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In which I bother to engage with Samantha Brick

Top-level trolling

Top-level trolling

So Samantha Brick is at it again. Her latest screed – entitled ‘Joan Collins is right. Any woman who wants to stay beautiful (like me!) needs to diet every day of her life’ – is exactly the sort of rousing, incisive, non-divisive, thoroughly sane oration she is famed for.

Now on one hand, I shouldn’t feed the troll. On the other hand, when your troll is as mighty as the Brickster, you get the impression it’s going to thrive whether or not you toss it mealworm. With 1,803 angry comments, it’s clear that Brick not only knows how to touch a nerve, but how to prod at it and waggle around with almost surgical precision.

Brick’s schtick, as it were, is essentially “fat bad, thin good”. She’s not going to let her ‘body slide flabbily into middle age’, hell no. Unlike the ‘greedy masses’, she bans cake from her home, never eats between meals, ‘follow[s] an extreme low-calorie diet four times a year’, has patented the Polo diet, poured coffee dregs over a box of chocolates, married a man who would divorce her if she got fat, and once deliberately rented a flat without a kitchen. In short, she sounds pretty damn aspirational. “As I see it,” she concludes, “there is nothing in life that signifies failure better than fat.”

This concept is aptly illustrated with a photo of Brick’s husband Pascal, who ‘[keeps] a strict eye on [her] figure’ and doubles up as her ‘weight loss coach’. She’s a lucky girl: what woman wouldn’t want a weight loss coach who looks like he’s swallowed a small bison?

Now, I’m not going to labour the point here. She’s obviously ridiculous, and seemingly at the mercy of an eating disorder, and when the link got sent round my office no time was wasted in calling her ‘crazy’ and ‘life-denying’.

But. Eating disorders don’t just occur in a vacuum, and Brick is saying nothing outside the remit of what we hear, more subtly, every day. Fat is failure? Well, if nobody believed this, how would diet companies succeed in shilling low-cal ice cream? Whole industries are predicated on body dissatisfaction – both feeding off what is already there and doing their best to whip it up.

I’m embarrassed to admit that when I first read this piece, I felt a pang of recognition. Not because I harbour any desire to give up chocolate, or marry a blobsome French oaf, and not because I think losing weight would improve my career prospects. (You know what would improve my career prospects? Spending more time thinking about my career, and less time thinking about Samantha Brick.)

No, it’s more wearying than that. Like many women in our society, I am half tuned-in to the permanent white noise that conflates our value with our dress size. You can tune out these messages of course, and most of us do, refusing to obey the diktats of the crack team behind Special K. But the messages are still there, and they’re insidious. Ignoring them requires effort.

So when someone like Brick comes along, and actually says this stuff out loud, it all feels a bit, ahem, close to the bone. Ludicrous specimen of humanity though she is.

I believe the moral of this story is ‘never click on Mail Online.’


Categories: Media fails Mind & Body

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Abi Millar

British freelance journalist living in the Netherlands

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