I recall, soon after watching “Bridget Jones’s Diary”, my school friend’s mother saying to us girls in a tearful, infant-like voice, “Aw, there’s a bit of Bridget in all of us”.
I daren’t contradict and say “Not in this one” because they were dutifully putting me up in their cosy mansion in a picturesque English market town.
If she said so, it must be right and as a guest, and especially a foreigner I had no right to disagree.
The English can be very kind to outsiders, almost too kind, so long as you agree with them and never challenge their perception of you. But the idea that I, a Balkan Jew, could possibly have anything in common with the most nondescript, insipid Western female fictional character of all time, filled me with a fiendish kind of fury.
Forget Sex and the City: those girls at the very least took pride in their appearance. But Bridget Jones, the movie and character did not, though this isn’t really about appearance. It is about feeling.
What struck me most about the movie, was how good it made other women feel. It seems, watching a plain, developmentally arrested woman screw up on screen makes Western women feel cosy and comfortable.
With me, it was the opposite: I felt pathetic. I wondered if perhaps there was something wrong with me for not identifying with this klutz, and it took me a while to figure out the truth: that I don’t care for petty schadenfreude. I don’t care that she had a meltdown when her new boyfriend saw her large granny knickers just as he was about to motorboat her, or that she was the only single woman in a party full of couples.
And nor should any other grown up. It’s not witty, it’s not even embarrassing. It’s unimaginative and promotes a culture whereby it is acceptable to be a great big infant over petty every-day events.
But such is the ethos of the modern day West. At school, we had the ‘tarts’ and everyone else. The tarts were usually prettier and better dressed. They would attack the dance floor with their long thin legs and large breasts. They were also in the minority. Perversely, however and unlike everywhere else in the civilised world, the emphasis was more on appearance than behaviour. One could be labeled a ‘tart’ even if one was technically a virgin and vice versa.
There are a few distinct differences between women of the West and pretty much every other woman in the world: women all over want to be seen and admired, while their Western counterparts want to be invisible. Looking grubby is chic. Moth holes in cashmere become Kate Moth and cool and putting oneself down and revealing one’s gruesome habits is a requirement.
All one has to do is go to Notting Hill and observe those too posh to wash, blaming their dog and dog walking trips for their dirty fingernails. And if they don’t look and smell like vagrants, they are caricatures of the female species. They are Invisible and unnatural either way. Western men, it seems are better women than women.
This paradox exists within most women around the world to varying degrees, but nowhere as conspicuously as it does in the English speaking West. For a culture that prides itself on equality and democracy, the Madonna-Whore conjunction is alive and well, the struggle to grasp the fact that one doesn’t have to deny one’s womanhood to be respected and accepted. Nor ought one treat one’s pussy as one’s most valuable asset. Any woman who does so, deserves to be screwed.
But Western ladies also deny their womanhood because they are surprisingly ill at ease with their own concepts of civilisation. They feel unconsciously, pre-consciously or indeed consciously that the Madonna and the Whore cannot co-exist within one entity; they believe that human biology, human urges, human needs, human silliness are somehow incompatible with the civilised world they seek to impose a mechanistic ideal upon.
The dark satanic mills of ages past have become the dark satanic guilt of the present day.
Therefore, when one decides to rebel against such conformist mores, one generally does so in an unmeasured and hysterical away, as though unconsciously seeking the reproach society will inevitably thrust upon you and wearing it as a badge of courage.
In more balanced societies this schism does not exist. Thucydides said that one of the defining features of the Athenian man is that he can be culturally cultivated and simultaneously masculine. One can apply the exact same sentiment to a woman in a culture that has not yet lost the plot.