Levy on SATC, parte tres

[book club discussion contd.]

a woman's right to shoes- i mean choose!  choos?

a woman's right to shoes- i mean choose! choos?

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.'”

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2 responses to “Levy on SATC, parte tres

  1. here’s the thing about carrie’s right to shoes–yes we are talking about shoes and not another hard-won feminist right. but carrie parades around in what i think she would describe as a post-feminist world (whether or not this is true it’s what she would believe.) she doesn’t worry about childcare, reproductive rights, or fair wages because she’s a single girl with a swank job living in liberal new york city. she doesn’t care about politics because they don’t concern her. so no, carrie won’t be elected to the senate. but this show isn’t “commander in chief” and its not carrie’s political hour, it’s carrie’s sex hour. the show didn’t break every boundary out there, but it did allow women to begin talking about sex with their girlfriends in a way that wasn’t happening before. so while i agree with jong, we can’t have it all, and this show focused on breaking through the sexual ceiling. now that that’s been done, let’s move on to other ceilings.

  2. I am a bit troubled about this topic. I absolutely loved FCP, and I think Ariel Levy has an amazing talent of making very smart observations and displaying them in a very real, interesting way. I feel that I agreed with much of what Levy had to say, especially on the topics of raunch culture and this country’s (understandably) failed teachings of “Just Say No”. However, the book still left me thinking and questioning and trying to understand how I feel about some of her other assertions.

    After the He’s Just Not That Into You topic came up, I became extremely curious about what sorts of things this man, Greg Behrendt (which I now realize is kind of similar to Jack Berger), was saying to women. I brought it home from my public library, just to see. Many of the things he said seemed extremely caveman-ish and chauvinistic, like his assertion that women should not be the ones to ask men out, and should simply wait around until HE approaches YOU. I was also very shocked when the co-writer of the book, Liz Tuccillo, said, “I know I’m a chick and chicks are supposed to be all emotional”, particularly because Levy addresses both women’s use of “chick” and their accepting the stereotype that women are “all emotional.” There were lots of instances where I couldn’t help but furrow my brow and drop my jaw in disgust as Greg and Liz suggested that I just drop all these chick-y emotions and move onto the next guy.

    However, as I read the book– which is composed of “Dear Greg” questions from women who think up excuses for why their dates don’t call, or why they should continue dating a married man, and (comedian) Greg’s blunt responses– I didn’t really see it as a book about “becoming better discerners of what men want”. Greg does not tell women what they should do in order to please these men and win them back. On the contrary, the majority of the book is him telling his readers that, if a date doesn’t call you back, or a boyfriend cheated on you, or a romantic relationship in any way leaves you confused, frustrated, insecure, or dissatisfied, it is likely that the man simply is not giving you what you want, and you, as a woman, should be strong and brave enough to turn him down and look for something better. In the end, I think that Greg’s reason for writing the book was that he just wants women to realize that it’s better to be single and continue searching for a person who makes you feel great, than to wait around and think that so-so is good enough. Despite its noticeable amounts of imperfections and less-than-liberating statements, I would say that He’s Just Not That Into You isn’t as terrible as it sounds.

    And, unfortunately, with all its materialistic and FCP-esque qualities, Sex and the City remains one of my favorite midnight guilty pleasures.

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