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Samantha Brick and Whether Beauty is a Gender Issue

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If you haven't read Samantha Brick's columns in the Daily Mail yesterday and today, then you need to.

She says that from experience, being beautiful is a double-edged sword: men will lavish her with attention and praise, but women are so thoroughly threatened they will attack and undermine her.

The article has resulted in a scathing backlash, from both men and women, and even friends and acquaintances, not only attacking her argument, but lobbing vicious comments about her looks and personality. In today's follow-up piece, she says, "Their level of anger only underlines that no one in this world is more reviled than a pretty woman."

I'm not entirely sure whether Brick is right, mainly because I'm not drop dead gorgeous, to say the least, so cannot confirm or deny her experience. But I think she courageously raises a major issue about whether a woman's looks define how she is treated by both men and women socially and professionally.

So my first question is whether or not she is right. Then my second question is whether or not this really is a gender issue.

I believe her anecdotes of men doing charming and wonderful things for her just because she's beautiful. Men love beautiful women, and why shouldn't they? But actually everyone loves beautiful people. I would be the first to swoon if Matt Damon or Tom Cruise walked past me. And that's not about celebrity, come to think of it. I love that guy with the dark hair and handsome smile who picks up his daughter from school most Fridays.

Still, Brick says, "Without a doubt this is a gender issue. For not only is it mostly women who are attacking me, it is also because I am female that I am being attacked for acknowledging my attractiveness. If Brad Pitt were to say: 'Yes, I'm a good-looking fella', then the world would nod sagely in agreement."

She's right on that point. And I find it thoroughly disgusting that she's received the type of personal abuse and condemnation that she has from raising this issue.

I suppose I agree that women can be incredibly catty and competitive. I wish that wasn't the case because I'm one of those feminists that really does believe that if we all stuck together we'd get much further in making society value our unique contributions. I genuinely wish more women had the self-confidence to wish each other well. The thing is, though, men are very competitive too. It just tends to be about different things, such as status, for example. Maybe it's not a gender issue to be competitive. It could just be human nature.

And so my final observation is this: Sure, in this society looks matter, whether you are male or female, but at the end of the day, just how far does it get a person? I'm sure we could all think of examples of a gorgeous man acting madly in love with a sort of average looking woman. It was probably because beauty is really about being charming, capable, confident and intelligent, and because she makes him happy. And let's not forget that plenty of women have excelled professionally in spite of their looks.

So what is the point here? I guess I do think it's a shame that our society has become so superficial that looks matter so much. To me, the only solution is to work toward achieving a culture that cares more about virtue than superficiality.

In the run-up to Easter, dare I say that the Christians have got it right?

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