Samantha Brick with her husband Pascal Rubinat.
Last night on 60 Minutes Liam Bartlett moved along a now four-month old story by pitting Samantha Brick, the woman who says she is hated by other women for being beautiful, against Germaine Greer for what was supposed to be the ultimate showdown between feminists and non feminists, blonde girls versus old hags, happy housewives versus uptight, politically correct, working women.
The teaser line for the story went something like "Meet the woman who has the feminists up in arms" as if a bunch of Feminazis were foaming at the mouth somewhere on a street corner burning bras and carrying placards. Before the Brick segment, Sandra Cleary reported on a harrowing story about men who murder their wives. These men received lenient sentences because they were able to convince a jury that their spouse had provoked them. But yeah, the Brick story is the one that has the feminists "up in arms".
Bartlett asked Brick, who is regularly weighed by her husband, a series of leading questions about how she feels being a 'kept woman' who not only has to stay trim for him but must also tend to the needs of the portly French man, including buying and preparing five-course meals and massaging his head with lavender oil. Bartlett then went to Greer for her response, which ran the full gamut from outraged to indignant.
Isn't this scintillating TV - pitting women against each other? Isn't it fab that 60 Minutes chose not to consult a psychologist to translate Brick's belief system for us, but instead went to The Greer? Why, it's a virtual mud wrestle we've got on hands! Let's re-create Brick's delusions about women for the people at home!
Before he cut to Brick, Bartlett began with a caveat, warning the men of Australia that should they agree with Brick's ideas about women staying at home to cook and clean and look pretty they would be wise to keep that thought to themselves. Because Australian husbands are just seething with resentment over the fact that they can't tell their ugly wives to help out more around the house.
Except that, according to statistics released just two months ago, women already do more of the housework than men - including cooking meals.
But back to Brick: I'm going to sound like everyone's mother here and say that it matters little whether we think Samantha Brick is beautiful or not. What matters is - does she think she is beautiful? And I submit to you that she does not. Don't believe me? Before she penned the piece that enraged the world, Brick, (a regular writer for the Daily Mail, which raises the question, how can we call someone a 'trophy wife' if they're already earning their own income as a writer?) But anyway, Brick wrote an article a year ago - in April 2011 entitled Why I’ll always be that Fat Girl in which she confesses her poor body image and her obsession over her weight.
So we see it's not that her husband is obsessed with her weight so much as Brick herself, who has brought someone into her life to obsess over it for her. This, I'd wager, is so that when she does skip dinner after eating a chocolate bar, (as she mentions in her piece) instead of feeling like she has disordered eating habits, she can feel virtuous knowing she has pleased daddy. No, that's not a Freudian slip. (But more on this later).
OK, let's say that Brick truly believes other women hate her for her beauty. Logic dictates that it's not the feminists who are doing the hating. This is because feminists understand something Brick may not: that no woman should be defined solely by her appearance. This means that feminists believe that no woman deserves to be hated for it either. Moreover, if Brick is happy at home then us feminists actually don't care. It's her choice, remember?
Let's look at this revealing piece Brick wrote last month about her French husband, entitled I Snoop on My Man's Emails because I don't Trust Other Women
Notice what Brick is saying - it's not her man she doesn't trust - it's other women. So if Brick's husband chooses to sleep with someone else it's not his fault, it's the fault of all those women who probably already hate Brick for being gorgeous. Can I play Oprah for a sec here and suggest, (as I have before) that the problem is not her beauty, the problem is how Brick perceives women? And that it all began with her own family?
In a piece written in response to the maelstrom in April, Brick wrote "Unashamedly, I am a daddy’s girl, utterly confident in my father’s love. For as long as I can remember, I got birthday cards from him addressed to ‘my No 1 girl’. While he was probably referring to the fact I was his eldest daughter (he has five) I interpreted it as meaning I was No 1 in his life."
Why the need for no. 1? Surely being loved by your father is enough? Not, I’d wager, when you have four other women you're already competing with - and that's not including mum.
But all of this beauty and 'good wife' talk is a distraction anyway. Not only did 60 Minutes set up their own nice little dichotomous pyjama party for us gals; they seemed to be operating out of the assumption that most Aussie women hate their husbands and most husbands hate their wives. Are we meant to quiver with rage when we find out Brick massages her husband's head with lavender oil? Sure, he's no Jon Hamm, but it's nothing more than an affectionate gesture isn't it? Is that really a sword in the side of feminism?
When Bartlett said to Brick, "If I told my wife she needed to lose weight I'd end up in hospital ... or in the dog house." Bartlett was implying that your average bloke would love to tell his wife how fat she is. So what stops him? Not love and respect - oh perish the thought! No, it's good old retrograde Everybody Loves Raymond style fear. And it's women like that big bad bully Germaine Greer who only add to the problem - by frightening men into submission.
Is this what marriage has come to in this country? That our spouses would love to rise up, and put us in our place if only they weren't so afraid of us? Because if this is the case - and even if it's not, let's say 60 Minutes just wanted to suggest it was -then I'd say Samantha Brick is the least of 'the feminists' problems.