“I fainted with hunger on one occasion – a minor hitch, eclipsed by the fact that I was being asked out on lots of dates.”
I’m not entirely sure what Samantha Brick is. Sometimes I think she might be the secret Nom de Plume of some subterfuging comedian, probably Steve Coogan, or Sacha Baron Cohen, who has created a comedy alter-ego, and at any moment will unveil the coup to much commendation and hilarity. Other times, I think there is a very deluded, damaged woman sitting somewhere in a flat in London, hammering her wrung-out soul into a laptop keyboard, and frantically, greedily absorbing the massive amount of ensuing attention; enjoying her moment in the centre of a media commentary storm.
There is, of-course, the third possibility that the Daily Mail are actually, in fact, happily and proudly publishing the kind of dangerous bile that has been produced under Samantha Brick’s byline, and flourishing it with genuine good faith. If this is the case, then the Daily Mail are as unsavoury as they are incendiary and bigoted.
The first time “Samantha Brick” was a trending topic was when The Daily Mail published a piece which was essentially Samantha Brick explaining to the reader just how beautiful she is, how she can’t turn around without a man offering to buy her a drink, and how this entitles her to a charmed life, but slightly annoys her. That was the crux of it; she is astonishingly beautiful, and so never has to lift a finger because of the special service she receives everywhere she goes, and that she is mildly irritated by the abundance of suitors banging down her door, and clinging to the spindles of her barstools. Aside from feeling slightly bilious, and embarrassed for her, I wasn’t particularly enraged by this particular piece. I just felt that it was the voice of a pathetic, egotistical woman, writing a solipsistic sonnet to her own physicality, in a cheap, barely literate anger-monger of a newspaper. Laughable, irritating, but powerless.
Her latest pontificatation, however, is in a whole other toxic stratosphere. “Samantha Brick” has once again been lifted from ignominy to Twitter trending topic and international point of discussion. The difference this time is that far from being impotent, Brick’s article, with the opening sentence in bold; “Joan Collins is right. Any woman who wants to stay beautiful (like me!) needs to diet every day of her life” is destructive and predatory.
The basic point of principle at the centre of the piece; that women must spend their lives watching what they eat if they don’t want to become obese, is one that all women know to be starkly true. There is no woman, alive or dead, so miraculous that she can eat capriciously without exercise, and remain svelte and beautiful. Being sensible, and cautious about calories is part of every woman’s life, whether they are actively trying to slim down because things have been let go, or just being careful to maintain a healthy weight, we must all bear the cross of careful calorie management. This much I completely agree with. I even began to read Brick’s piece on the basis that I felt recognition in her basic principle.
However, within a few words it all turns much darker, and spirals into some kind of macabre and eerie vortex, which becomes a window into the mind of a seriously disturbed individual. For me, the first indication that I was heading down a dark road was in the first paragraph, as Brick describes how a dinner guest brought some very expensive French chocolates as a token gift to their host, Brick, and how she waved them off down the path after dinner with one hand, whilst the other hand was tossing the expensive chocolates into the bottom of the bin, and purposefully covering them with coffee. “So when one friend arrived and thrust a hefty box of chocolates into my hand, I rewarded her with ice-cold contempt rather than the grateful smile she was clearly expecting. At the end of the evening, that very expensive box of hand-made French chocolates was consigned to the bottom of the kitchen bin, the contents ruined by the coffee dregs I had deliberately poured over them.”
Turn a tolerant cheek for a moment to the fact that this person is being paid a large sum of money to publish in a national newspaper the arrogant and selfish workings of their mind, and boastfully display an unnecessarily hurtful attitude. One person’s black and ugly interior monologue is not enough to bring about the Raptures.
What is most shocking, and wilfully detrimental, however, is the progressively explicit endorsement of starvation, deprivation, and punishment, which unfurls in a thick smoke of congratulatory venom as the article continues.
No girl, or vulnerable woman of any age, should be exposed to such outright encouragement to starve. There are websites that are condemned and shut-down for the promotion of eating disorders, and much public time has been spent in trying to prevent the media presenting any kind of positive viewpoint when it comes to an unhealthy relationship with food.
The fashion industry, and every corner of the media, has been forced to update its ideals, and to consciously encourage healthy weight in young girls. It might not always happen in reality, but the general consensus, at least in intention, is that an unhealthy attitude towards weight in any form should not be encouraged.
Why then is it not acceptable for popular women’s magazines to promote skeletal celebrities as model ideals for women to aspire to, but a national newspaper can unquestionably brandish such unashamed dripping stimulus to starvation?
There is an underlying virulence in this woman’s words that, for me, suggests a long-term battle with personal issues. Reading the article back again, in order to write this blog post, it is even more apparent to me that Samantha Brick is obviously struggling, but instead of being transparent about it, even asking for help, she is using the energy in a destructive way, rather than a positive way. Instead of writing an honest, vulnerable piece about the struggle it would appear she is facing with body image, food, and self-esteem, she is instead writing aggressive, admonitory bile which will urge many teenage girls who read it to immediately embark on their own struggle.
Brick’s words are underscored with an edge that implies greater personal investment than merely being annoyed by the overweight. There is an aggression behind every phrase like ‘any self-respecting woman’ that betrays an inability to attain the objectiveness, and removal of personal emotion that all self-respecting journalists are bound to strive for, and observe. This isn’t even journalism, let alone good journalism. It’s barely a GCSE essay.
“The logic is simple and irrefutable: any self-respecting woman wants to be thin, and to be thin you need to spend your life on a diet.”
The use of insulting overtones portrays the writer as a playground bully, making hurtful comments about the other girls in a sickly-sweet voice, to crudely cover-over their own insecurities. Likewise, ‘modicum of self-respect.’ The prose is absolutely adolescent.
“I have no intention of letting my body slide flabbily into middle age. I believe that any woman with a modicum of self-respect should watch her figure with the same vigour.”
She tirades angrily, sweeping the entire British public under her umbrella of scorn with reductive generalisations. “I was glad to see the back of Easter this month, as it seems to have been hijacked by the greedy masses who regard it as a free pass to gorge on chocolate.” And then the puerility really stretches its limbs, in this nationally published piece. Brick is arrogant, self-congratulating, boastful, and inflated.
“Not a morsel passed my lips. Chocolate, cakes, sweets and any other calorie-rich, fat-laden ‘foods’ are banned in my home. For three decades, self-denial has been my best friend.”
Generations of hard-work, blood, and sweat in the name of feminism and women’s liberation are undone in the work of a few sentences. All of the endeavor of hundreds of women for over a century to be taken as equal, and treated fairly, is pissed up the wall in the name of vanity;
“One of my biggest incentives is that I know men prefer slim women. In the workplace, male bosses will always give the top job to a woman who looks fit and in control, rather than one who looks like a bulging sack in danger of imminent cardiac arrest.”
Who is this benefiting? It isn’t tough love and a caring nudge to being healthier. This is downright malice, and the undoing of good by someone with an agenda. Eventually, she does give a glimmer, and hints very slightly at the personal agenda this piece is evidently serving;
“I have some insight here, as I was overweight until I was 14 years old. Bitter experience taught me that the world pays no attention to dumpy girls.”
‘Dumpy girls.’ So what about any woman reading this article who happens, by some misfortune of fate, to not be six foot, six stone, with a face like Kate Moss, and the breasts to match? What does this woman care for the thousands of ordinary women, size fourteen, bodies that reflect lives and shelter children, who are reading this vitriol and slowly crying, looking down at scars, and bumps, feeling that they, their bodies, and their lives mean absolutely nothing to the high-flying, high-intelligence of the likes of a beautiful national journalist?
Fear not, she does benevolently offer advice, but ever with back-patting self-promotion;
“Little wonder that in my mid-teens I decided to lose my puppy fat, transforming myself as I lived, for the best part of a year, on Marmite on toast (no butter)…The Polo diet paid off: I could wear whatever I wanted and looked fantastic. I stopped only after a stern lecture from my dentist about the damage I was doing to my teeth.”
Chortle. Then, however, it turns darker.
“I fainted with hunger on one occasion – a minor hitch, eclipsed by the fact that I was being asked out on lots of dates”.
That, for anyone not able to read the whole thing, is the very nearest you get to a capitulation, or entreaty for compassion, or help. ‘I fainted with hunger on one occasion.’ That’s it.
She’s immediately back to dangerous bile, picking off the weak like a sniper, with bullets of pure arrogance, and hurtful insult.
“I am 5ft 11in and slimmed down to a size 8. One of my lecturers was so worried she pulled me aside to voice her concern. I put her intervention down to jealousy, as she was a size 16”.
Towards the end it reaches another level. As someone who has fought through their fair share of devastating teenage eating disorders with best friends and sisters, it’s easy to recognise a certain quality in someone’s words. The final paragraphs of Brick’s piece are naked, exposed pain, visible to all but Brick. She is displaying her own personal difficulty. She just won’t admit it.
“My 20s were dominated by dieting, and I managed to stay a steady size 8/10. If I put on a pound or two, I simply skipped a meal. I actually enjoyed – and still do – the hunger pangs. I see them as a reminder that I am not pigging out on pizzas and fast food. I’d have a large black coffee for breakfast, so strong the caffeine would make me tremble. For lunch I’d eat a bagel with the bread inside scooped out and replaced with salad. Evening meals were either sushi or egg-white omelettes.
To avoid culinary temptation, I even made a point of renting a house without a kitchen. Of course, constantly denying myself food was not and is not easy, but it has always brought enough rewards to make it worthwhile. In Los Angeles, for example, where I worked as a television producer, I was never out of work and never without a boyfriend”.
It’s at points such as this that it is almost possible to feel compassion for a woman so clearly struggling. The one or two moments of vulnerability, which I do suspect are inadvertent, do let you see the woman underneath the brassy sensationalism.
“Luckily for me, there is no better weight-loss incentive than a Frenchman. Pascal would not tolerate a fat wife and has told me that if I put on weight, our marriage is over. What more motivation do I need? Today I am a size 12 and I never eat between meals. Elevenses isn’t an excuse to gorge on carbs – it’s just another hour on the clock. I maintain a food diary. I never shop when I’m hungry, I always read the packaging, and I weigh myself every other day”
The reader is never far away from more dangerous motivational poison, however, even when wrapped so intimately with the unwitting self-confession.
“Like my female French in-laws, I follow an extreme low-calorie diet four times a year – one each season. I lose at least half-a-stone each time, though the side-effects mean that I don’t have the mental or physical fortitude to work.
The world admonished Kate Moss for claiming that ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ but I’d go further. As I see it, there is nothing in life that signifies failure better than fat.”
I think Samantha Brick should not be allowed to write publicly. I think she should be taken into counseling to address whatever issues she has. I think the Daily Mail should be abolished, or taken over by somebody sane.
The question to ask ultimately is how this has been published in a national newspaper. I imagine that every other soul-destroyed writer who has spent years hammering keys from morning until night for absolutely no money or gratitude will want to know why someone like Samantha Brick is able to write like this, and be paid presumably large amounts of money to be published in a national newspaper, when there are so many wonderfully talented people writing their souls for no money, who dream of the chance to write nationally.
There isn’t an answer, really, other than the state of the British tabloid press. For, we must ask, would Samantha Brick be published anywhere else than The Daily Mail? Would she get into The Times, Guardian, or Telegraph? The answer is most definitely not. Thank god.