When the spectacularly anti-feminist When Harry Met Sally won a vote last week, I realised how out of touch I am with most women

For me it was like trying to find a feminist bone in a giant candyfloss, yet apparently this film spoke more to the women of today than Tracey Emin’s searing comment on the modern world

Jenny Eclair
Monday 26 February 2018 13:04 GMT
The famous installation ‘My Bed’ was the best way of marking 100 years since women got the vote, I thought. Apparently not
The famous installation ‘My Bed’ was the best way of marking 100 years since women got the vote, I thought. Apparently not (EPA)

Tricky, isn’t it, when one is faced with the realisation that quite a lot of people think your views are stupid?

I think since the Brexit vote we’ve all experienced this: the creeping recognition that roughly half the population fundamentally disagrees with everything you thought was right and proper.

I was on tour in 2016 when my side lost the referendum, and afterwards I felt like a football fan who’d travelled to another country to watch a match, only to witness a devastating away defeat.

The UK felt instantly alien to me. Visiting a motorway service station the next day, I developed an immediate suspicion of all sorts of people: “Was it you that put the cross in the wrong box?” I became completely irrational about it and I wish I could say it has worn off, but it hasn’t – not completely.

One of the advantages of working a great deal by myself is that I’m not used to being surrounded by people who don’t see life through the same lens as I do. Me, myself and I tend to agree on most things – although sometimes there’s a tussle over lunch when we fall out over what I should be having and what I want.

But on the whole, I am my own boss. I dance to the tunes I like, I live with a man whose views I respect and I surround myself on social media with agreeably like-minded sorts.

Hence I live in a bubble of my own curating. This bubble is undeniably London-centric, liberal-thinking and a bit arty-farty; I follow and converse with mostly writers and comedians, journalists and designers.

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As for the people who follow me, the only thing that’s a definite is that they don’t mind swearing. Apart from that, I kind of trust them to be on the same wavelength; we all like profanity stitching (subversive embroidery), afternoon naps, a bit of theatre, bit of telly, lots of art, good book recommendations and a general over-the-garden-wall natter.

I have got myself into hot water on a few occasions and been sharply reminded to “check my privilege” – which is fair enough considering I’m rolling in the stuff – but I can’t say my Twitter feed ever escalates into anything more aggressive than a feisty coffee morning.

Obviously writing for a national newspaper is a great deal riskier when it comes to people taking your opinions to task. If one is daft enough to below the comments line, then within seconds you will know how it feels to have your soul dropkicked into a bin round the back of an abattoir.

Fortunately I have a magic ego, which is capable of deflating entirely and then pumping itself back up again. And to be quite honest, unless the reader is a mouth-frothing lunatic, I can often see their point of view; sometimes I even find myself nodding along and muttering, “Fair point, well made”, but mostly I don’t, because I can’t imagine what it would be like not to think like me.

Case in point came last week, when I was invited onto Radio 4’s Front Row to debate which piece of “female-generated” work would best mark 100 years since many women got the vote. I was batting for Tracey Emin’s installation, “My Bed”, while a bright young female writer and performer was championing the Nora Ephron film When Harry Met Sally.

I watched the film as research, only vaguely remembering the thing from many years ago, and found myself clench-cheeked at the sheer banality of it. The entire movie seemed to shriek, “Quick, girls – grab a man before it’s too late or you end up on the shelf for life!” Marriage appeared its only point; for me it was like trying to find a feminist bone in a giant candyfloss.

I felt pretty smug. I reckoned I had this one in the bag. How could someone really hold this piece of feelgood crap up against the searing honesty of Tracey’s filthy condom-strewn sheets, the brimming ashtrays and empty vodka bottles?

After all, the bed is so much a part of life: most of us are born, have sex and die in one. Tracey’s bed is a pit of blood, sweat and tears and I thought: “We’ve all been there.”

Only apparently not. In the Front Row studio, the Twitter votes were counted live and by the end of the program, it was a landslide victory for When Harry Met Sally.

I literally felt the wind leave my sails. I nearly had to put my head between my knees. It was like Brexit all over again, only worse because it wasn’t even a close-run thing: I was trounced. It seemed that 70 per cent of voting listeners genuinely preferred a Happy Ever After to the brutal reality of a heavy-drinking, chainsmoking woman falling to pieces in her period-stained bed.

I’m still getting over it; in fact, I’ve decided that in protest, I’m never going to change my sheets again. Ha, I win.

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