Most people’s reaction to Samantha Brick’s Daily Mail article about the perils of being an attractive woman was: “But she’s not even that beautiful”! For those in the trade, it was: “Clever sub-editor.” Or possibly: “Evil sub-editor.”
You can write a piece about how the DM hates women, and of course Hadley Freeman of The Guardian already has (find it here if you want to read the words “The Daily Mail hates women” repeated a number of times). But that’s hardly the purpose of this blog. This blog is intended for sub-editors, and fans of good sub-editing. Good subs understand their readers, and so any good sub knows that headlines such as this do not appear because that newspaper or its editorial team hate women. They appear because its readers do; specifically, readers of its Femail section. Women hate women. So this is really a very good headline.
Was it fair? Do they know their own strength? Does the sub in question have a pang of regret at the troll lynching Ms Brick has received since the piece went online, or have they been cackling away at their own genius since Tuesday? Let’s call her “she”, in fact, because I feel relatively sure it’s a woman. Only a woman truly understands how much women hate women. She may feel either way; on the few occasions I have tried out something like this on a page, I have usually toned it down on second thoughts. But the DM doesn’t pull its punches – so that while The Guardian may accuse it of wife-beating, it has had fantastic global publicity.
For my part, I heard about it from a friend at The National in Dubai, with whom I’m staying this week. The Middle Eastern angle on it is interesting because the reason Ms Brick’s (or her sub’s) tone offends people is that it is not modest. There does seem from this remove to be something rather odd about a culture that urges a woman constantly to look beautiful, groom herself carefully, emulate this or that celebrity, and then condemns her for acknowledging that people find her attractive. It’s counterintuitive. But kudos to the sub for understanding it.