Is it a woman’s duty to wear makeup? Are a woman’s looks the key to her success? If your answer to either of these questions is yes then please put this paper down and go buy a copy of the Daily Mail.
The conservative paper is often criticised for its controversial and prejudiced views, often grounded in social stereotypes. This has been recently thrown into the limelight with the massive media attention brought about by the Samantha Brick story: an article in which the female journalist claimed women hate her because she‘s beautiful. Ms Brick claimed that women feel threatened by her good looks and that she has even been barred from promotions at work by jealous female bosses. Yet she made no reference to other factors that might have led to this occurring: her personality, her intelligence or indeed anything that was not purely superficial.
The article created mass hysteria in the press and amongst readers of the article. Why? The backlash suggests that it was certainly not through jealousy of the woman’s good looks, although this is what Ms Brick proposed in a following article. My main criticism of the article was not, however, her claims of exceptional beauty but instead the ridiculous light in which she cast women.
The article suggested that it is only through stereotypically good looks that a woman will get noticed. Forget her IQ, her career or her achievements in life, what the article suggests is really important is a well-groomed appearance. It also casts women in a spiteful and jealous light, saying that whilst a man can appreciate a woman’s good looks, a woman will inevitably react with jealousy and insecurity.
Furthermore, whilst it was Samantha Brick who write the article, it was the Mail who published it online and probably commissioned it in the first place. After all, the resulting furore attracted exactly the additional website traffic that the Mail Online would have hoped for. Moreover, it’s certainly not the first time the paper has allowed such a contentious story to be printed. Last year, the Mail Online had an article by another female journalist, Liz Jones, about a woman being made redundant from her job in Harrods for refusing to wear makeup. In the article, Liz Jones wrote that ‘Women who feel no compunction to improve what nature bestowed upon them are, in my experience, arrogant, lazy or deluded, and frequently all three’.
The story made a mockery of women, implying it was a woman’s duty to wear makeup. How can such an opinion be justified in 2012? You don’t have to be a radical feminist to recognise the immorality of such comments. In an equal and fair society how can it be that a woman’s appearance must come first and foremost? An individual should be given a job based on their abilities and qualities, not whether they can apply mascara with perfection and just the right amount of lipgloss.
Admittedly, it isn’t just the Daily Mail that is guilty of such sexism. Most tabloids and magazines dedicate a major chunk of their column inches to the appearance of female celebrities. Female celebrities are constantly attacked about their weight; either the celebrity is too overweight and should slim down, or they’re too skinny and setting a bad example to fans. Either way, they can’t win. It sends out the message that females need to be the ‘perfect’ size – anything more or less than this is unacceptable. When men appear in these magazines with their tops off, it’s mostly to show off their muscular physique. And even if they are shown to have a slightly larger stomach, the comments will be more complementary than negative, saying their “cute and chubby”, or patronising words along those lines.
Society is still quite behind the times in its perception of women, and the media is largely to blame for that. Until the media starts to rate women based on more meaningful criteria than how glossy their hair is, this is never going to change.