THE BLOG

From Vanity to 'Thinspiration': Samantha Brick Has Become a Problem

23/04/2013 18:20 BST | Updated 23/06/2013 10:12 BST

For a long time, Samantha Brick has been at a level of general public irritation akin to pop-up ads or midges - annoying when encountered, but avoidable, forgettable and with little lasting impact. Having gained notoriety writing articles for the Daily Mail about 'why women hate [her] for being beautiful' and making an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, Brick has largely kept out of the public eye of late.

Until last week, that is, when she garnered attention for a blog post on the Daily Mail site about how "any woman who wants to stay beautiful" needs to diet every day of her life.

Although it has been easy to brush off Brick's inane articles in the past on the basis that they have very little bearing on reality, the content of her latest piece, be it written for inflammatory purposes or not, is inexcusable. Brick states that she is 42 and has "been on a permanent diet for the past 30 years", adding that "any self-respecting woman wants to be thin, and to be thin you need to spend your life on a diet".

Putting the intense pity felt for someone whose self-respect can be measured in kilograms aside for one moment, Brick's unambiguous and deliberate tying of self-worth to waist size is problematic; particularly when the clear implication is that girls should be dieting from the age of 12.

In a country with a depressingly high rate of pre-teen eating disorders, advocating a diet of a paltry 1,000 calories per day whilst saying 'the world pays no attention to dumpy girls' is beyond irresponsible - it's downright stupid.

While it is fairly obvious that Brick's writing is intended almost solely for the purpose of bringing far more hits to the Daily Mail site than it would otherwise receive, this is not sufficient reason to disregard what she is saying. The sad truth of the matter is that Samantha Brick's words do not exist in a vacuum, and nor do they represent a minority view; she may be acting as a mouthpiece for the bizarre and impossible aesthetic boundaries places on women by society at large, but she also represents the secret fears of women everywhere. With the UK being home to an estimated 1.6 million people with eating disorders - and women making up around 90% of sufferers - Brick's reckless behaviour as someone with exposure to a significant female audience is unforgivable.

It would be unfair to regard Samantha as anything like a cause of these issues, but by acting as a willing mouthpiece for sexist and demeaning notions about beauty, she is playing more than merely a passive role in perpetuating harmful ideas about weight. By going so far as to talk proudly about her self-named 'Polo diet' (one packet of mints for breakfast and another for dinner), she has aggressively placed herself alongside those in the internet's most depressing corners: 'thinspiration' websites.

Although my sympathy for anyone whose mind has clearly been so tainted by the demands of an appearance-obsessed media is enormous, Brick's willingness to be another voice preaching the arbitrary value of body weight above all other features stretches its limits. While she is entitled to hold any view she likes, when you create something meant for public consumption, there is a responsibility as a writer and a public figure to consider the impact it could have.

As a journalist, Samantha Brick should have known better than to write and publish phrases such as 'nothing in life signifies failure better than fat' into a world already plagued by weight issues; as an adult, she should have recognised that generating content accessible to troubled young girls validating their suspicions that 'self-denial' can be a 'best friend' is unacceptable.

And if nothing else, then as a woman, Brick should not have made the decision to speak for, rather than against, the dangerous and twisted beauty perceptions within our culture. Her words may come from a place of ignorance, but they are delivered to ears that accept them as the norm.