Thoughts on Sex and the City

30 08 2009


I’ve wanted to blog about this for quite some time now since I’ve had so many conversations with friends about the Sex and the City show (SATC). Is it a feminist show? Can you like SATC and still be a feminist?

I’ve heard plenty of reasons why people consider SATC to be a feminist show:

– the four protagonists (Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha) are all women and the show really foregrounds the relationship among these four women. It celebrates and centers around their strong and enduring friendships – although the men in their lives are always changing, the four remain close friends and are always there for each other.

– the four protagonists are all well educated women who are over 30 and career oriented, not solely wives and/or mothers (although some of them do become wives and mothers later on).

– it makes it acceptable and even normal for women to express and pursue sexual desire. Several episodes of SATC talk about female masturbation and different kinds of sex toys, which was revolutionary at the time.

In spite of these points, I do not think that SATC is a feminist show. This isn’t to say that I dislike the show – I definitely enjoy it and there have been times where my girlfriends and I would have SATC marathons. But there are aspects of SATC that make it fundamentally not feminist:

– there is no race/class analysis. Feminism is about recognizing the intersectional nature of oppression and seeing that gender oppression does not stand alone – it is tied to racial oppression, class oppression, and other forms of oppression. All four of the main characters on the show are wealthy, white, (cis-gendered, heterosexual) women. They live extremely comfortable lives that do not reflect the reality of most working women.

– the portrayal of gay men is very neoliberal and whitewashing. Gay identity is co-opted and commodified by mainstream capitalist narratives that equate gayness with fashion and consumerism. The two gay supporting characters: Stanford Blatch and Anthony Marentino (especially Stanford) are portrayed more as accessories to one of the female leads, fulfilling the stereotype of the “gay best friend”, to help every straight girl with fashion, guys, etc. The only representation of the LGBTQ community that SATC offers is the privileged gay elite – wealthy white cisgender men, which is a very limiting and narrow portrayal.

– it is essentially a celebration of capitalism, consumerism and acquisition. And according to Marxist and socialist feminist schools of thought, capitalism is the source of oppression for all women. The SATC characters are always going on shopping sprees especially when it comes to shoes. Manolo Blahniks became a household name because of Carrie and her obsession with them.

– yes the four protagonists are female, and they are well-educated and (for the most part) successful in their careers, but most of their conversations tend to be about men, shopping and/or sex. In one episode when the four are at a diner, Miranda says something along the lines of “We are all well-educated, successful women; why can’t we talk about anything other than men?!” She storms out on her friends and they just continue talking about men.

– it doesn’t challenge the patriarchal gender binary and in some ways even reinforces it. Samantha is known for having sex “like a man”. Because she has casual sex and doesn’t really do relationships, she defies stereotypes of femininity, but instead of being more of an empowered woman, she’s “like a man”. And then, in one episode, Charlotte goes on two separate dates with two separate men in the same night. Her doing so made her “become a man”. But then, she worried about how she’d manage to eat two meals in a row, which made her “become a woman again”.



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