Something just struck me. Absentmindedly browsed Facebook while I was having a cigarette. Oh, I know, we did give up in January, but we’re allowed to smoke when we’re having a drink and today is Saturday so after IKEA and shopping for some new clobber for B, we’re having some vino.
An interview with my childhood bestie M has just been published in the Swedish magasine ‘Kvinna’ (kvinna = woman). She is head of PR and Communication for Scandinavia at one of the world’s biggest beauty brands, having worked her way up from scratch with no qualifications or university education to speak of. The girl’s done bloody good! And needless to say, I am incredibly proud of her and she is more than deserving of all the accolades she is now enjoying, being named as Sweden’s number one PR professional for 2015 to name but one. Trust me, I admire her endlessly and feel utter joy how this childhood friend of mine is doing so well. She’s worked her backside off and no one deserves it more than she does.
M was a model back in the day, and can only be described as utterly beautiful – tall, slender and bears a strong resemblance to Julia Roberts, with a mouth and lips that Angelina Jolie would be envious of, and cheekbones so amazing Michelangelo would have struggled to reproduce them on a sculpture. I do need to point this out – her beauty is undeniable.
Now. M shared the link to the article on Facebook. The article is about her, as a woman in a senior position at a major company, and achieving that elusive work-life balance. It’s not about her looks, even though there are several photos and even a section with her best beauty advice, which points out that she used to be a model. Her looks is not the essence of this interview, however. It is an article about a high-powered woman – or PERSON!! – and her perspective on how to balance work with life and family.
Of course, we have all commented. I clicked on ‘like’ and shared it on my own Facebook wall with the caption “the fantastic [M]” as well as commenting. In my comment I just put two emoticons: a thumbs-up and a little smiley blowing a kiss. The vast majority of the countless comments say “you’re so beautiful”, “gorgeous!”, “goodlooking and smart” and so on and so forth. Whilst all of that is true, of course (she IS beautiful, gorgeous and goodlooking, as well as smart), why is her looks the first thing we feel inclined to praise?
How about WOW, you worked so hard for this, well done! Or, WOW, what a great business woman you are! Or, WOW, well effing done?
Instead, the comments are filled with compliments about M’s looks! Sure, she’s stunning, but for me, these comments almost detract from the facts of the matter: she is fucking great at what she does, she’s worked hard to get to where she is and she is an amazing professional and role model.
What struck me, is that this probably wouldn’t be the case if M were a man. B is undoubtedly seriously gorgeous, and at the very least on par with my beautiful friend M, and he is very successful in his job (oh, and he is being elevated as we speak, clever sod – VERY good things are happening). If he shared a link to an interview, would the majority comment on his good looks? I think not! I might, but I’m his partner, and if anyone else started to go “WOW you’re so gorgeous” it’d probably be perceived as quite weird.
If you’re a woman, it seems like it’s almost surprising that you can A) be so successful, and B) and DESPITE being goodlooking?! Goodness gracious!
That pissed me off a little if I’m honest. Because I’ve had that too. Not that I’m a model, and I certainly don’t resemble Julia Roberts – I’m probably just a bit cute, but even being ‘a bit cute’ has meant that I’ve been met with surprise almost when I’ve proven myself to be quite brainy. The lady who took my details when I did my Mensa test was a glaring example. She looked at me as if I’d turned up at the wrong address and for a moment I thought she wanted to direct me to the handbag section at Selfridges (with which I am more than familiar, but I like complicated math problems just as much). Blond girls with big eyes and boobs didn’t belong there in her book. Well, I could be wrong, perhaps she was snooty with everyone that day, but she did conform to something I have experienced far too often.
So it irritates me to see that people’s first reaction to this amazing chick isn’t to celebrate how great she is professionally, but rather to comment on how pretty she is. Yes, she IS breathtakingly beautiful, but come on! It’s almost condecending!
So there you go – the antifeminist Anna has got some pretty harsh feminist views for once!