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Thu Dec 6, 2012, 02:20 PM

Sex and the City - Feminist or not?

I have recently came around to watch a substantial portion of that show. I then learned that at the time it was first aired it was lauded by some as being empowering to women. I am not sure I agree. There are quite a few things that strike me as patently un-feminist.

First of all, taken as a whole, the show does seem to project that, at the end of the day, what a woman should look for is a wealthy or at least well-situated provider. The way the characters are set up, there are two women who enact a self-sufficient approach to life (that would be Miranda and Samantha) and two women who, beneath all the glamor and promiscuity, are more than willing to submit to a "traditional" role as a house-wife (that would be Carrie and Charlotte). I think that in a very subtle way the show portrays the former two as failures, while it portrays the later two as success-stories.

Furthermore, the show totally tears down the "effeminate and sensitive" Aiden in favor of "Mr. Big", who can be easily seen as representing traditional patriarchal masculinity standards.

Any thoughts?

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Arrow 34 replies Author Time Post
Reply Sex and the City - Feminist or not? (Original post)
redgreenandblue Dec 2012 OP
Guy Whitey Corngood Dec 2012 #1
Tommy_Carcetti Dec 2012 #23
Guy Whitey Corngood Dec 2012 #25
Dark n Stormy Knight Dec 2012 #31
LynneSin Dec 2012 #2
obamanut2012 Dec 2012 #3
snooper2 Dec 2012 #4
polly7 Dec 2012 #30
Skittles Dec 2012 #5
Whisp Dec 2012 #6
randome Dec 2012 #18
HappyMe Dec 2012 #7
unblock Dec 2012 #8
redgreenandblue Dec 2012 #10
bettyellen Dec 2012 #20
unblock Dec 2012 #21
bettyellen Dec 2012 #22
closeupready Dec 2012 #9
stevenleser Dec 2012 #13
closeupready Dec 2012 #17
fleur-de-lisa Dec 2012 #11
Prism Dec 2012 #12
stevenleser Dec 2012 #15
Prism Dec 2012 #34
Tommy_Carcetti Dec 2012 #14
Springslips Dec 2012 #16
redgreenandblue Dec 2012 #19
cabot Dec 2012 #24
slampoet Dec 2012 #26
Cleita Dec 2012 #28
Cleita Dec 2012 #27
antigone382 Dec 2012 #29
joeybee12 Dec 2012 #32
LeftyMom Dec 2012 #33

Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 02:28 PM

1. I regret having watched it more than a few times with my ex. She

enjoyed it and she watched plenty of things with me that she wasn't crazy about. I thought the characters were ridiculously shallow and annoying. Sure there are people like that but the great majority of women I associate with are not. As silly entertainment goes I guess it's OK. But I guess I missed the "feminist" angle.

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Response to Guy Whitey Corngood (Reply #1)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 05:12 PM

23. From my limited memory of the show, there were two episodes that particularly annoyed me.

One was an episode where the Carrie character apparently had ran up a huge debt spending thousands of dollars on shoes and was apparently in danger of losing her apartment until the Mr. Big character came swooping in and paid off her debt, thus saving her shoes and her apartment. Rather than her, you know, selling your ridiculous collection of overpriced shoes.

The other was where Carrie got invited to a baby shower and got all annoyed that she has to spend money for gifts for other people's babies and weddings even though she wasn't married or a mother, so she insists on throwing a shower for herself and registering for shoes. Or something ridiculously inane and self-indulgent like that.

Don't ask me why I remember those two episodes, I think it just because I found them just plain obnoxious.

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Response to Tommy_Carcetti (Reply #23)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 05:29 PM

25. That rings a bell. It was a while back but my brain hurts just thinking about it :-p

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Response to Tommy_Carcetti (Reply #23)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 07:02 PM

31. I agree about the first episode you mention. But, I was kind of on Carrie's side in the second one.

IIRC, the guest of honor at the baby shower was insufferable and entitled. I can understand Carrie resenting feeling pressured to buy this women an expensive gift for her baby to be. And she made her guests take off their shoes, which is how Carrie's very expensive shoes got ruined.

Then again, I could never relate to a woman with little money buying ridiculously expensive shoes. And I appreciate the art of design in beautiful shoes.

Also, I guess people on tv in general make massively more money that I ever did, because they buy very expensive gifts.

But, two things:
1. Tv shows are generally unrealistic about money. It was always a criticism of Friends and Sex and the City that the characters could never have afforded the NYC apartments they lived in on the salaries they would reasonably have been making.

2. TV shows are sponsored by companies who want us to buy expensive things.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 02:29 PM

2. Entertainment and Empowering for women

but a bit silly at times too.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 02:29 PM

3. It wasn't supposed to be

It was what it was: an adult "soap," based on a provocative book (that I rather enjoyed).

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 02:31 PM

4. If you consider the current "Houswives of Pick a Fucking City" pro feminist



Both about on the same scale

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Response to snooper2 (Reply #4)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 05:48 PM

30. Those shows are just pathetic.

There are a couple, I'm not sure which cities as I've just seen bits and pieces, where they all look nearly identical with the fish-lips, botox and face-filler. It would take me weeks to get the characters straight, they're so alike.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 02:32 PM

5. LOL

women obsessed with themselves and shoes?

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 02:34 PM

6. I refuse to watch any of that brain rotting slop.

My biggest sins in this tv stupidity department lately is watching the Jericho series on Netflix.

oh, and I really liked LOST.

other than that most tv makes me want to cry for the children.

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Response to Whisp (Reply #6)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 04:05 PM

18. I'm with you.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 02:41 PM

7. I've never really thought about it.

I'm watching it right now.

I don't see what is wrong with a sometimes funny show about 4 successful women. They make and have their own money & spend it as they choose. They have good and bad relationships, make mistakes and argue with one another. Their friendship is strong and they support one another.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 02:54 PM

8. mrs. unblock is obsessed with it, and she's seen the entire series at least 6 or 7 times through.

and therefore i've seen it quite a bit just sitting next to her, even if i'm trying not to pay attention.

i wouldn't say the show "is" or "isn't" feminist. it HAS some feminist points to it, mostly, yet, embodied in the characters of miranda and samantha. but mostly it's commentary about modern lives for women, which includes both feminist ideals as well as traditional ideals (mostly charlotte) and most importantly, internal conflict and self-doubt (carrie).

it's far more social commentary than political statement. i don't see the 4 main characters as equal because the 3 other characters are far more two-dimensional compared to carrie. she's the protagonist, even if many people might identify more with one of the others. not to say the other characters remained two-dimensional after all that air time, but carrie is far more complex than the others.

and to the extent we can talk about an overall message, it's that women have these three ideals -- sexual liberation, career ambition, and a traditional woman's role -- and carrie is in a constant struggle trying to figure out what works for her, because she knows that while she might want at time all of those, she can't manage any one of them alone, let alone all three together.

and that, i think, is fundamentally what draws people, women especially, to the show. because it's a struggle many women can relate to.



then, of course, there is the raunchy dialog....

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Response to unblock (Reply #8)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 03:19 PM

10. Interesting.

Thanks for the analysis. Lots of food for thought.

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Response to unblock (Reply #8)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 04:48 PM

20. you totally nailed it. and it's also about making your friends your family..... But

I thought, aside from the high dollar lifestyle Carrie lived on a writers salary, the most unrealistic thing was that none of them ever alluded to any family issues, ever. But I also liked both those things, the shoes and lack of annoying siblings or parents, LOL.
But really, it was like they were hatched or something!

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Response to bettyellen (Reply #20)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 04:53 PM

21. definitely a notable absence. but i think they figured that wasn't in their charter.

there are SO many other shows that deal with family dynamics.

not that they couldn't have worked in some interesting sub-plots around parental sex or sex in your parent's house or siblings horning in or whatever, but i think the more details they give about family, the less accessible the characters are. it's easier to imagine yourself as samantha or miranda or whichever if you can see your own parents there rather than some family members that don't map neatly to your own.

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Response to unblock (Reply #21)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 05:12 PM

22. good points! coming from a large family myself, I find myself totally uninterested in family themed

shows. And having an assortment of types did encourage ladies watching to identify with one.
I thought it went downhill pretty fast, but really did enjoy the first season. When they started making Miranda's character into a joke, it really bothered me. The movies were both pretty awful. Except Liza Mineli, of course!








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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 02:57 PM

9. I wasn't a fan, but I was always told Carrie was really a gay man,

i.e., a thoroughly modern woman whose sensibility owed almost everything to the gay people in her life...?

Anyway, I never understood what that was supposed to mean.

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Response to closeupready (Reply #9)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 03:42 PM

13. I think Prism's post below explains it well... nt

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Response to stevenleser (Reply #13)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 03:59 PM

17. Okay, right - thanks.

Queer as Folk was fun, ran about the same time frame. I also enjoyed Oz.

One of the reasons I'm no fun is I take everything at face value - if a show is 'about four modern women pursuing happiness in New York', then for ME, it's a show about four modern women pursuing happiness in New York. While for OTHERS, it's really a soap opera fantasy vision of how gay men would live if they were women with money and looks and great jobs.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 03:22 PM

11. I had the flu a few years back and a friend let me borrow her entire SATC DVD collection . . .

The most disappointing part . . . when together, these women talked about nothing but men, like you must have a man in your life to be a real woman. The characters all had pretty interesting careers, yet all they were interested in was men.

Funny, my friends and I rarely talk about men. The SATC characters are shallow and pathetic!

Oh well, I guess that's what I get for watching a show titled 'SEX and the City'.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 03:35 PM

12. I think the most feminist show at the moment is Once Upon a Time

Mostly a cast of strong women who wander the world kicking ass. Two of the three main villains are also powerful women. It's really interesting.

As for SATC, I always felt I was watching gay men in women's bodies. Women I know never seem to talk or act much that way (except Miranda seemed a bit truer to life). Gay friends, though, yeah they are totally like that.

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Response to Prism (Reply #12)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 03:46 PM

15. There are a certain segment of women here in NYC that seem to behave this way (SATC)...

College degree educated women in the 25-35 year old range who either are wealthy by inheritance or have jobs/income making $200K/yr or above in manhattan seem to have a 10%-25% chance of a SATC mentality, i.e. always talking about and buying designer clothing and shoes, going to the best parties and events with all the right people, etc.

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Response to stevenleser (Reply #15)

Sat Dec 8, 2012, 03:40 PM

34. Ah, I gotcha

I have seen the type when held down at rum-point and forced to watch Project Runway with a buddy of mine. I feel like I'm observing a separate universe.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 03:42 PM

14. I don't know. I will say that it had to feature some of the most annoying, obnoxious characters ever

My wife watched it, so by proxy I saw a few episodes. All the SJP character did was obsess over shoes and shopping. And I wanted the Samantha character to die a horrible death after about 5 minutes.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 03:47 PM

16. I am a herto white male

And I watched a lot of that show--I don't know why; maybe for secret pleasure of the junk food fiction of it. Anyways, I have a theory that drives my female friends and family members nuts, because it counters the idea that SATC is feminist.

It was a huge deal, rivaling "Who shot JR", when they planned on revealing Mr Bigs true name. Now it must of been a huge decision by the writers and producers, as the character had been on the show for years only known by his nickname. They must of, had to, examine the meanings and connotations of every name they suggested as they brainstorm--breaking it down in every conceivable way how a name can color a character's image.

They decided on John.

They said it was because it was because a very common name, and so the joke is in that it subverted a trope and the marketing campaign that hyped the episode.

But if they did in fact dissect every possible meaning a name can bring, especially since its announcement was such a big deal then they couldn't have missed the well known other meaning of the name. . .

In that if Mr Big is a John, then is Carry is a prosititute?

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Response to Springslips (Reply #16)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 04:06 PM

19. There are at least two episodes where she gets mistaken for one.

If you come from that angle, one could re-interpret the show in a "Fight Club"-ish way. Maybe Carrie is just
imagining most of what happens.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 05:17 PM

24. Speaking as a woman

I don't think the show was particularly feminist. To be honest, I disliked the show very, very much. I found the characters annoying. That's just me, though. I hate shopping and I don't like shoes. I wasn't in its demographic.

A friend of mine suggested it should have ended in a similar way St. Elsewhere ended - it was all the imagination of a beautiful, gay autistic boy. *hoping against all odds people remember how St. Elsewhere ended.*

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 05:34 PM

26. Since when is it Feministic to act as a surrogate for Gay Men?

Everything in that show was written by gay men and women fell for it like suckers.

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Response to slampoet (Reply #26)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 05:36 PM

28. I posted before I read your post. It makes sense.

They certainly weren't like any women I knew.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 05:35 PM

27. Actually, it's men behaving badly, just with girls.

I never knew any women remotely similar to them with the exception of Miranda, the single parent lawyer. I knew many women who had to work and raise their children on their own and who got around to marrying the father of their children after the fact instead of before.

However, I knew lots of guys who did behave and think like the girls without the high heels. Of course they weren't looking for rich men (unless perhaps if they were gay) or women.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 05:43 PM

29. I think of feminism as a movement too fundamentally challenge all forms of oppression and privilege.

A show that focuses on the lives of four white, upper-middle class, attractive, more or less straight (with I believe one bi exception?) women doesn't really meet those goals, in my opinion.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 07:24 PM

32. It's not funny...not at all...really bad television...

Whether it's feminist or not, I couldn't say, but I do know shitty tv when I see it.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Thu Dec 6, 2012, 07:27 PM

33. I have no idea, because the few minutes I saw of it were upper class women talking about shoes,

and I'd rather watch paint dry.

Beige paint.

Slow drying beige paint.

In a humid room.

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