Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Sexist and the City

There are two types of women in the world: those who think Carrie should have forgiven Mr Big for jilting her at the altar, and those who don't.

Actually, that's not true. There are three types of women: those two, and the ones who think Sex and the City is a travesty of feminism. Guess what category I fit into? I generally don't class myself as a feminist (I'd call myself an equalicist - yes, I know it isn't a word) but this show forces me to be one.

This weekend, hungover and trapped beneath a duvet, I was powerless to resist when my friends popped the first Sex and the City movie in the DVD player. And it wasn't all bad. It nails female friendship quite well and is pretty funny in places. What really got my hackles up though was that all four of the main characters had plotlines defined by the men in their life, and two of the four had arcs that involved forgiving and going back to men who betrayed them in some way. If one of them had made the difficult decision to work on the relationship it would have been interesting and truthful. But showing both women crawling back to their men just made me shout at the TV.

It also made me realise that I couldn't think of a single TV show revolving around women that wasn't about their relationships with men. Sex and the City was billed as a post-feminist celebration of independent women, but all they seem to do is sit in fabulous bars bitching about their love lives and standing in the rain whenever they get dumped. Desperate Housewives began life as a dark and funny exploration of women who have no choice but to lead lives that revolve around men, and yet refused to be defined by them. But a few series down the line they were reduced to fighting over men on front lawns. And don't even get me started on the interior design porn that is Mistresses.

It occured to me that the only places to see decent female characters are precinct dramas (ones that revolve around a place of work) and sci-fi/action shows. ER, Mad Men, Ugly Betty and Nurse Jackie contain female characters who have hopes and doubts about their careers, identities, friends, families, goals, and, yes, their love lives. It all contributes to a larger whole. Because it's set in a workplace the characters automatically have better things to think about than 'why hasn't he called?'

The same can be said of sci-fi and action. Because these women are also vampire slayers and spies, because they're fighting Cylons, or are Cylons, or they wake up with superpowers, their love life is never all they are. They have romances, of course. Epic, tragic, mundane ones, because there's nothing quite like a good love story. But they also go entire episodes without talking about men.

Yes, I know that there's a reason men-obsessed women became a cliche. This weekend myself and the same women that sat me in front of Sex and the City talked about sex, wedding dresses and babies. But we also talked about our jobs, our home lives and families. We bitched about moving house. We watched a football match, recommended books to each other, discussed the nature of mental illness, told anecdotes and embarrassing stories about drunken escapades. I'd love to see all of that on screen when I turn on a female-oriented character comedy/drama.

In shows centred around men they get to solve crimes, meet gangsters, become gangsters, run companies, have punch-ups, have arch enemies and bromances, save the world (see: Sherlock, Mad Dogs, State of Play, The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Supernatural, Red Dwarf, Only Fools and Horses, every cop show ever made). In shows centred around women they just get screwed over by men.

The world needs fewer Carrie Bradshaws and Susan Mayers and more Carol Hathaways and Buffy Summers'. And maybe it's just because I'm currently reading Ed Brubaker's brilliant run on Catwoman, but I don't see why a fun show with a genuinely independent woman in the lead would be such a tough achievement.


  1. Hun I couldn't agree more! People wonder why I don't like doing 'girls nights out'. I do but only with the right women, and those women don't generally do 'girls nights out' either. Most women's explanation for admiring Carrie is her independence, if thats what you call constantly running back to the man who treats you like shit, and her fashion sense. Fashion sense? Really? Suffrage happened for fashion sense to become a mentor? No wonder we still don't have the full equality we want. I know I can't take any fan of that show seriously so how do we expect men to?

    Another excellent article my lovely. We need to meet up again for more wine and geek talk. x

  2. I toned down my views a little bit for the purposes of the blog, but rest assured I agree with everything you just said! Geeky pub talk/feminist rant sounds good! x