Mun. M- Sorry, lost my train.
Samantha (found it!). I went to an all-girls’ school for my entire teenagehood. I’ve been in the acting industry, albeit very briefly. I’ve experienced my share of shallow, catty, own-gender-sabotaging women. I’m not going to say they don’t exist. There are absolutely women who bristle when they meet other women who they see as a “threat” in some way; women who are, consciously or not, in a state of constant competition with other women. There are also men like that – if you have ever seen a normally soft-spoken gent suddenly develop a Bondi accent and spread his legs eight inches further apart when talking to a tradesman, you will be familiar with the phenomenon – but your article wasn’t about those men, so neither is this letter. I am saying that I certainly recognise that the type of people you spoke about in your article do exist.
The thing is, Samantha. I don’t think the real issue is about looks. Not at all.
When I meet a woman, I do notice her appearance. I have functioning eyeballs and, hopefully, she has a face/body (otherwise I will scream). I will notice things like what kind of clothes she’s wearing, how much makeup she’s got on, how her hair looks, etc. But – and maybe I’m a rarity but I can’t imagine this is so uncommon – I’m not looking to judge her. Yes, definitely, there are people I meet who make me think, “Daaaaayyyum, shorty, wazzup?” and sometimes I do get tongue-tied around people like that because they instantly trigger the part of my hindbrain that houses all my social awkwardness. It’s impossible to meet someone that you think is physically striking and not recognise that fact.
But. Okay. So. Let’s say I meet a woman. She’s dressed up to the nines, she’s got layers of makeup on, her hair’s all done… At a glance, she gives the impression of being generically “hot”. Let’s slow my thought process down. It goes something like this:
- That is a lady-person. I’m about to meet her.
- She is wearing a lot of makeup. Maybe she is insecure?
- She is wearing a low-cut dress. Maybe she wants to make men look at her boobies?
- Her hair is all done up. Coupled with the make-up and dress: Maybe appearances are a big deal to her?
- Overall: She is very made-up, and it’s probably to get male attention, because she is accentuating her legs/boobs/sexuality.
None of this is good-bad. It’s just my impression. Other people will assume different things about someone who wears a lot of makeup, for example, because they have a different frame of reference. Sweet. Fine. Yay for opinions!
SAMANTHA, I WANT YOU TO PAY VERY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THIS NEXT PART:
The thing that will make me judge her, the thing that will make me decide whether or not I want to keep chatting to her after we’re introduced, is not how attractive she is or how many men are staring at her bum, or whether she wants them to.
It’s her smile.
An open, honest, genuine smile says more about a person than any amount of shit they slop on their face, because you can’t manufacture it. It is upon personality, not looks, that I form my opinion of a person – male or female.
There was a woman I used to know who didn’t bother with other women. I’d ask her how her weekend was and I’d get a vague, “Yeah, good,” with no eye-contact. A man, any man, could ask the same question and receive a giggle and a bubbly, enthusiastic story about something SO FUNNY that happened on Saturday night.
I didn’t pursue a friendship with that lady, not because I was so devastatingly intimidated by her looks or paranoid that she’d steal my boyfriend, but because she was boring. Her actions clearly indicated that she wasn’t interested in female friends, so why would I waste my time pursuing someone like that?
Samantha, when you assume that the reason you have a difficult time forming bonds with other women is because they are jealous of your physical appearance, or insecure about your relationships with their men, it says far more about you than it does about women as a whole.
Perhaps, like the woman I just mentioned, you give men more positive attention than you give women. I don’t know you; this is just speculation. The open doors, the flowers and chocolates and teddy bears and rose petals that men shower you with whenever you leave the house, it could be that those are given as a response not to your looks, but to your attitude.
Similarly, when you fail to engage women with a friendship strong enough to merit that holiest of grails for us dames, a Bridesmaid Request, it might not be because of your physical appearance. It might be because you don’t act in a friendly, natural way towards women – perhaps because you’re so certain that they’re judging your looks and expecting you to steal their boyfriend?
I find it very sad that women can’t celebrate other women, in all ways. I have a friend who I think is STUNNING, and I told her so. Immediately. “Hi, I’m Bridget. You look fantastic – you’re so pretty.” Literally the first thing I said to her upon meeting at a party. What makes me very sad is that over a year later, she told me that she’d thought I was being sarcastic: That I was being a bitch. She had so few experiences of women giving her genuine physical compliments that she was certain there was some kind of twisted mind-game behind it.
Okay, maybe the fact that it was the first thing out of my mouth was a little weird, socially, but it’s what I was thinking. It sucks massively when women have to be on their guard with each other. Samantha, I agree with you that that DOES happen and it’s awful. We can be our own worst enemies.
But Sammy, the prettiest or the ugliest people in the world can have as many or as few friends of any gender if they have the personality to back it up. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m not inviting so-and-so to my party; they’re too good-looking.”
What you wrote is deeply insulting to women not just because it implies that the only ones of us with female friends must all be uggos hanging out in Ugly gangs under bridges eating each other’s crusty back sores, but because it implies that we respond to each other not as individuals but purely as competition for men’s attention.
The statement that women hate attractive women: Why would that be? Because the attractive women would be more appealing to our partners, or potential partners? By dismissing your own entire gender as jealous and man-obsessed, you are saying that the only meaningful interactions women can hope to achieve – or wish to achieve – are with men. That we cannot possibly hope to interact on an honest, human level with each other because ultimately we’re just sizing one another up based on how worried we should be that we have competition for male attention.
If a woman is flirting with my husband with genuine intent (yes I have a husband – sorry I didn’t invite you to the wedding!), I will probably roll my eyes and not pursue a friendship, but not because I’m paranoid that she’ll actually “steal” him. That woman, in her actions, is telling me that she doesn’t care about, consider, or respect me. As before, why would I want someone like that in my life?
Also, sticking up for the men in the audience, your article is also insulting to them. They’re not just cattle in rut, you know. Men do have a sense of morality and individual personalities and all kinds of layers to them, like an artichoke. Meeting an attractive woman, or even being blatantly propositioned by her, doesn’t mean that he will whip off his pants like a trained seal. A seal who is wearing pants. Special seal pants, with one leg-hole for his lower body and little holes at the bottom for his flippers.
Your article and the values behind it hurt my feelings, Samantha. It makes me think that you don’t like women very much at all, and see men only as reactionary imbeciles who go to pieces at the sight of an attractive female. That’s why I didn’t want you to be my bridesmaid – not because I was worried you’d outshine me on the altar, but because if your article is a true representation of your personality then you seem very much awful.
Of course, your dad told you when you were five that anyone who doesn’t like you is “just jealous”, so I’m sure you’ll interpret this letter accordingly.