Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Getting to Samantha Brick's Point

Can we all stop hating Samantha Brick already? (If you're unaware of her, read this article first)

Firstly let me say that yes it was a vacuous, self-absorbed article and I was shocked as much as you were. But I don't hate Samantha Brick - in fact I think she had a point.

Personally I think most of us are probably entirely unaware if another woman dislikes us because they feel threatened or jealous - and it might not be down to the way we look but could be down to any number of factors - popularity, social status, financial status, fashion sense etc... but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

After reading her article you probably now dislike her because she made you aware of your own subconscious bias against particular types of women (you can't be smart, successful and beautiful, right?). I admit my first reaction to the article was "she's not good looking enough to send champagne to!" Yes, I admit - I judged her based purely on her looks. I have also been guilty of seeing attractive women in my field of work and perhaps judging them a bit too. Not consciously, you understand - I had to catch my subconscious at it... But I believe people are often biased against good looking women, including myself. It's a bias which I would like to not have but I do have it nonetheless.

This doesn't apply to men. If I meet an attractive man in my field I am indifferent because I always immediately assume than a man is far more intelligent than me regardless of whether he is good looking or not. WHY??? But with women we judge in relation to ourselves. Is she better looking than me? Yes. Well in that case I'm going to assume she must be less intelligent than me. WHY DO WE DO THAT!?!?

I'm telling you - I don't understand the way my own mind works here. Why does it do this? Leave a comment if you can tell me! I am totally aware of how bad this is, and yet I have to consciously remind myself not to think like that. Was it my upbringing? My school? Our culture? What?? I don't think I'm alone in this, but I do think I'm one of the few who will admit to it and actively aim to quash it.

Samantha Brick made the poor decision to speak out about it in a not particularly intelligent way in a not particularly good choice of medium (the Daily Fail). She might not be the right example but when you wade through the crap she has a small but not insignificant point - women should learn to pay each other a complement once in a while.

Subconscious bias based on to judgements of others because of their looks or other factors can affect both personal and professional relationships. I personally have experienced a (far more senior) woman who seemed to hate me for reasons I couldn't fathom - to the point of spreading malicious rumours about me. I thought it was strange and uncalled for, but I thought it was just a personality clash or something until a good friend suggested that it may have been jealousy. Jealousy over what? I don't know! She had nothing to be jealous of as she was basically living the career that I one day hope to have (still!), but before my friend mentioned jealousy I hadn't even considered it. To this day I don't know if it was true but if it was jealousy then the blame lies with that woman, her own self-esteem issues and her own ability to form relationships with other people - and most certainly not with me. I did nothing wrong and didn't deserve to be treated that way.

So to some extent I feel sorry for Samantha Brick - but not because her friends won't invite her to be bridesmaid (they could always put her in an ugly dress). She might be deluded about her own looks (personally if I looked that good at her age I'd be all right with it!) but what she's not deluded about are the women who are just plain nasty to each other - often based on superficial judgements. I actively try not to judge people without knowing them. I know what it's like to have someone hate me for no reason and I never want to experience it again.


  1. I feel sorry for her that she thinks that she is the only woman to deal with those things. That being above average in looks (meh. I think she could probably clean up fairly well) is something unusual. News Flash: Men will flirt with anyone who is moderately attractive. Women will be jealous of anyone who provides them with a reason to be jealous. Perhaps it's not her looks that threatens other women but her attitude towards their men. Perhaps it's not the clothing she wears but the way it hangs on her body (same style but lots of leg or cleavage all the time?).

    Perhaps she's not invited to be a bridesmaid not because her apparently hideous friends think she's too pretty but because she doesn't really have any "true" friends - it has to go both ways to be a true friend.

    I feel badly for her that she's being ripped apart. I wish that this had been written by a truly physically beautiful woman. I believe that the extremely beautiful people have some difficulties. But I also believe that they have way more privileges to outweigh their difficulties and should suck it up.

  2. I have a bias when I'm in uni but it's not against beautiful women. Some women are indeed naturally beautiful but I don't see how that affects the work that they produce. As a woman myself, I started having some sort of bias against 'overly well-groomed' women after doing group work with one such girl in engineering school. I didn't care much about how she was well-dressed, but soon after, I found out that she did things quite unprofessionally - writing out all her calculations in a light blue pen and dotting the 'i's with a heart shape! That sort of stuff just isn't done in engineering.

    Ever since then, I have had an initial wariness of women who are very obvious with the beautification - on an instinctive level, it just seems that the probability of them devoting valuable homework time to self-grooming is much higher than it would be for a simple-Jane sort of girl. Does something similar like this go through your mind as well? At the same time, I understand why women in general spend so much time on grooming; it's because society has given us this additional burden.

    Outside of university, this wariness becomes irrelevant, though it does make me wonder if people would judge me in a similar manner. How 'feminine' should I be to be pleasant enough to look at without invoking any negative response from men and women alike? I have tried both dressing up and dressing down (wearing pants all the time, no make-up); people automatically assume that I am extremely career-minded, 'unladylike' and 'serious' when I do the latter. I am labelled either way, and with the labels come good and bad effects.

    So I'm damned if I do, and damned if I don't. In the end, doing a bloody good job and actually communicating this work to everyone else seems like the only sure way of shaking judgements, regardless of how we may look.

    Men never have to worry about their perceived masculinity in the workplace - not to this level anyway. It is depressing how society solely fixates on a woman's physical appearance.