Samantha Brick is a columnist for the British newspaper the Daily Mail. She’s known for writing aggressive and confrontational columns that provoke lots of outrage, and therefore lots of publicity both for her and the newspaper. There is some debate about whether her columns reflect her true personality and opinions or are merely provocative parodies intended to increase revenue for the Mail.
Today’s column (I’m loathe to give the Mail traffic but it’s reasonable to assume that you’ll want to read this for yourself) was about women and weight. Specifically how Ms Brick has been on a diet for most of her life and disapproves of any woman who doesn’t do the same. Some memorable quotes from the column in question include:
For three decades, self-denial has been my best friend. And one of my biggest incentives is that I know men prefer slim women. I have only ever dated men who kept a strict eye on my figure. My partners are not only boyfriends but weight-loss coaches. My first love continually reminded me that one can never be too rich or too thin, and my husband of five years frequently tells me that if I put on weight he will divorce me.
…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).
At college I invented the Polo diet. Eating a pack of mints for breakfast and another for lunch, I could make each one last hours. I am 5ft 11in and slimmed down to a size 8.
As I see it, there is nothing in life that signifies failure better than fat.
Predictably there have been howls of outrage across the internet as both women and men react with outrage, anger, insults and mockery. But does Ms Brick really deserve the vitriol flung her way?
Read the quotes above again. Read (if you don’t mind giving the Mail yet more traffic) the column. According to her own writing Ms Brick seems to seek out controlling partners who reinforce her belief that her worth is measured by bathroom scales and tape measures. At the age of 14 she apparently ate only bread and Marmite for a year – and presumably nobody noticed. At university her disordered eating continued and today she equates fat with failure.
Like many Western women I have body-image and self-esteem problems. However I am fortunate and have no idea how it must feel to assess your value as a woman purely by whether you are able to wear a certain pair of trousers. I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be to know that if your body changes the person you love will walk out on you. That you are only worthy of their affection under certain conditions. That even if it’s not your fault, even if you develop health problems or need medication that causes you to gain weight, you’re on your own.
I had a friend once who was prone to attention-seeking behaviour and boasting about how beautiful and clever she was, how amazing her life was. Then one night she drunkenly confessed that she was utterly miserable, that she was deeply insecure and loathed herself. Ms Brick reminds me of her. Whether she is a caricature, a parody or genuine, she deserves our pity not our insults.