[book club discussion contd.]
What discussion of modern American women’s sexuality (and, in this case, conflicted, complex, and layered sexuality) would be complete without mentioning SATC?
In FCP, Levy articulated the discomfort I’d felt with my beloved SATC- she brings to the fore th real problem with SATC: that it’s not about men, it’s not about sex, first and forever it will be a show that sells a lifestyle. A show that indoctrinates women into a way of life that uses consumption as the principal way to communicate their independence and modernity. SATC clearly uses feminist principles to make this case, as in the episode “A Woman’s Right to ChooseShoes.” Carrie convincingly explains that she’s spent her adult life supporting, financially and emotionally, other women’s choices (their marriages, their children…) and when she loses something that she sees as a symbolic of her choice to be a single woman, she feels betrayed by her community of women. All of this makes sense, except that we’re talking about shoes. Not any of the freedoms that feminism has won her (like the ability to live, work, think, act, and vote as she pleases) make her feel like a truly independent woman- only her extensive closet and shoe collection. (Another egregious example of this is the ad campaign that featured Kim Cattrall with a low-calorie, low-fat cocktail saying “Now you can have it all!” Right. Because “having it all” clearly means having my cocktail and drinking it too– without the threat or fear of *gasp* CALORIES!)
Levy also lampoons the book that was spawned by a conversation between Miranda Hobbes and Jack Berger (“he’s a writer, too!”): He’s Just Not That Into You. Miranda is obsessing over whether this guy is, well, into her, and the girls do their part to encourage her, but Berger brings down the house by saying, well, you guessed it. And instead of upsetting Miranda, she latches onto this concept like the newly converted and tries to spread its joy to all the confused women of NYC (with less than stellar, though hilarious, results). The book has become quite the phenomenon- even appearing on Oprah- my library has no less than 11 copies on hand. Levy has this to say about it:
“This book, which Oprah Winfrey called ‘true liberation’ and felt ‘should be on every woman’s night table,’ displayed in its very title a prioritization of mindreading over feeling…Women generally find it pretty satisfying to get what they want too, but He’s Just Not That Into You is not about what women want. It’s about becoming better discerners of what men want. (And somehow that is true women’s liberation.) SATC was great entertainment, but it was a flawed guide to empowerment, which is how many women viewed it.”
And that was one of the central problems with SATC- for all the positive things it showcased (women’s relationships with each other/modern solidarity, death/grief, dealing with cancer), one of the main tenets it espoused was becoming appealing to men. [Buy this dress, pair it with these shoes, cut your hair like this, and pose seductively with a cosmo in one hand, sassy clutch in the other, and make a witty comment]DO XYZ and the men will be drooling all over you. It was almost like trial and error: try this, if that doesn’t work, try that, ad infinitum. What happened to be yourself? Why spend all your time trying to create “the perfect relationship” when, in the end, it’s a relationship that’s been built on lies and half-truths and will probably ultimately fail.
And in defense of SATC, that’s what happened to Charlotte and Tre (and then she dates Harry, the man she’d never date and they’re wildly happy). But that’s only ONE storyline out of hundreds. In the end, however, it seems that superficiality always wins.
The last SATC-related assertion that Levy makes actually comes from Erica Jong and doesn’t need further qualification:
“‘But I would be happier if my daughter and her friends were crashing through the glass ceiling instead of the sexual ceiling,’ Jong continued. ‘Being able to have an orgasm with a man you don’t love or having SATC on television, that is not liberation. If you start to think about women as if we’re all Carrie on SATC, well, the problem is: You’re not going to elect Carrie to the Senate or to run your company. Let’s see the Senate 50% female; let’s see women in decision-making positions– that’s power. Sexual freedom can be a smoke-screen for how far we haven’t come.'”