Making the Most of your ‘Erotic Capital’

Would I have a job by now if my hem line was a little higher or my top was a little lower?

According to Samantha Brick in today’s Daily Mail I would be several rungs further up the career ladder by now. Here she is, the saucy minx.

She claims that if you look after your appearance and flirt just the right amount with your male superiors – without actually going as far as sleeping your way to the top – you’ll zoom past your colleagues who simply show up and focus on doing their jobs.

Brick claims that not only did her investment in her looks and ‘erotic capital’ advance her career, it has also led to a huge amount of flattering attention from men in all walks of life. Downsides? Her first marriage failed because her husband ‘couldn’t deal with her success’… or possibly because he didn’t like it how his wife openly flirted with any man in sight for the sake of a promotion or a bottle of champagne.

Brick, 41, has also lost many friends over the years due to their ‘jealousy’ of her looks, but it seems more than possible that it’s also something to do with her smug superiority complex.

Twitter is abuzz with people making fun of her. Many are simply rolling their eyes at the thoughts of all this fuss over an article in the Daily Mail. So is there anything to it?

Simply put, yes.

I’ve been wrestling with this all morning (one of the rare luxuries of being unemployed), but despite the fact that every feminist bone in my body is screaming ‘NO’, the more I think about it the more obvious it seems.

We judge people by how they look all the time. Low cut top and a short skirt? Slut. Pastel coloured skirt-suit? Classy. Blonde? Dumb/Have more fun. Short hair? Lesbian. We make a million judgement calls a day about people based on nothing more than a cursory glance.

Is it right? Hell no! But it is a fact of life.

When we go for job interviews we shower, do our hair nicely, wear our best clothes and make ourselves up. Why? Because we want to put the best possible image of ourselves forward. Because we understand if we go in jeans and a t-shirt we will not be taken seriously.

And what Samantha Brick is talking about is keeping that level of effort up even after you have the job, so that you will continue to be seen in the best possible light and you will get promotions and people will like you.

I recently left a job where it was suggested that I was chastised for not wearing high heels, and I term that misogynistic bullshit, but I still went in there every day with freshly washed and styled hair, make-up and nice clothes because I was in sales and I understand that no one wants to buy from someone who looks shabby!

More controversially, Brick talks about spending time and effort flirting with her male superiors. When you put it like that, she sounds like a silly bitch – but she’s writing in the Daily Mail, she’s being paid to be antagonistic!

What she’s really talking about is a game we play with our bosses all the time to be looked on favourably. We pretend to care about their kids, their holiday in the south of France or their stamp collection; we compliment their new haircut or outfit no matter how awful they are and no matter how unfunny or inappropriate they are we laugh at their jokes!

This storm in a teacup is happening because what Samantha Brick calls flirting, most of us would simply call sucking up.

Brick seems like an idiot to me, she’s not half as good looking as she thinks she is, nor as successful. But all she has actually done is create a bit of controversy with the language in which she made two points which are in fact truisms

  • If you want to be successful in your industry, look the part and you’ll get promoted
  • Get on well with your boss, take an interest in their lives and do whatever you can to get them to like you and you’ll get promoted

So ladies – are you making the most of your erotic capital? And men, do you allow yourselves to be manipulated by those that are?

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Comment (4)

  • sosassyandsingle| April 3, 2012

    great read! if we don’t make the most of our erotic capital aren’t there others out there who will be?

    • Katie| April 3, 2012

      See I have a job interview tomorrow and this is what I’m thinking – If there’s another girl going for it with similar quals/experience but she made more of an effort in the morning she’s clearly going to get the job over me. So whether we like it or not we kind of *have* to engage in it.

  • onechosenfamily| April 4, 2012

    I don’t know about this… Looking and feeling great is one thing, but at work I’d prefer to be appreciated for my work-related achievements. But sex still sells?

    I’m not sure I’ve made enough peace with my inner prostitute to link my sexuality with my business in the way that Samantha Brick has.

    Certainly when I worked in science this was never an issue. In fact there are many jobs where a plunging neckline would work against you. But if the centre of Brick’s ‘flirting’ is the acknowledgement and affirmation of the value of other people, of course that works.

    • Katie| April 4, 2012

      I agree, Brick worked in television where I would imagine rubbing shoulders with the right people means a lot. Many men would see right through being manipulated like that and reject it.

      I actually think she does herself something of a disservice because it must have taken a certain amount of hard work and intelligence to achieve what she did – making it sound like she flirted her way to the top denigrates her actual achievements.

      But yes, sex sells. And if a male boss has to choose between two female workers with relatively similar backgrounds to promote, he’s probably going to go with the flirty one that’s easy on the eye.

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