I have a conundrum, which is that I want to write about something that a lot of people have already passed comment on, but I don’t really know how to begin or even exactly what I want to say. There has certainly been a lot of vitriol poured out in the direction of Samantha Brick, and I have no interest in adding to that. I don’t want to pass judgement in any way shape or form on someone else’s appearance. Here is what I think: Samantha Brick is paid to write provocative articles which will get talked about. In this instance, at least, she was wildly successful.
The first reaction the article provoked in me was an observation that “tall, slim, blonde and blue-eyed” is considered pretty much perfectly synonymous with “attractive” (“white” obviously goes without saying here). If you are in possession of those four attributes, you are placed into the “attractive” category, while I think oftentimes someone with the same features but with darker hair and skin and brown eyes or with a bit more weight on them would not be considered attractive.
My second reaction was that attractiveness is a privileged position in society. It’s borderline delusional to think it’s not. I tend to lump all the “oh, it’s so hard being this gorgeous” whinges (because Brick’s premise is far from original) in the same category as “we poor men have it so tough” and “It’s so unfair that ethnic people get all those scholarships and special grants!” – true only on the atoms-deep surface.
The third reaction was a little more complex, because a lot of the examples Brick gives of how she knows she is attractive – men buying her drinks, meals, taxi fares, flowers, etc – also happen to me. Now, I don’t consider myself “societally attractive”, because I am not*. I’m 5’2, size 16, greying brunette, brown-eyed, tattooed and olive-skinned. There is no one like me on the pages of Vogue, on America’s Next Top Model, dancing in a strip club or presenting the news on the telly. What I am (or at least what I have been in the past – I am monogamous now) is cheerfully hedonistic and promiscuous. So I have always assumed that I get attention from men because I have that aura of “up-for-it”ness. Which made me ponder (moments after dismissing the article as privileged nonsense) if perhaps I am perhaps more privileged in this way than I think I am. Then I remembered the blog entry immediately prior to this one and a bunch of other similar and worse instances, and quickly disabused myself of that notion. (On the flipside, it made me wonder if perhaps Brick has an aura of “eau de up-for-it” which she mistakes for people thinking she’s beautiful.)
And the fourth reaction got just a wee bit deep – pondering the nature of beauty. Attractiveness and prettiness are not unusual, but beauty is, I think, a much rarer thing. In fact, I can name all of the instances in my life where my breath has caught in my throat and I have thought, “Oh my goodness, that person is beautiful.” My then-girlfriend, naked and laughing with abandon as I took photographs of her. My love, in a dress I had chosen, wig perfectly combed, make-up neatly applied, looking in a mirror, eyes wide, and saying, “Wow… I can almost see me as a woman.” Not that it’s a sexual thing – my sister walking out of the changing room in a wedding dress shop wearing the dress she would end up buying, absolutely radiating with joy is also on the list. Nor even someone I know – for instance, a woman laughing with her friends and breaking into a dance in the middle of a city’s main street.
In the end, I guess what I wanted to say is that beauty has bugger all to do with skin tone, eye colour, size or race. And even less to do with strange men buying you drinks.
* I am, of course, often hawt, gorgeous, stunning, luscious and pretty. Perhaps I’ve even managed to be beautiful once or twice. But attractive by society’s standards? Nope.