I spent the last few weeks in peace netflixing it to the max and reading reddit ad nauseam. Just me and my blue sofa for most of the day. Pure bliss!
That’s it until yesterday, when I flicked through Facebook quickly just to make sure that I wasn’t missing on anything socially important before retreating to my own private peace and quiet. And, then…
Something caught my eye, consequently my blood boiled and I felt compelled to write and put my opinions on paper. Or, actually, on your digital screen, if you are ever so kind to stick with me and read this further down.
You see, in a world justly preoccupied with the consequences of Brexit (UK), forthcoming presidential elections (USA) and even a potential new legislation banning all abortions (Poland), the piece of news that for the past few days has been rocking my beloved motherland (Bulgaria) has been the baby blue outfit which a Bulgarian ambassador had chosen to wear for a formal meeting with the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
The colour-coordinated combo of a hat, dress, bag, gloves and shoes in baby blue along with the character, personality and professional history of its wearer were truly and horribly crucified in countless newspaper articles, blog posts and social statuses. It looked like everyone – from fashion pundits to Facebook crusaders and countless otherwise unknown Bulgarian citizens – had something to say about it and mostly it was along the lines of:
‘Her outfit is a pale imitation of the monarchic style!’ – as spoken by a Bulgarian fashion journalist.
‘Absurd, ridiculous outfit. OMG, look at the bows and feathers on her hat, so stupid. She is so vulgar, etc. etc.‘ – as spoken by many people on social media and in the comments sections of the online editions of the Bulgarian newspapers.
I can’t show you the respective outfit, as the picture which was circulated unabashedly by the Bulgarian media, is copyrighted and it has transpired that no-one has been actually authorised to use it, especially not in this rather derogatory context.
Anyway, it is a very simple photo with the Grand Duke of Luxembourg in ceremonial dress to the right and the Bulgarian Ambassador to the left. Her outfit is meticulously matched and quite restrained with a small hat topping it off. Quite why it has provoked such an avalanche of criticisms, I am not sure. I am not a fashion expert but having lived for 16 years outside of Bulgaria and sort of having learned to accept dress codes different to my understanding of style, I thought her outfit was somehow similar to what a traditional mother of the bride, for example, would wear to the church ceremony or to a very formal event.
In any case, having looked quickly at the photo it didn’t disturb me in any way. What disturbed me though was the barrage of criticism, scorn and pure hate which said outfit and said Ambassador attracted.
She was called every possible name under the sun and, disturbingly, this all happened not in the privacy of personal homes but out there in the open. In newspapers and online everyone was armed and dangerous ready to spew fire and brimstone while hiding behind titles like ‘Protocol Expert’, ‘Journalist’ or simply ‘Can Type, Will Post My Opinion’.
One such ‘journalist and protocol expert’ even went so far so as to write a truly mocking and derisive piece of journalistic trash imaging the interior of the Ambassador’s home and bravely proclaiming that the Ambassador most likely has a plastic gondola, a red plush heart-shaped cushion and several such other objects which said ‘journalist and protocol expert’ deemed a terrible kitsch.
Actually, it was all a figment of said ‘journalist and protocol expert’s’ wild imagination, but it was written in such a way, that it was quite likely for the rushed reader to be left with the idea that actually this is exactly how the Ambassador’s home was decorated.
Then said ‘journalist and protocol expert’ went even further by laying down her own understanding of what the Ambassador should have worn to the meeting. Her piece was written in a mocking, accusing and preaching tone. For me it made for a very uncomfortable reading and, most importantly, when I asked said ‘journalist and protocol expert’ on Facebook what is the point of making fun of another woman, this so called ‘journalist and protocol expert’ ignored me, never replied to me and thus broke the simplest rule of protocol, i.e. being able to explain one’s stand and reply to polite criticism.
So, all this histeria over a baby blue outfit has been raging for a few days in my beloved but so conflicted motherland, when the Ambassador actually gave a very detailed and rather restrained (considering the character assassination she had been subjected to in the media) interview. She explained quite well how before the meeting with the Grand Duke of Luxembourg she had been given a booklet with all the requirements she had to fulfill. Several of those referred to the style of dress she was to wear. Everything had been stipulated in a minute detail – from the acceptable colours to the fact that she was not to remove her gloves at any point during the meeting.
The outfit itself had been tailormade by a Belgian fashion studio specialised in bespoke formal dress and attire for court events and other such functions.
I am as of yet to read an article or an opinion piece by any of the so called ‘journalists’ and ‘protocol experts’, and ‘fashion pundits’ in Bulgaria eating a bit of humble pie and actually, if not straightway apologising, then at least extending some sort of an olive branch to the Ambassador.
And, you know what?! This is so typical.
So totally typical and stereotypical for the Bulgarian woman. Since the day we are born Bulgarian girls and then women are moulded to criticise. Everything and everyone!
It starts at nursery, progresses through school and college and then continues unabashedly at our places of work and at any gathering of friends.
Every season is open. Everyone is an easy prey.
For everyone is free to express their opinion (which, obviously, is the only valid opinion there is). For everything is based on:
- an inflated sense of self (usually strengthened by a very restricted reality we cohabit); and
- an overblown fear of what ‘others’ may think of you.
As a child in Bulgaria, when you do something slightly out of the ‘ordinary’, your mum and granny quickly correct you, usually by telling you with a half-threatening tone: ‘What are the people going to think of you?!’
Said ‘people’ being the vast number of any person or persons who may be out and about walking on the street at that very moment, or they can be your peers at nursery or school or at your work place. With time said ‘people’ become this large scary spectre which is always out there to get you, to pass judgement on how you are dressed, how you behave, how you lead your life.
It is not just the hills that have eyes in Bulgaria. The villages have eyes, the towns have eyes, the cities have eyes, the streets and the houses have eyes, too. Everyone looks at how you are dressed and how you behave. Are you wearing something outside of the currently acceptable fashion sense?! Are you speaking with a louder voice than what it is deemed socially acceptable?! Are you slightly bigger than what it is established to be aesthetically pleasing?!
God help you if you don’t conform or if you happen to be born a bit different. Like being shorter than ‘normal’, fatter than ‘normal’, taller than ‘normal’, more outspoken than ‘normal’. Immediately, there will be a woman or several of them discussing your trespasses, passing judgement on your body and your behaviour, openly expressing their dislike in you.
It is so deeply seated this ‘right to judge’ that often it rears its ugly head when you least expect it, when you are at your most vulnerable.
Starting with girls at school easily and openly passing judgement along the lines of ‘she is so fat‘, ‘she is so stupid‘, ‘she is so ugly‘, not stopping for one second to think about the impact of such strong words. Then, in shops when you go to buy yourself some clothes to make yourself feeling beautiful, the sales assistant would look you up and down and say rather loudly: ‘No, we don’t have this in your size. They don’t make it in this size.’ And then, at work, women would band together and announce what they think of a hapless peer, which any day could be simply you:
She is fat.
She is a slut.
She is really ugly.
I don’t understand what he sees in her.
Tell me, what exactly do we achieve by negating other women?!
Are we perhaps so amazing, so perfect in every possible way, so divine in our self-assured and self-established intelligence and beauty, that we feel free in our God-given right to judge others?! Or are we simply so full of insecurities that by dragging down in the mud another woman we can feel slightly better about ourselves and our shortcomings which we are only too well aware of?!
And by calling another woman ‘fat’, ‘stupid’, ‘ugly’, or as in the case of the Ambassador and her outfit – ‘ice cream sundae‘ – due to the small bows in her hat, how do you think this reflects on us?
Do you think other people hearing you and reading you expressing your hate with such strong uncalled for words will respect you more, love you more? Or would they simply go along with you just because they are too scared that your split tongue would turn against them as soon as they fall out of favour with you?
And why do we, dear Bulgarian women, find it so easy to slag each other and live our lives in a constant aspiration to bring down as many other women as we possibly can?
A person I respect a lot made fun of the Ambassador’s outfit in one of her Facebook posts. I asked her what exactly was wrong with it after all. And she replied: ‘It’s absurd. And there are thousands of ways not to look absurd. The easiest and most accessible way is the availability of a mirror‘.
You know what?! I concur! We all need a mirror. But not to reflect the world in it and then pass a personal opinion as a universal truth from the high position of a mirror-holder. Instead, we need to turn the mirror towards ourselves and see how much we actually like what we see in it. And this will be the hardest judgement each one of us will ever make.
What do you think? What is the point of slagging other women? And why do women feel the need to bring each other down? Share with me your impressions and observations in the ‘Comments’ section below. I would love to read them and engage with you.