Three scenarios, within three weeks: The other day, a group of workmen were having lunch on my corner. I considered crossing the street to avoid them because I suspected they were going to make comments as I walked by—a construction worker gauntlet can run the gamut from “Good morning” to a graphic assessment of my ass.
Then I silently berated myself for thinking I’d get their (unwanted) attention; I hardly looked like J. Lo, with my un-made up face and comfy, not-exactly-sexy clothes. But as I walked past, one of them said, “Hey beautiful. Hey. Hey, I’m talking to you. What’s the matter, girl, cat got your tongue? I’d like to—” [I’ll spare you the rest.]
I didn’t tell the men off. I’ve tried that and was chased through the streets by one catcaller; another spit in my face. Needless to say, I don’t care much for catcalls, though my grandmother once told my verbally harassed mom, “If you think you don’t like what construction workers say when you walk by, see how you feel the day they stop.”
Read Related: How to Look and Feel Beautiful
GORGEOUS GETS YOU MORE
Second scenario: I got extra tofu cream cheese on my bagel because the man at the counter thought I was gorgeous (his description, not mine). He delivered my bagel with a wink and a smile. His flattery made me feel good.
UGLY UNLEASHED ON BRITISH BEAUTY
Third scenario: Samantha Brick.
You may not know her by name, but she’s the woman who landed in the eye of a media shitstorm with her British newspaper article titled, “Why Women Hate Me for Being Beautiful.” (More people have read reactions to the article than the article itself.) In it, Brick detailed the flowers and bottles of champagne men have given her, and wrote, “There are downsides to being pretty—the main one being that other women hate me for no other reason than my lovely looks.”
The sisterhood of females that Brick decried as being un-sisterly proved her right with a virtual sorority hazing. (Among the comments shared with Mamiverse: “This woman makes me laugh—she’s pathetic”; “It’s not her beauty that turns women off, it’s conceit”; “She’s arrogant”; and my favorite, “What universe does she live in?” There are less polite reactions from other media sites.) The media, thrilled with this sensational non-news story, set up a global judging panel in this reverse beauty contest, asking what we all thought. Of what? Her looks, or her audacity?
Much has been made about the volume, and ferocity, of women intent on letting Brick know she ain’t all that. But one point that went unexamined is the double standard of sexism.
The fact that beauty is currency in our society—really, in any society—is a given.
Numerous studies have shown what we sensed from the Hunger Games-like arena of the playground: Being pretty is as good as being rich, possibly even better. Attractive people go further in their careers and make more money than those deemed less so. We think they’re better at their jobs than they really are. Even children as young as six months old pay more attention to attractive adults than to unattractive ones.
Then there are the independent studies. Mine have shown that when I look cute, I get extra cream cheese on my bagel. My attractive friends get complimentary drinks, entrance to clubs ahead of the pack, and the occasional marriage proposal from a stranger. I’m sure you’ve gotten something from a man with a compliment or a wink. It’s the currency of beauty: It’s pretty money.
Unfortunately, it’s sexism—a more polite cousin of the catcalls from the construction workers. We’re still being judged by our looks, objectified. Of course, there is a huge difference between what feels like admiration and what can feel like verbal assault. But for women such as Brick, who admitted that she has flirted to get ahead in business but has been upset when female bosses didn’t promote her, the biggest difference is that we don’t mind when it works in our favor.
So what really riled women all over the world when Samantha Brick told us we hate her because she’s beautiful? Was it her immodesty? A competitive spirit? Or was it jealousy—either that men were paying her so much attention, or of her self-confidence? Or that she was bold enough to cross that fine line between using her looks to her advantage, but having the audacity to complain about it, shining a spotlight on women’s never-talked-about little secret?
Whatever the reason, Brick’s attractiveness, whether real or imagined, may bring her a different type of attention. Brick is a former reality show producer; as much as she says she’s shocked by the sheer volume of haters out there, the chances are excellent that she’ll parlay this massive reaction into some sort of lucrative media contract soon. Then women can hate her because she’s beautiful, immodest—and rich.