The 33-year-old, who studied science and medical research, was interviewed in the Daily Mirror yesterday and subsequently on This Morning after saying she was quitting employment because her good looks made her work life so unbearable.
She claimed her female colleagues hated her and her male colleagues just kept on asking her out on dates.
“I wanted them to recognise my achievements and my professionalism but all they saw was my face and body,” she told the Mirror. “Even when I was in a laboratory in scrubs with no make-up they still came on to me because of my natural attractiveness.”
I could talk about why it is that her male colleagues were asking her out – was it because they were attracted to her self-esteem? I could talk about the fact that she is not doing herself any favours by probably alienating her female colleagues – beautiful women (and there are lots of them) are somehow capable of having female friends. I could talk about how neither Fernee nor Brick’s super-confidence about their own beauty should be worthy of national press coverage.
And this brings me on to what I really want to talk about – the motives of the media. There’s something disturbing about why in fact such stories do gain such huge attention; the Fernee story is currently the most read on the Mirror’s website, for example. And it’s because the media puppeteers know that such stories get women’s backs up; playing on their insecurities about their own beauty or perceived lack of it. Would a story about a woman who claimed she was ‘far too clever for her own good’ have hit the headlines? I doubt it.
And the message that the media who profile such stories are sending is that women are supposed to feel rubbish about themselves. And anyone who feels really, really good about the way she looks is to be hauled before the firing line of online comments and bitchy backlash.
This is not ok.
We need to wake up to the realisation that we live in a world where that quest for physical beauty is seen as a woman’s primary goal in life; but yet she is never to achieve this beauty because a woman who is content and comfortable in her own skin does not spend money keeping the fashion, anti-ageing, diet, self-help and cosmetics industries in business.
In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf calls for a “non-competitive” version of beauty in which women are free to appreciate each other’s beauty and celebrate together.
“We have to stop reading each others’ appearances as if appearance were language, political allegiance, worthiness or aggression,” Wolf writes. “Why must one woman’s pleasure and pride have to mean another woman’s pain?”
I hope that one day the media’s attempts to expose women’s insecurities in this way fail; that their quests to get web hits and fill comments boards by sacrificing self-confessed beauties flop.
Because I hope that one day, when we see such stories, we’ll simply turn the page. And get on with that world-changing business.