Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Can you be a feminist and like Sex and the City?

. . . asks the Guardian.

I'm a feminist and I already have a date with one of my brainiest female friends to go and see the movie when it opens. Nonetheless, some interesting points:

"It does make for quite uncomfortable viewing," says Professor Imelda Whelehan of De Montfort University, author of The Feminist Bestseller: From Sex and the Single Girl to Sex and the City. "How do we respect her? And Mr Big is such an interesting element. Even his name is masculine. He is like this phallus at the centre of it all."

SATC brought us the Fendi baguette, which I still defiantly use (one in red, one in purple suede) the perfect party bag which sits on the shoulder and under the arm,

but it also brought us these, which though they look fabulous require us to marry Prince Moneybags, because you can't wear them to walk down the street to use public transport.


Anonymous said...

Haven't read the article yet however I think I can comment on the premise in the title. Of course you can be a feminist and like Sex and the City. For goodness sake - it's a piece of escapism not a manifesto for how you should live your life!

Deja Pseu said...

This feminist loves SATC. To me, the primary theme was the enduring friendship between the women, which is rare in TV and movies. The shoes and clothes got pretty outrageous there for a while, but like anonymous said, it's escapism.

Anonymous said...

I don't even see why she is asking that question - it is the same as educated people who like pulp mysteries or science fiction. But conversely, one can enjoy looking at and reading about beautiful clothes and not be particularly fond of mainstream TV programmes or most pop culture. I'd rather read books, magazines or websites on matters of style, but that is because TV annoys me in general. Nothing to do with feminism.

I do like that baguette bag. The shoes are absurd for most women - and I'd think one would have to learn to walk in them elegantly, like dancing en pointe, if not they would be very clumsy. But that is part of the escapist fantasy - not the reality of most working women in New York and other big cities, taking the subway/métro/tube to work every day.

lagatta à montréal said...

Wonder why I was anonymous again in the above post? I was careful to check that my handle was there before posting...

Kelly said...

I say: of course you can be a feminist and like Sex and the City. Last time I checked, most feminists don't completely discount relationships with men. Feminists can have relationships, get married, get divorced, or *whatever.* So to have a show that touches on topics in the realm of relationships between men and women isn't, in itself, anti-feminist. The anti-feminist part is perhaps how the relationships play out, but I'd argue that even in the relationships on the show where the women were being disrespected, I don't think it was because of their gender. It was just because of the actual relationship at hand, between two people who so happen to be in that specific kind of relationship because of their genders.

phyllis said...

Oh sure why not. It's elike ating 100 Big Mac's with your eyes. But I don't let my 11 year old daughters watch it.

Sarah said...

Interesting timing, here. On Tuesday, my literary theory class spent almost an hour and a half discussing Sex and the City, and whether it's supporting the status quo or subversive, i.e. anti-feminist or feminist. (Which is not to say that that's the same argument as whether or not a feminist can like SATC.)

We came up with lots of arguments either way, and it reminded me of Bechdel's law, which is frequently invoked in comics. That is, a movie/comic/show/etc. is worth watching if, in it, two women talk to each other about something other than a man. While SATC is incredibly materialist, and relatively pandering in lots of other ways, it does pretty well by this criterion, and I think female camraderie is out of the ordinary enough to justify it.

Susan said...

I'm a feminist, loved watching SATC, and like Linda, have already arranged to see the film with a friend.

Yes, some of it is very unrealistic, but it is great to see women portrayed on TV as friends supporting each other, not rivals. There are plenty of toxic bachelors like Mr Big out there, too - George Clooney and Hugh Grant being famous examples.

Anastasia said...

I never really got SATC, the characters are just too clichè to be likeable and - pardon me - I really don't think women talking about sex is that novel or even that interesting.
I've really tried watching it, I just didn't like it. Does that mean you can't be a feminist and like SATC? Good grief, of course not! That would be like saying you can't be a feminist and like wearing nice clothes.
And I do like the fantasy of writing one column per week and making so much money from that so you can afford a fabulous apartment, designer clothes and Manolos.

Anonymous said...

This is why I don't buy into feminism as sold....why SHOULDN'T a woman be able to do whatever (including watch SATC) she wants and still be "a feminist"? Why should this even be a question, if you believe in the alleged values of feminism?

Feminism as sold seems too obsessed w/ creating correct restraints for a woman as did the old paradigms it kicks about. Trading one straight jacket for the other.

As for the "toxic bachelor" thing, how sexist is that? Judging people by their public persona (always the truth) just makes it worse.

Deja Pseu said...

If you replace "feminism as sold" with "feminism as misrepresented by non-feminists" I'm in total agreement. :-)

Della Street Dreaming said...

I have mixed feelings:
I have many uncomfortable memories of sitting up with my then teenage daughter & stepson watching SATC & squirming in my seat when the girls discussed blow jobs or penis size etc. I'm sure the show provided my kid with valuable factual information about sex that I never gave. The nuns have a lot to answer for.
And, I hated the way that Carrie's commentary was so bleatingly whiny & self pitying. I'm sure it encouraged a whole generation of young women to think that it's OK to bore all your girlfriends rigid about your lousy lovers.
But then, I still fondly remember when Samantha saw the naked bum of the 70 year old wealthy man she was trying to convince herself that it was OK to be with & decided, definitely, NO she couldn't! Or Charlotte's initial horror at her new Jewish husband waltzing around naked at home, or Miranda's replacing her social life with TIVO.
And of course, the clothes, the bags, the accessories! I hated the shoes though. I'd fall into the blackboard if I wore them.
Sue Kennedy

Anonymous said...

Where do I begin? It was a good article. Before I ever saw the show I was eye-rolling when people would talk about it. "Those sheep," I thought. It looked cheap. Then I thought I'll watch and decide for myself. I was surprised, it wasn't too damn bad. I was single through most of it's run and it became the only thing I could watch when I got home after leaving all my "attached" friends and feel good. That is anything that would be deemed "normal" TV. I consider myself fairly intelligent and independent. I think women desiring an ultimate mate is a purely human desire. A feminist can't want companionship? I thought the show was clever and funny and said some very pertinent things to me as a single women. In terms of the wealthy Manhattanites, let us not forget the episode when Carrie realized she had spent all her money on shoes and had no savings, no retirement account. Yes, it became ridiculous that the woman who never had any real money,at the end lived almost entirely in a couture wardrobe. But I loved seeing it in all it's romantic glory. Let it be said, the fact that in real life the lead character (Sarah Jessica) was happily married, was never far from my mind. Such is theatre.

Anonymous said...

When I first heard the "premise" of Sex and the City (or what was presented as the premise)..."let's have sex like men," I was turned off enough to not watch it. I also was aware of the hook-up culture in high schools (some) and colleges (most all) where there is no dating (or very little) and where the typical thing is to get dangerously "wasted" and then to "service men" OR to have a "college marriage" (being with one boy exclusively--kissing another would be almost adulterous) OR no social life at all. Then I watched some of the shows, and yes, there are empowering parts to the show and there is clevel writing. I get concerned that the clever writing becomes too seductive in terms of drawing us in and we let those uncomfortable things slip by just because the writers are so good. I did find an episode I missed (this was after I saw the movie which I thought was abysmal--incredible regression of the characters in the movie...I wished I'd walked out)...back to the episode that should have every woman up in's in season 4 (episode called A Vogue Idea) this episode Carrie tells a male editor that her father abandoned her and her mother when Carrie was 5 ("he quit my mom and me--that was a long time ago, when I was 5.) The editor asks if Carrie knows why he left and she shakes her head no...never has known. Well, we know the trauma that causes any child but SATC decided to forego dealing with this and instead to "use" Carrie and in doing so presents her damage and dysfunctional relationship issues as "normative" and "healthy"...NO. This is horrible and I was appalled when I watched this episode as was my husband. Carrie comes to the conclusion that fathers don't figure too much. It's all a crap shoot anyway. Nothing to be done. She even tells then pregnant Miranda that Miranda is "both mother AND father" to her unborn baby. NO. Steve is the father. This is never dealt with further in the series (or movie). No wonder Carrie has such difficulties with men. No wonder she must go for those who are arrogant and commitmentphobes. She has the rejected little girl syndrome and the men that attract her the most are, of course, those that will reject her (or that she will reject.) A little psychogical-mindedness would go a long way.