Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Aside on MRAs and Sex and the City

Going somewhat off topic:

I was surprised to see several MRAs complain about Sex and the Cityw encouraging the “spoiled-princess mentality” in women, being something that women used as “feel good” entertainment, and similar—even at least one claim that the series would be misandristic.

This struck me as very odd, because in my eyes the women come off very, very poorly: They are irrational, inconsistent, make complete fools out of themselves on a regular basis, are desperate for love, follow the whims of the latest beau, ... In fact, the series is highly “empowering”—for men. Speaking for myself (as the owner of five of the six seasons on DVD), it was a tremendous help in learning that women are more screwed up than I was (even when correcting for the comic exaggeration and stereotypization of TV) when it comes to romance, that they are the main problems in most relationship, that they are their own worst enemies, whatnot.

Truly, for the most part of the series, these women are sad and pathetic, more worthy of pity than admiration. Then again, there are many women who consider Holly Golightlyw someone to be... Could it be that most people are blind to what really goes on in fiction? That a miserable person wearing a tiara is someone that women aspire to be? That they fail to see that beneath that thin veneer of glamour, Holly is a prostitute with mental issues? (And, no, I do not use “prostitute” in a figurative sense.)

For some time, I actually considered the possibility that semi-sexist male writers where just poking fun at women. Among the many examples of Carrie, alone, behaving in a manner that could be construed as portraying women in an overly negative light, we have her:

  1. Trying to forcefully break into a closed chest (possibly a metaphor) in her latest date’s bedroom—after being left alone for five minutes for the first time.

  2. Cheating on her then boyfriend Aidan with a married man (strongly contributing to the break-up of his marriage) for a prolonged period of time.

  3. Screaming “You have to forgive me!” over and over again towards Aidan, without giving any arguments as to why, after he finds out about her cheating. (Depending on the interpretation, this could be great self-centeredness and lack of consideration for others, emotional weakness and insecurity, or some weird hysterical panic.)

  4. Having bought a total of some two hundred shoes at an accumulated cost of roughly $40,000 (irresponsible and showing a lack of reasonable priorities) and not being able to do the trivial math of this—thinking the grand total to be $4,000. No wonder she was in dire financial straits...

While it is true that they often landed unrealistically rich or handsome men, this does not outweigh all the negative issues; nor can it be argued that the portrayal of men would be misandristic (at least not in comparison to the portrayals of the women, and allowing for the natural angle of the show). Further, while they lived “independent” lives of the kind some feminists might applaud, they were not really happy—and they near constantly fought for the dream of a traditional relationship/marriage: Charlotte was married twice in just in four (?) years, Miranda once, Carrie cannot detach herself from Mr. Big and as the series end they seem to be heading towards a long-term future (according to Wikipedia they get married in the subsequent filmw), and even Samantha, the one exception of a “have sex like men” proponent, ends up in a long-term relationship (which, cf. ibid., seems to be uninterrupted years after the series ended).

For another angle, consider Carrie’s relationship with Big: Apart from the sexual aspects and the romantic complications, they are more of a 15 y.o. daughter and her father than they are equal partners. Theirs is the stereotypical men-are-adults, women-are-children type of relationship that modern women tend to frown upon (at least officially). Similar statements apply to several other boyfriends, including Petrov (?) and, to a lesser degree, Aidan. Charlotte’s first marriage was the same, the second somewhat similar. Miranda marries a low-IQ bartender with maturity issues, yet is often the less adult—not very flattering. Only Samantha seems to roughly equal in maturity with her partners, on average. (These differences in maturity are partially explained by age differences, not inherent maturity differences between the sexes; however, this is not that relevant: What matters is that the heroins are depicted in a “feministically incorrect” manner, regarding their choices of partners, their developments within relationships, etc. Further, at least Carrie and Charlotte are portrayed as less mature than one would expect of a man of their age.)

The one truly negative thing that I can recall of the top of my head: One episode paints circumcision as something good and normal that a man should be applauded for doing, if not already subjected to it as a child. This despite it being medical nonsense, a possible cause of undue irritation in daily life or reduced sensitivity during sex, and, when applied to children, cruel, archaic, and something which should be illegal. This not to mention the risk that the procedure goes wrong, an infection takes place, or other complications ensue. Even here, however, the message was not unambiguous: Whoever it was who convinced her boyfriend to have a circumcision, met with instant karma—he immediately dumped her to share his “new” penis with other women...