A few thoughts on a misogynistic internet shitstorm
A friend texted me to ask if I was going to write something about the Samantha Brick debacle. For those of you who have missed it she is the woman who has been ridiculed, vilified and torn apart by various ‘commentators’ (read internet users with nothing better to do/too much time on their hands) because she wrote an arrogant article for the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper in which she expressed how difficult her life was because people thought she was so beautiful. Men apparently fall all over themselves to fawn over her and bestow her with gifts and free drinks, while women despise and loathe her because they perceive her as being more attractive than they are and therefore likely to lead their husbands/partners astray.
Part of me thinks I should just ignore the whole thing because it’s just yet another tabloid-press induced sideshow in which women’s appearance is deemed more important than what they do. That the Daily Mail is a particular proponent of this attitude has already been admirably considered and summed up by Hadley Freeman in The Guardian (see end of post for link to her article) and doesn’t surprise me because I once wrote a piece for them that was subsequently spiked because my editor asked someone at the paper to rewrite it and they did so to the extent that it was both no longer my story and included things that were products of the re-writer’s imagination – presumably because the truth didn’t fit the Daily Mail’s vision of womanhood (again see Hadley Freeman’s article because she’s spot on with her analysis). Their vision of womanhood also extends to the way they photograph women for the paper – perhaps you’ve noticed how everyone on the pages of Femail looks suspiciously similar – as when I was photographed I wasn’t allowed to wear my own clothes or make-up; I had to remove nearly all my jewellery and have my hair curled. I drew the line at having my eyebrows plucked. I looked so different from my true self that when I showed my partner a photo of myself in Daily Mail Womanhood Guise he asked me who it was.
But back to Samantha Brick. The reason I’m writing this is not to slag her off like almost everyone else has done, but to say that her story is merely an example of a society that measures women’s worth by their looks rather than their deeds and to suggest that this is still one of the main issues for today’s feminists (and in case you are a Daily Mail Reader, a feminist is someone who believes in equality between the sexes, not someone who hates men, and women who they feel are better looking than themselves).
Which leads me to the subject of another text message – from a different friend – who had been to a screening of the film Miss Representation. She texted that she was walking round London feeling infuriated by it and that the “demeaning attitude towards women [illustrated by the film] fuels violence against us.”
Although I haven’t yet seen the full film just the trailer, Miss Representation would seem to be about tackling exactly the kind of narrow representations of women embodied by the Samantha Brick article – and again I’m not attacking her for writing it, but the question has to be asked what kind of newspaper commissions something like that?! (If you are familiar with The Daily Mail you’ll realise that was a rhetorical question). Except that Samantha Brick is the thin end of the wedge.
“Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself,” is how the website of the organisation set up to take action on the issues raised by the film describes it.
The organisation itself says:
“The film Miss Representation exposes how American youth are being sold the concept that women and girls’ value lies in their youth, beauty and sexuality. It’s time to break that cycle of mistruths.
In response we created MissRepresentation.org, a call-to-action campaign that seeks to empower women and girls to challenge limiting media labels in order to realize their potential.”
If you’re a reader from the UK you know this film is just as much about British culture as that of the US. The question is what are we going to do about it?
As the organisation suggestions, we have to start speaking out about the pigeon-hole most of the mainstream media would like to squeeze us into; we have to make sure our daughters and our sons (by which I mean the next generation – because not all women are biological mothers) realise there is more to being a woman than tits & arse, make-up and clothes and we – women – have to make sure we realise that as well – because our value should be measured not by what we look like but what we do.
Find Hadley Freeman’s Guardian piece about The Daily Mail/Samantha Brick here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/04/samantha-brick-thrown-to-wolves
See the trailer for Miss Representation here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gkIiV6konY
Find out more about the organisation created in response to it here: http://www.missrepresentation.org/
In case Samantha Brick is reading this: I think your article was ill-advised, but I wish you £1 for every insult heaped on you for having written it.