U..G…L..Y… you ain’t got no alibi…

So unless you were under a rock this week you’ll have caught the furore around a tabloid feature where a woman wrote about her experiences of being judged by other women for being beautiful.

It was a silly article – commissioned by a newspaper with a long, proud heritage of commissioning articles with the sole intention of driving hysterical Middle Englanders into fits of self-righteous rage.

Because, after all, newspapers are a product and people don’t sit on a website hitting refresh when they violently agree with something. So the words will be ramped up, the photos carefully selected with just the right dress, shoes, and facial expression.

As a journalist, honestly, I look on these features as little more than panto. A print equivalent of the bloke who pushed Rita under the tram in Coronation Street. I’m quite an opinionated person, but I find it hard to get even a little bit riled by this stuff – it’s so transparent.

Every society needs a villain – someone to become the focus of mob rage. After all, while we’re railing against women who don’t know their own limits, we’re not wondering why those limits are still there, are we?

But what I do find really depressing is the increasing regularity of these Twitter-storms, where people (mostly women) round on the authors of these articles. And the insult most often thrown in their direction? They’re ugly.


Women have spent decades fighting for equality. For the right not to be judged on our gender, not to be belittled and overlooked and seen as nothing more than a collection of body parts that can be ranked out of 10 for sexual attractiveness.

Yes, the reporter said she thinks she’s pretty. She thinks other women don’t like women who are more attractive than themselves. Hmm. Judging by the response to her feature, I’m going to say she may well have a point.

Most of us – let’s be honest – don’t meet textbook definitions of beautiful. I don’t. I know this because at least once a month, someone on the Internet will feel compelled to point out to me my lack of attractiveness. Usually because I’ve disappointed them in some way by expressing an opinion. Silly me.

Sometimes people do it with the best of intentions. Like the woman who once looked me up and down at a party before putting her hand on my arm and saying, in a voice dripping with insincerity, “You’re so lucky, Sally, that you’ll never be judged on your beauty.” I had made the grave error of dating her ex-boyfriend, of course.

I was able to laugh in that woman’s face because what she didn’t understand is that – honestly – it doesn’t matter.

The sum of a life is so much more than what your face happens to look like, or the size of your thighs. Watch someone take their last breath at the age of 27, and it gives you a different perspective on this stuff, I promise you.

But women – really – every single time you play the “she’s ugly” card, you’re playing right into the hands of all of those people who believe the value of a woman lies in her bra size and the colour of her hair. That whatever a woman says, or feels, or achieves, will always be secondary to her dress size.

We’re parents, many of us. To girls who we hope will grow into strong, confident women who won’t simply be judged on how pretty they are – or aren’t. So let’s put the ugly card back in the box, where it belongs.


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 5th April 2012 / 8:25 am

    Cracking post Sally. Couldn’t agree more. Did you read the Jezebel take on the whole Samantha Brick thing? Interesting.

    • 6th April 2012 / 8:57 pm

      I’ve read it now – excellent piece, thanks for the tip!

  2. Lisa @ hollybobbs
    5th April 2012 / 8:35 am

    Well said! I once had a girl tell my husband he looked 21 and that I looked 33 (we were 24 & 25 at the time) becaus she liked my hubby. Silly girl.

    • 6th April 2012 / 8:57 pm

      Ouch! I think those passive aggressive barbs are SO funny.

  3. Nikki
    5th April 2012 / 8:39 am

    I wholeheartedly agree Sally with your post – although I must admit I’ve tuned most of the new furore out – it just doesn’t interest me. If your post changes just one person’s attitude, then I say it’s a win win!

    As for people posting to you at least once a month with a personal slur – I’m astounded. Seriously? I guess when you put your opinions out there you’re bound to be criticised, but on a physical level? What? Are we still 11 and in the playground? Grow up people.

    • 6th April 2012 / 8:59 pm

      Oh, sure. I mean – who’d want to miss the opportunity to let another person know they are overweight or have a funny face? Sigh… it’s water off a duck’s back. I mean, if you want to talk ugly, I think the actual ugly is the people coming out with that sort of thing.

  4. 5th April 2012 / 9:58 am

    Hi Sally
    When I read all the comments and tweets on that article, I thought the same. Every negative comment about this woman was proving her point.
    There is another ridiculous article doing the rounds today – you’re right about it all just being panto.

    • 6th April 2012 / 8:59 pm

      Yes! Definitely panto, don’t get sucked in!

  5. Zoë
    5th April 2012 / 11:59 am

    Amen 🙂

  6. Rosie Hattersley
    5th April 2012 / 11:57 am

    Great article Sally. Avoided reading the story that inspired yet another Twitter-storm (yawn), but your post was definitely worth reading and makes excellent points about women doing each other down

    • 6th April 2012 / 8:59 pm

      Thanks Rosie!

  7. 5th April 2012 / 12:28 pm

    Well said. I confess I read the original article and enjoyed some of the spoofs but there are more important things in life – and I do sometimes wonder if the internet was designed to distract us from them. “After all, while we’re railing against women who don’t know their own limits, we’re not wondering why those limits are still there, are we?” Exactly.

    • 6th April 2012 / 9:00 pm

      Yes, it’s a shame how we can get SO mobilised about something so trivial, and yet be so apathetic about much more hideous and insidious stuff.

  8. Vegemitevix
    5th April 2012 / 1:54 pm

    Spot on Sally exactly what I felt like writing. Of course it benefits the unequal rights movement and outrageous chauvinism if women are made to feel extraneous. We are the picture on the wall, and if we’re not a very nice picture we are overlooked.

    • 6th April 2012 / 9:00 pm

      Or mocked. Because – heck – what’s funnier than a woman who doesn’t measure up?

  9. 5th April 2012 / 6:56 pm

    Well said Sally. I have also written about this and made a similar point. It’s very depressing to see this woman ridiculed as deluded, when we could have been having a proper discussion about the wider issues touched on by her article.

    • 6th April 2012 / 9:01 pm

      Absolutely – and there were wider issues – whether people agreed or disagreed it might have been nice to talk about those.

  10. TheBoyandMe
    5th April 2012 / 7:34 pm

    I personally feel that some of the vitriolic comments about the opinion expressed by the author were based in an inability to believe her confidence, and possibly arrogance? I felt she was an attractive woman, but not enough to proclaim in a national newspaper that she was essentially the woman in the Impulse advert.

    However, I know you’re not making the point of whether she is pretty or not. The reaction was extreme, and it was scathing. I think it was seated in arrogance more than looks but you are right, the need to judge a woman by the flatness of her stomach or the quality of her highlights is ridiculous. Women have worked long and hard to try and gain equality, but my issue is that when you have someone publishing an article like that you may as well put a pinny back on all the women who have worked to counter that attitude. She did more damage to the cause than the responses in my opinion.

    • 6th April 2012 / 9:02 pm

      I agree but I think what’s sad is that people weren’t criticising her arrogance. They were criticising her appearance. In a disagreement, the quickest way to knock a woman down a peg or two is to call her ugly. And I think we do ourselves, as women, a great disservice every time we fall into that trap.

      • TheBoyandMe
        7th April 2012 / 9:30 pm

        I’d agree with you on that one, it seems like it’s the lowest blow but absolutely should not be. What hope do the future generation of strong women have if they see this being modelled.

        (It’s almost like they weren’t on the ball enough to realise that they should criticise her arrogance, they resorted to the image issue)

  11. 6th April 2012 / 8:47 am

    The ‘U UGLY’ backlash was a head-desk moment for me too. Pointing out that the experiences the article writer has may be more to do with her own behaviour and prejudices is one thing, but all the ‘Love, you aren’t all that’ reactions just missed the point entirely.

    I also agree that it was classic Liberal-Baiting. I joked with you at the time that it’s Liz Jones I feel sorry for, but that’s exactly what this was aimed at. It’s almost as if everyone goes ‘Oh, that’s just Liz Jones being Liz Jones’ now, so The DM is creating a new Aunt Sally for us all to chuck stuff at.

    • 6th April 2012 / 9:04 pm

      Poor old Liz, eh? I wish we just didn’t get so easily sucked into this hysteria.

  12. susie@newdaynewlesson
    6th April 2012 / 10:28 am

    Commented to you on twitter but yes, I must have been under a rock this week lol. (or just passover cleaning)

    • 6th April 2012 / 9:04 pm

      Cleaning? Umm… I wasn’t doing that.

  13. 6th April 2012 / 3:34 pm

    *Cheering from my computer*

    I so agree. Women didn’t chain themselves to railings for the right to wear hold-in-your-tummy pants and push-up bras, get good haircuts and nice make-up. This kind of stuff makes me so angry. It’s like women are saying “give us back our chains”.

    The huge irony is this. As women, we all learn to feel our bodies and faces are inadequate. But ask most men. They like us. They don’t think we should all look like the latest film star or model. It’s just a stupid female bandwagon.


    • 6th April 2012 / 9:04 pm

      Absolutely agree with you – it’s women attacking women in 90% of the cases I see.