Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

January 21, 2010

Carrie Bradshaw and the Feminists

I didn’t really tune into Sex in the City until it was in syndication on TBS. I’m glad too, because I can’t stomach the vulgarity of the full HBO series. TBS’s edits made the show much more palatable to me.

All the same, I followed news of the show while it was running. It fascinated me because a) it had captivated several generations of female viewers and therefore seemed to have its finger on something we yearn for; b) as a TV series it had the time to dive into the characters and show whether these four very different women really could have it all; and c) well…I did love the clothes.

When I started watching the show, I was intrigued. It was daring, carefree, and women centered in a way no other show had been before—and no show has really been since. And it did try to broach significant issues for women—affairs of the heart as well as of modern culture, connectedness, etc. But time and again Carrie picks the selfish route, the writers used Sex as shorthand for a genuine relationship, and I got tired of all those crop tops SJP wore. And while in the final episodes we see four women who are coming to terms with their lives (3 of whom living selflessly—for their families, their children, or in Samantha’s case, learning to depend on another—the movie took that all away and turned what little power there was in the series into commercialism and shoe porn.

Because pop-culture often breeds strange bed fellows, I was fascinated to learn that many feminists are also rejecting the ideal Carrie Bradshaw has to offer. Via First Things, I learn that: “even the feminists who paved the route on which Carrie Brandshaw treads in her Manolo Blahniks are growing disturbed by the consequences of the sexual revolution. A veritable cottage industry of books and articles is now being produced by Friedanesque, first wave feminists, wringing their hands over what their movement has devolved into.”

One such writer is Cassandra Jardine of UK’s Daily Telegraph, who says:
Walter, for those not up to speed on the feminist canon – and who is, these days? – wrote The New Feminism, published in 1998, which delighted in the progress that had been made towards an equal society. ''Here's feminism as phoenix, as blazing torch lighting the way to a new century,'' wrote Michele Roberts in a breathlessly enthusiastic review. Now all that optimism has turned to dust. Living Dolls analyses the increasing sexualisation of feminity and the extent to which young women are led to believe that their bodies are their only passport to success.

Far from relations between the sexes flourishing emotionally and physically, against a backdrop of mutual respect, understanding and equality, a generation of young girls is interpreting liberation as the right to behave like top-shelf models. These women, interviewed by Walter, are also committed to no-strings sex, celebrating one-night stands as notches on their designer handbags. For them, STDs are almost a badge of honour, eating disorders commonplace and men who talk of love and commitment are sneered at for "going soppy"

What eventually turned me off Sex and the City was the fact that ultimately the lives these women lead are selfserving and unfulfilling, because they are centered on personal pleasure and desire--especially Carrie, who tried to be introspective and ended up being whiny.

It is fascinating to me that feminists are disappointed in the same way. Do you get the same feeling? Have you read anything similar? Discuss!

1 comment:

Paul said...

A very good post. I would add that, in my view, Sex in the City also promoted an ideal of women dominating men. The characters don't just flirt (or worse) with hedonism, they also try to maintain a certain kind of control of the men in their relationships. This is suggested as liberation, but liberation conceived as taking the upper hand and dominating someone else is not real liberation.

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