Define Self-Respecting Women

OrganizeSamantha Brick, no stranger to writing horrific things to get attention, has written another missive about how awful  it is to be fat and how absolutely laudable it is that she will do anything to remain thin. She called the piece “Joan Collins is right. Any woman who wants to stay beautiful (like me!) needs to diet every day of her life.”  Her views of life are so different from mine and many people I know that I thought I would take a stab at some translations before I give my thoughts:

So when one friend arrived and thrust a hefty box of chocolates into my hands, I rewarded her with ice-cold contempt rather than the grateful smile she was clearly expecting.

I am a fucking rude person who has no class.

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 prefer to ignore what I want in the pursuit of being attractive to men.

I am 42 years old and have been on a permanent diet for the past 30 years. 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.

I do not know what the words logic and irrefutable mean.

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.

I prefer to date men who are very likely to leave me when time or circumstance changes my outward appearance.

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’m a bigot making a random reference to Kate Moss that doesn’t really make much sense in context.

She goes on to describe some eating habits that sounds like they could be disordered  (eating a pack of mints for breakfast and one for lunch, dieting until she passes out, dieting where “the side-effects mean that I don’t have the mental or physical fortitude to work.”, renting a house without a kitchen, enjoying hunger pangs etc.)  I’ll say now that it’s possible that this woman is suffering from an eating disorder, and if that’s the case then I very much hope she gets the help she needs.  It’s not my job, or my intention, to diagnose her – I just want to make it clear that I understand the possibility is there.

It’s also possible that this is an attention grab (maybe hyperbolized or entirely made up.) If that is the case then I would say that this woman is allowed to live her life any way that she wants – spend huge amounts of time, money, and attention pursuing thinness and making choices about how she looks, dresses and behaves based on what men think.

The problem for me is when she confuses what she chooses to do with what “any self-respecting woman” should do.    I actually find it hard to put self-respect and “one of my biggest incentives is that I know men prefer slim women” in the same piece but if that’s her definition of self-respect that’s fine for her.

For those of us who want to move away from a society where both women and men expect that women will make choices based on what we think men want, or base our self-esteem on whether or not men claim to want to have sex with us, it can be really frustrating when a women is eager to not only capitulate but actually assert as obligatory the idea that women should judge their attractiveness, worthiness, and right to like themselves based on what some shallow men think seems like a step in the absolutely wrong direction.

Missives like this one can actually seem like a threat, essentially saying “You’d better conform and base your life around pleasing men because if you don’t I will.”  I think one of the reasons that many fat women continue to diet even after they find out that it almost never works, and the reason that a lot of women aren’t willing to step outside the status quo, is that they know women like Samantha exist who will cling to the status quo regardless of the consequences, and so stepping out of the mainstream is a risk that may have negative consequences.  I have often said on this blog that risk is the currency of revolution, and so if we want change some people are going to have to risk.  It doesn’t have to be you and there’s no shame if you’re not ready to take the risk or if you don’t want to, but it could be you if you want.

If you are wondering what kind of activism you can do around this, I suggest this exercise:  If you woke up tomorrow and you knew that you would meet the stereotype of beauty forever without any more work – what would you do with your time, money, and attention?  How would your life be different? Considering making some of those changes right now.

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52 thoughts on “Define Self-Respecting Women

  1. One of my personal values is to accept people where they are. But in this case, I feel a bit sad for this woman who, like us all, has so much to offer this world. But all of her energies are spent in, what i feel (and will own) is self abuse, loathing, and losing herself in the pursuit of pleasing others. Whatever secondary gain she is getting now will not last forever. But as long as she abuses her body, eventual illness is probably a pretty good bet. I only hope she is truly happy, but I wonder. Me, in my fat and fluffy state is healthier and happier than those I have known who emulate the value that skinny is the ultimate goal in life. And those who care about me see the beauty, kindness and happiness within and without. I only hope Samantha’s writing doesn’t prompt some teen towards self abuse. But unfortunately, the opposite is the reality.

  2. Ragen,
    Samantha Brick is a troll who has been manufactured by the scrotum dwelling bugs at DailyMail to increase page views. I am almost certain this and her previous puerile article about her legendary awe-inducing pulchritude are results of a board room meeting where gleeful corporate types with dollar signs instead of eyes rub their hands together like praying mantises and come up with the most absurd shit just this side of believable.
    Don’t buy into it. I know what set you off was her pronouncement of what every self-respecting woman should or shouldn’t do, and I admire you stepping in with your dose of reality. But I believe Samantha Brick and her ilk live for page views and attention. This is how they make their money from advertisers. The best way to deal with her is not to talk about her at all. I wish I could telepathically broadcast this to all sane women in the world so they could have context before they clicked on her article if at all. Or if they did, then they decided with complete certainty not to support the advertisers of DailyMail.
    I won’t click, and I won’t buy. And for all of Ragen’s readers and friends, out there, remember this – Samantha Brick is not real. I would take everything she has to say with a grain of salt, a big serving of truth risotto and a slice of verisimilitude cheesecake – calories be damned.
    (Thanks for being you, Ragen – you are wonderful.)

    1. Said it so I didn’t have to. I’m a former journalist, with contacts on the Daily Fail, and they are quite open about the fact that she is just a massive troll persona to stir up trouble (as if it wasn’t obvious). She was writing for the Fail (itself a horrendous, misogynistic, homophobic pile of arse) for a while, but not until she hit on this character did she hit weapon level trollery, and now she can’t think of any other schtick that’s so guaranteed to get her wall to wall coverage. Sadly, that’s probably because there isn’t one.

      Getting angry at Samantha Brick is like waving your fist at Gargamel. It’s like going onstage during a Christmas pantomime with dewy eyes to ask the villain why he’s so mean to everyone. Seriously, don’t give her the credit, don’t give her the validation. She certainly doesn’t. Ignore her.

      1. I almost want to ask you what was the worst thing you found out about at the Fail, but then again do I really want to know?

        1. Most commonly, unsubstantiated stories based on an off the record comment from a junior person who wasn’t qualified or authorised to talk about it anyway, and which were later never followed up, mostly because they were, as I believe the Americans say, utter horseshit. On other occasions, a story that was technically factually accurate but presented with so much spin, with so little of this strange Earth thing we call context, in such a biased manner, that it wasn’t worth the paper they shat it out on.

          To be honest, though, much of the very worst stuff is full public knowledge (as far as I am aware, it’s been a while). Jan Moir’s vile piece on the death of Stephen Gately springs to mind (for our non UK friends, see here for a precis: They love to tear women down especially, it’s a hugely misogynistic paper, and the sad thing is that it’s marketed squarely at women. Which is why the Samantha Brick character (which is what it is, you hit the nail on the head when you said she isn’t real) is so prime for them.

          I actually honestly have no bad feelings towards Samantha Brick at all because she is so plainly an actress. It would be like hating Helena Bonham Carter for being Bellatrix Lestrange. The journalist part of me actually wishes I had her understanding of what strikes at the heart of the populace. When it comes to knowing exactly what will set the earth off on a hairtrigger and get your name and bylines publicised in articles from around the world in publications that have nothing to do with you…she’s a mistress.

          1. While that may be true, I don’t really care. Promoting eating disordered behavior is evil and there’s no excuse I will accept for it.

            1. You are, of course, quite correct. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and I doubt anyone out there will be prompted into one by reading the vapid Brick character, but she certainly trivialises them.

              Though it’s worth noting that the character uses the fear of not being able to land a man of fine calibre as a reason to follow her example. Have you seen her husband?

              1. It’s not always the result of one thing ill agree there, but as we are bombarded by messages like this every day it might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. To put out poison like the original article for profit and attention is evil. People might think I’m being over sensitive and that’s fine. I’m just giving my deeply held beliefs.

              2. Maybe not prompted into one, but this stuff is very triggering. What could it do to a person who already has an ED or is recovering from one?

          2. Oh pish tosh, Jen. We are clearly being manipulated and it’s a fascinating thing to know how it’s being done. A big thank you to the British folk who have posted here to let us know the gory details.
            Say, is anyone else reminded of those “True Confession”-type magazines? These were also stories of dubious veracity calculated to stir up our emotions.
            I also think she’s a lot less responsible for promoting eating disorders than the people one would be more likely to trust, like doctors.

            1. While that might be true it all adds up to create a certain type of culture one I think we need to call out and condemn in every way it manifests itself.

              1. I don’t think anyone here is doing otherwise. I believe, however, that this sort of talk and le Brick herself is slightly different – those of us who are in the biz and/or have been exposed to nonsense of this sort are just trying to give you the added perspective of the economics behind her propaganda, ‘sall.

    1. Au contraire, she’s very much in 2013, and knows very much how to exploit social media, the internet, and our post-feminist culture. As OleMissTarana said above, she is not real.

  3. For me, the concept of self-respect is about, you know, respecting ME, not worrying about whether random men in the street will find me fuckable.

    And part of respecting me includes eating regularly enough and heartily enough so I don’t pass out. It also includes not spending my time with people who will no longer love me if I stop looking a certain way. The people who truly love me don’t care whether I gain or lose a few pounds, choose to cut my hair or dye it any color of the rainbow, wear jeans or dresses, get a tattoo or a piercing somewhere they wouldn’t choose to have one, or wind up with some scars here and there. They will still love me. If something happens that leaves me missing a limb or seriously disfigured, they would care, yes, but more about my physical and emotional health than how I’m looking.

    If a random guy – or gal, for that matter – takes a second appreciative look on the street, I don’t have a problem with that at all… but whether he does or doesn’t really doesn’t matter very much to me, because in the end it’s all about whether I can look myself in the eye in the bathroom mirror.

    That’s what self-respect is about.

    1. No self-respecting woman would get into a relationship with a person who wants to change her. To borrow from John Green, “The Venn diagram of people who don’t like you as you are and people you don’t want to date is a circle.”

  4. If she IS real, her bone density with quickly become her biggest concern, not her body fat. A packet of mints for breakfast? The only time I came close to managing that was when I was so, so sick in my first trimester and could tolerate little else. Yeah, felt great.

    I have a friend who works for one of those Earth Fare type stores. This last week she’s been on a “vegan retreat” (sponsored by her company) and has been posting the daily menu. Nothing but vegan food, the healthiest stuff you can imagine–loads of veggies and fruit, “natural” fats, probably the cleanest, purest, most organic eating you can picture. Her cholesterol’s down–LDL, HDL, triglycerides, everything.

    Total weight loss for a solid week of eating this way and NOT deviating at all? Half a pound. It wasn’t her goal, but she measured out of curiosity.

    1. Bone density is truly a problem. My sister-in-law, who has, sadly, lived her life as if Samantha Brick made the rules, is 70 years old and looks 90. She used to run marathons and now she hobbles around on knobby, knotted feet. I’m afraid if she ever has a fall she’ll never make it up again.

  5. Seriously? This woman is promoting eating disorded behavior. If its a joke it’s not funny. If its serious she should never have been allowed to publish that crap. I’m not usually in favor of censorship but in this case I’ll happily make an exception.

  6. There are many obnoxious things about Samantha Brick articles, but the thing I find most obnoxious is that the Daily Mail is paying women – not just Samantha Brick, but others as well – to degrade themselves in print for cash. The world’s bestselling ‘newspaper’ has discovered that it can stay number one by running endless stories about celebrity wardrobe fails, and about the degradation of women.

    Another writer who excels at churning this self-abnegation out is Liz Jones, who regularly bleeds all over the page with tell-alls about her debts, her insecurities, her bitchiness, her need to buy designer clothes even though she’s broke.

    The truly awful thing is that these women aren’t idiots. Samantha Brick was a television executive. Liz Jones was once a high-flying magazine editor. I bet they don’t really want to spend their lives flaying themselves for public consumption, so they can earn some cash (who knows? Maybe they do…) But I suspect they don’t, but the decline of the media has left them fewer alternatives.

    And it IS about the collapse of the media. I personally know a journalist who has written eight books and had a great career, who is now unemployed. She too has got on the filthy Daily Mail treadmill to write stories about weight loss and heartache, because it’s the only way she can pay the bills.

    The Daily Mail has set us all a great big trap. They wave outrage at us. We get reliably outraged. This reinforces their discovery that degrading women sells a mozza, so Samantha Brick and her cohorts write even more disgusting articles. Meanwhile The Daily Mail parlays all of this into a big, lucrative international audience, who are slavering for more tales of female degradation.

    Every single thing about it is sick making.

    1. Chloe – I deal with them as though they are a shop of horrors. A sort of performance art installation in the guise of a newspaper, where the carnival barker riles up the audience by pointing to the most grotesque aberrations we can imagine – and believe. This is no two-headed freak, or Martian alien, this is our own insecurity magnified, backlit and written about for our amazement and horror, so we can point and laugh and throw our dimes and sigh inwardly with relief that we may be bad, but at least we aren’t so bad.
      (Is it really the world’s bestselling ahem-newspaper?)

  7. This is probably the first time ever I’ve seen a dieter come right out and say that their reasons are either entirely or almost entirely about people finding them physically attractive. I don’t know if “men (or women) finding me attractive” has anything to do with “self-respect”, though. I thought that “self-respect” meant…respecting one’s self. And not going on diets that impair my ability to function is one of the ways I respect myself.

    As for Ms. Brick’s statements sounding like a threat, it is, but more along the lines of “I’ll be among the slim and gorgeous women taking up all the good men so fat women will have to either settle or die alone”, a threat that apparently works to some degree, and the whole idea of “taking up all the good men” assumes that there is only one type of man who is “good” and they only like thin women. But both assumptions are wrong for the exact same reason.

    Attraction does not work that way. What makes a man (or woman) “good” might share a lot of commonalities but in the end, everyone’s “ideal” man or woman is different, because people are different. And people who feel sexual and/or romantic attraction are attracted to different things, and that includes body size. The whole idea of “thin women will take all the good men” works on the assumption that everyone likes the exact same thing, but they do not.

    That said, any prospective significant other of mine who tried to act like my weight loss coach would immediately be shown the door. That is another way that I respect myself.

    1. I’m totally with you. Self deprivation dieting is so gross. I wouldn’t want to spend five seconds with this woman, let alone date her.

      1. There are men who apparently want to date her, and there was a guy who even married her. I don’t know if I would call them “good” men who are totally awesome partners who should be in my life. In fact, I’ve said something like it before on the blog. No matter how much “for your own good” sugarcoating someone puts on abusive behavior, and I think that threatening divorce if your weight goes over a number on the scale counts, it’s still abuse, and it’s still wrong.

        I’ve done self-deprivation dieting before, and it wasn’t fun at all. And if people were attracted to me because of whatever sub-nominal weight loss I may have achieved, I probably didn’t notice, probably due to that whole “not eating enough to function” thing causing me to, well, not function in ways I won’t describe in detail, but there was fainting involved.

  8. I never comment this much, but this post makes me so angry. Women deserve to live rich and full lives, not always be in a state of starvation, deprivation and misery. If any man expected that of me, he’d be shown the door very quickly. Articles like this are why feminism is so necessary.

    1. Agreed. If there was SOME way we could talk about this in a realistic,less cartoony way and NOT give le Brick Any of the attention she craves, I would be so up for that.

  9. If this is serious… then she has serious eating disorder issues that need to be addressed. It would be truly, truly sad that her entire life has consisted of nothing but dieting and self-loathing (because to CHOOSE to be with someone who threatens to leave you for how you look is absolutely self-loathing, not self-respect).

    However, I really just don’t believe this “story” she tells is true. I mean, if it is, why didn’t her husband leave her when she went from a size 8 to a 12? Not to mention, why did he marry her at a size 14? Furthermore, why is she happy to be a size 12 now when she was a size 8? All of these things make me cry PUBLICITY STUNT.

    I think, at the least, it’s hyperbole. And that… that makes me FURIOUS. I’d like to take her to eating disorder wards and make her see up close and personal that, yes, Virginia, you can be too thin. I’d like her to recognize that words like the ones she has spewed DO have consequences.

    I’d like to take her to the house of the friend I lost to anorexia. She died at 36 when her heart could no longer take the strain of her disease. I’d like this woman to sit down and talk to my friend’s mother… a woman whose own weight struggles were part of what triggered her daughter’s illness.

    And then, when I was done attempting to connect emotionally to a shallow, vacant minded publicity whore, I’d like to sit her down and force feed her donuts. While I rubbed my fat rolls on her, ofc.

  10. How odd…when I started respecting myself I stopped doing things that hurt me, including depriving myself of the food my body needed to function properly and no longer allowing someone else’s idea of beauty dictate what my body looks like.

  11. Any self-respecting woman should render herself incapable of reliably doing mentally or physically challenging work, so that men will love her and care for her? Bonus points for fainting prettily? How Victorian.

    At least she has found a way to beat Wallis Simpson’s two flies with one rag by making money from writing/talking about staying thin. I wonder, is becoming rich something her husbands have also coached her in?

    1. That’s no prince she’s married to, and she’s not half as good looking as Simpson was. Her articles are so close to parody that it’s hard to tell whether or not they’re intended to be serious. She keeps on insisting that she’s enviable and she keeps giving reasons why she really, really isn’t.

  12. Pretty sure I’m less than excited about the Daily Mail after seeing a link to an article about a mother who “left her son to go back to work at 4 months. 37 years later, he’s still paying the emotional price.” No disrespect intended to full-time parents, but considering people recover from traumatic crimes, war time experiences, etc. and do great things, I think if your son is still suffering based on you going to work, he has a serious problem that needs compassionate medical attention, not troll-y media attention. I’m considering Ms. Brick and her issues in that context. Trolling and provocation, yes; not so much with the logic.

  13. what’s making me sad is that possibly a lot of women are going to buy this bullshit. Being thin as the ultimate woman’s (!!!) life-goal already seems so deeply ingraved in most people’s minds, these statements are just the logical consequence :-(.

    Only yesterday I overheard my husband skyping with his mother where she asked him to “politely” tell his sister that she’s gotten “too heavy” when we see her the next time because she’s so “concerned” about her. On a side note, my sister-in-law is one of the kindest, sweetest people I know. She has two still small kids, her husband just survived cancer (he’s still in treatment, though will make a full recovery) plus she’s just started to work again. I deeply admire her for the way she coped with her husband’s illness etc., never lost her good mind – but her own mother thinks it’s most important to troll-concern her. I told my husband that if he dares to pass this “well-meant” message to his sister, I won’t be talking with him for at least 4 weeks.

    Funnily enough, even if you’re thin people will still have a go at you. I’m a natural thin, pear-shaped person, and after I started to practice body acceptance I stopped hiding my lower body under wider, “flattering” skirts but proudly show the curves of my butt.. So I wore a rather tight dress to a family party, only to have my father ask me “do you really think that all this exercise and running you do is really good for your figure? It seems to me that you thighs and butt have gotten rather large and beefy”. This is not only wrong on SO many levels (plus, it’s even not true either), it also shows that you just can’t win. I mean, I’m fully aware of my thin privilege, but mean people will still find something. I’m so deeply disappointed that for my father the fact that I just love exercise, that thanks to exercise my fatigue, low blood pressure and back problems are gone don’t matter im comparison on how I should look in his opinion.

    I dunno, at the moment I’d really love to move to a lonely island or something, I’m just so disappointed. Family members should love you no matter how you look.

    1. Wow, that was incredibly inappropriate. I really think mothers and fathers commenting on their daughters’ bodies is borderline abusive and needs to be nipped in the bud. I speak from experience, having had two parents who seemed obsessed with their daughters’ looks.

      1. I agree with you, @Elizabeth. And I’ve also been on the receiving end of the concern trolling by various family members (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.), and looking back, I realized I felt like I was not good enough just as I was in their eyes. I’m still battling that need to let others validate my worth, but every day I rely on myself for my worth is a day I grow stronger.

          1. *nods* I can definitely say my relationship with food has been dysfunctional more often than not. There are still times when I use self-deprecating humor to cover or excuse my relationship with food, but it’s becoming less and less frequently that I turn to that. I’ve reached a point where I’m more likely to tell a concern troll to mind their own business and get out of my underpants. It’s progress from where I was.

  14. If you woke up tomorrow and you knew that you would meet the stereotype of beauty forever without any more work – what would you do with your time, money, and attention? How would your life be different?

    ^^^^ Love this! What an empowering exercise!

  15. If I gave myself half the respect I give others on a daily basis.. I think I might explode with happiness… I guess I’m still re-learning that I deserve as good as I give others. Like a true daughter of my momma, I put others first and set work, school, community and family ahead of me. I know to first fill my own cup in order to fill others,…. but it is taking some time to break old habits.

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