Exploit female sexuality sex and the city. Can a feminist really love Sex and the City?.



Exploit female sexuality sex and the city

Exploit female sexuality sex and the city

Share via Email This article is over 10 years old Four's company A female journalist, at work in her city apartment, ponders the blank screen of her laptop.

Her fingers hover, the cursor winks invitingly and this week's pressing question is tapped out. But the person at the computer is me rather than Carrie Bradshaw, there is not a strappy shoe in sight and my question would never have appeared on the show, namely: And yet I'm still no closer to working out if the SATC gals could do with a few remedial consciousness raising classes, or if they are, in fact, le dernier cri in empowered womanhood. The original show, which ran for 94 half-hour episodes between and , is unashamedly - and, yes, unusually - a show about women, for women though, significantly, not completely by women.

It was adapted from a newspaper column and book of the same name by Candace Bushnell, but the producer and a good chunk of the writers and directors were men. The four main characters even represent a slightly self-conscious stab at representing four different archetypes of womanhood.

Charlotte, the conservative, romantic, naive upper-east-side princess with sights firmly set at least at the start of the show's run on the right marriage to the right man. Samantha, the successful, hardworking, inviolably independent PR executive who is a believer in sex rather than love and just as tirelessly devoted to that last cause as Charlotte is to hers. Miranda, the smart, corporate, high-flying lawyer.

And, at the centre of it all, attempting to navigate a path between the options offered by her unlikely group of girlfriends, is Carrie: The themes and plot of each episode are framed by the questions Carrie asks in her weekly columns for the fictional New York Star newspaper a reflection of Bushnell's own writing for the real life New York Observer and include everything from experimental lesbianism to breast cancer and the challenges of combining career and motherhood.

And yet, despite the awards and enviable viewing figures, and despite the fact that SATC really did bring something new to mainstream television when it started, it was not immediately embraced by the sisterhood as must-see feminist TV. That is partly because, for a show about women, it displays a singular obsession with men. As Miranda, the character most likely to consider herself a feminist, points out in one episode: But that makes it, at its heart, a protracted romantic comedy, and SATC suffers from being bound by the still-pretty-conventional constraints of the genre.

Janet McCabe, research fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University and co-editor, with her colleague Kim Akass, of Reading Sex and the City, a collection of essays about the programme, says, "The women are still caught in fairytale narratives.

The 'right' couple were signalled in the first episode [in which Carrie first meets her on-off lover known only as Mr Big] and in some ways the entire show has just been about them getting together - which, of course, has to be endlessly delayed or you don't have the driving force behind the story.

Mr Big is arrogant, egocentric and apparently unable to see a good thing when she is standing in front of him in four-inch heels. Carrie's own inability to wake up and realise what a terrible cliche she is dating renders her, at best, pretty dumb and, at worst, passive and weak.

At the conclusion of the TV series, she is rescued from Paris - and another unsatisfactory relationship with another alpha male - by Mr Big, her knight on a Boeing And Mr Big is such an interesting element. Even his name is masculine.

He is like this phallus at the centre of it all. And at the conclusion of the television show, all four characters - even Samantha, whose avowed aim for most of the series was emotion-free sex - are happily paired up.

The characters are, to a woman, white, rich, straight and apparently unencumbered by any strong emotional or practical ties to anyone or anything beyond their friendship group and, of course, the men they engage with. On one level, this is simply a piece of scene setting - it is a show about wealthy New Yorkers, not about all women everywhere.

Akass points out that because there are so few television programmes purely about women, "Sex and the City bears the burden of representation. No one expects The Sopranos to encompass the experience of all middle-aged Italian-American men.

Everything else is ultimately fine, mainly because they have the money to fix most problems. With no real battles to fight, excessive screen time can be devoted to tales of trivial consumption. But that can also be easily rebutted. You may not applaud the way that the show tackles more serious issues, sandwiched, as they are, between dates and dinners, sex and shopping, but SATC is never just froth and froth alone.

Illness, infertility, bereavement, ageing, single motherhood, sexual discrimination and divorce all play their part in the show's storylines. Glossily packaged and swiftly dispatched they may be, but you can confidently say that there is more to the programme than footwear. And is the endless head-scratching over men really a betrayal of women? Or could it actually be an acknowledgement of the problems that plenty of women still experience in reconciling the protection and preservation of their own identities while engaging with men at work, at play, and in bed?

As Akass asks, "Is it the case that a strong women can't desire a husband? These questions are not dealt with in an unintelligent way; the chorus of different female voices is a useful device for discussing them; that it fails to offer any novel answers is a function of the fact that it is, after all, just a TV fairy story.

It also seems churlish to be bitter about the fact that Carrie et al do not offer a fail-safe model for emancipated womanhood when nor, frankly, has real-life feminism.

And to dismiss the programme entirely on the basis of its shortcomings as a feminist text would also be to lose out on what it does deliver. Just to take the most headline-grabbing example, that includes some pretty frank discussion of sex, in which female sexual pleasure and agency is obviously considered a fundamental right, rather than a privilege. McCabe says, "The way they spoke, and the things they talked about, were revolutionary. And it was also a great study of female friendship.

Ultimately, you just feel that it started with the four of them and they will always be together. They identify as each other's soul mates and provide emotional, practical and moral support. They don't compete with each other for male attention. They make each other laugh. It is probably the best depiction of the genuine nature and importance of female friendship ever to win an Emmy.

And so while it is probably about as much use as the Beano as a manual for life, you can be a feminist and like Sex and the City. Not least because if you're about to start letting political doctrine arbitrarily dictate which bits of the culture you respond to you may as well give up now and submit to the patriarchy.

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Exploit female sexuality sex and the city

Share via Email This article is over 10 years old Four's company A female journalist, at work in her city apartment, ponders the blank screen of her laptop. Her fingers hover, the cursor winks invitingly and this week's pressing question is tapped out. But the person at the computer is me rather than Carrie Bradshaw, there is not a strappy shoe in sight and my question would never have appeared on the show, namely: And yet I'm still no closer to working out if the SATC gals could do with a few remedial consciousness raising classes, or if they are, in fact, le dernier cri in empowered womanhood.

The original show, which ran for 94 half-hour episodes between and , is unashamedly - and, yes, unusually - a show about women, for women though, significantly, not completely by women. It was adapted from a newspaper column and book of the same name by Candace Bushnell, but the producer and a good chunk of the writers and directors were men.

The four main characters even represent a slightly self-conscious stab at representing four different archetypes of womanhood. Charlotte, the conservative, romantic, naive upper-east-side princess with sights firmly set at least at the start of the show's run on the right marriage to the right man.

Samantha, the successful, hardworking, inviolably independent PR executive who is a believer in sex rather than love and just as tirelessly devoted to that last cause as Charlotte is to hers. Miranda, the smart, corporate, high-flying lawyer. And, at the centre of it all, attempting to navigate a path between the options offered by her unlikely group of girlfriends, is Carrie: The themes and plot of each episode are framed by the questions Carrie asks in her weekly columns for the fictional New York Star newspaper a reflection of Bushnell's own writing for the real life New York Observer and include everything from experimental lesbianism to breast cancer and the challenges of combining career and motherhood.

And yet, despite the awards and enviable viewing figures, and despite the fact that SATC really did bring something new to mainstream television when it started, it was not immediately embraced by the sisterhood as must-see feminist TV. That is partly because, for a show about women, it displays a singular obsession with men. As Miranda, the character most likely to consider herself a feminist, points out in one episode: But that makes it, at its heart, a protracted romantic comedy, and SATC suffers from being bound by the still-pretty-conventional constraints of the genre.

Janet McCabe, research fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University and co-editor, with her colleague Kim Akass, of Reading Sex and the City, a collection of essays about the programme, says, "The women are still caught in fairytale narratives.

The 'right' couple were signalled in the first episode [in which Carrie first meets her on-off lover known only as Mr Big] and in some ways the entire show has just been about them getting together - which, of course, has to be endlessly delayed or you don't have the driving force behind the story. Mr Big is arrogant, egocentric and apparently unable to see a good thing when she is standing in front of him in four-inch heels.

Carrie's own inability to wake up and realise what a terrible cliche she is dating renders her, at best, pretty dumb and, at worst, passive and weak. At the conclusion of the TV series, she is rescued from Paris - and another unsatisfactory relationship with another alpha male - by Mr Big, her knight on a Boeing And Mr Big is such an interesting element.

Even his name is masculine. He is like this phallus at the centre of it all. And at the conclusion of the television show, all four characters - even Samantha, whose avowed aim for most of the series was emotion-free sex - are happily paired up.

The characters are, to a woman, white, rich, straight and apparently unencumbered by any strong emotional or practical ties to anyone or anything beyond their friendship group and, of course, the men they engage with. On one level, this is simply a piece of scene setting - it is a show about wealthy New Yorkers, not about all women everywhere. Akass points out that because there are so few television programmes purely about women, "Sex and the City bears the burden of representation.

No one expects The Sopranos to encompass the experience of all middle-aged Italian-American men. Everything else is ultimately fine, mainly because they have the money to fix most problems. With no real battles to fight, excessive screen time can be devoted to tales of trivial consumption. But that can also be easily rebutted. You may not applaud the way that the show tackles more serious issues, sandwiched, as they are, between dates and dinners, sex and shopping, but SATC is never just froth and froth alone.

Illness, infertility, bereavement, ageing, single motherhood, sexual discrimination and divorce all play their part in the show's storylines. Glossily packaged and swiftly dispatched they may be, but you can confidently say that there is more to the programme than footwear. And is the endless head-scratching over men really a betrayal of women?

Or could it actually be an acknowledgement of the problems that plenty of women still experience in reconciling the protection and preservation of their own identities while engaging with men at work, at play, and in bed?

As Akass asks, "Is it the case that a strong women can't desire a husband? These questions are not dealt with in an unintelligent way; the chorus of different female voices is a useful device for discussing them; that it fails to offer any novel answers is a function of the fact that it is, after all, just a TV fairy story. It also seems churlish to be bitter about the fact that Carrie et al do not offer a fail-safe model for emancipated womanhood when nor, frankly, has real-life feminism.

And to dismiss the programme entirely on the basis of its shortcomings as a feminist text would also be to lose out on what it does deliver. Just to take the most headline-grabbing example, that includes some pretty frank discussion of sex, in which female sexual pleasure and agency is obviously considered a fundamental right, rather than a privilege.

McCabe says, "The way they spoke, and the things they talked about, were revolutionary. And it was also a great study of female friendship. Ultimately, you just feel that it started with the four of them and they will always be together.

They identify as each other's soul mates and provide emotional, practical and moral support. They don't compete with each other for male attention. They make each other laugh. It is probably the best depiction of the genuine nature and importance of female friendship ever to win an Emmy.

And so while it is probably about as much use as the Beano as a manual for life, you can be a feminist and like Sex and the City. Not least because if you're about to start letting political doctrine arbitrarily dictate which bits of the culture you respond to you may as well give up now and submit to the patriarchy.

Exploit female sexuality sex and the city

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3 Comments

  1. These questions are not dealt with in an unintelligent way; the chorus of different female voices is a useful device for discussing them; that it fails to offer any novel answers is a function of the fact that it is, after all, just a TV fairy story. Charlotte, the conservative, romantic, naive upper-east-side princess with sights firmly set at least at the start of the show's run on the right marriage to the right man.

  2. The 'right' couple were signalled in the first episode [in which Carrie first meets her on-off lover known only as Mr Big] and in some ways the entire show has just been about them getting together - which, of course, has to be endlessly delayed or you don't have the driving force behind the story.

  3. Glossily packaged and swiftly dispatched they may be, but you can confidently say that there is more to the programme than footwear.

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