Little to say for myself

Friday, September 05, 2003

Sex and the City

I'm not a fan of the program myself. I only clicked on this op-ed link because I thought it referred to the Sissy Spacek version of Carrie, rather than the Sarah Jessica Parker one. However, my disappointment deepened when I read it.
The show may deserve a nod for spotlighting women's conversation, for treating sexuality frankly and for rendering the traditionally stigmatized state of being a single woman more acceptable - indeed, chic. But under the guise of being salaciously liberating and radically feminist, the vision of modern femininity in "Sex and the City" is in fact surprisingly retrograde. The heroines spend most of their time on shopping, cocktails and one-night stands. Charlotte dreams of bridesmaids' dresses. Miranda frigidly "dates" her TiVo, while nymphomaniac Samantha - a blond bimbo who combines old-fashioned objectification with postmodern "do me" feminism - plows through the Kama Sutra. And in one episode Carrie discovers that she has only $957 in savings - but $40,000 in designer shoes in her closet.

More dated still, especially for a show that supposedly celebrates the joys of single life and female friendship, is its preoccupation with snagging a man. The characters are a walking compendium of modern female angst - the quest for a relationship, the ticking of the biological clock, the fear of aging out of the marriage market.
Now, I can't call myself a feminist for the simple reason that I'm not qualified to know what being a woman is like, but I do what I can to support the general cause. Which is why I'm going to criticise this tosh. Can you imagine someone doing a deep analysis of Men Behaving Badly and criticising its depiction of men? That's the equivalent of what Catherine Orenstein has written.

Orenstein sets up her article by saying that SatC operates "under the guise of being salaciously liberating and radically feminist", so that she can then debunk it. What??! SatC's just a bit of fluff, for goodness sake - it's harmless entertainment. When you look at it that way, it delivers just what it intends - a bit of saucy sass to keep you watching until the next commercial break.

She goes on to cite examples of far better female role models, like Mary Tyler Moore, Murphy Brown and Helen Gurley Brown, saying:
It's no coincidence that these icons of single femininity are all journalists. In the early 20th century, journalism was one of the few careers open to women, and the expanding ranks of "girl reporters" inspired stereotype-defying single heroines: Rosalind Russell as an ace reporter in 1940's "His Girl Friday," Katharine Hepburn as a foreign correspondent in 1942's "Woman of the Year," not to mention that famed comic-strip journalist Brenda Starr.
It may be no coincidence, but that doesn't mean the Parker character has some sort of duty to uphold a tradition. I would have guessed that the reason these characters were all journalists has less to do with the fact that "journalism was one of the few careers open to women", and more to do with the fact that they are all created by writers. Writers are closely related to their journalist cousins, cutting down on the need for background research. No doubt, being writers, they may also have started from the viewpoint that journalists have more interesting things to say than nurses, teachers or other female-dominated professions.

So it's a pretty empty point to make that journalist characters should be radically feminist, any more than other professions should.
the heroines of "Sex and the City" are vapid, materialistic and hysterical. The show makes short shrift of their intellect, they have no causes, no families ... and their jobs (what little we see of them) seem to exist to enable office trysts
Perhaps this is because they're not real people, and the escapist nature of the program isn't meant to address the mundanities of life. You certainly don't read much criticism of other programs that depict men in the same way.

If you want to do the cause of feminism more good, stop criticising every fictional female character that isn't a cross between Marie Curie, Jeanne d'Arc and Virginia Woolf, and just make sure that the real women around you are accorded the respect they deserve.

posted by Plig | 16:43 |

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