Monday, July 07, 2008

The Feminine Mistake

At dinner the other night, Whastshisname and a female friend of ours, Medbh, got into a rather heated discussion over the film, Sex and The City.

They were both going back and forth over the main character's choices and why what she did was wrong or right. Medbh felt that the main character was caving to her boyfriend's whims, while Whatshisname felt otherwise.

So I sat and watched. As I was sitting across from them, it was sort of like watching a tennis match as the gay male African American volleyed serves to the straight white female feminist. It was all a pretty fair match, until Whatshisname threw out the line, "That's just 70's Feminist thinking", to which Medbh replied by metaphorically hitting him with her racket over the head.

Happily, since both of the debaters are intelligent and sensible people, they agreed to disagree ... I could not add much, as I have not seen the movie, and only sporadically watched the TV show.

In the same vain, I over heard a conversation the other day between a group of women who were all in there late 40's and early 50's. They had all seen the film apparently and then one of them proposed the following; she said that Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore of the 70's sitcom) was more of a feminist than Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker of the movie/90's sitcom). The women all paused and then agreed. Though they loved the movie, they felt that the characters were leading unbelievable and unattainable lives for most, while Mary Richards and her funky apartment in Minneapolis and her job at a news station, and her lifestyle as a single woman, seemed much more believable, if in fact, desirable.

That got me to thinking of something. The Mary Tyler Moore show, while a product of it's age, never presented it's heroine as desperate , nor was she the type to compromise her principals for anyone, lest of all a man. More so, she was dedicated to her career and had a strange but loving surrogate family in the crew of WJM. And while it was never directly mentioned, it was clear that Mary dated and had sex (remember that infamous episode when Mary's mother finds out her daughter is on "the pill" - Season 3 Episode entitled, "You've got a Friend") Hell even Mary's best friend, the man hungry Rhoda (Valerie Harper) who finally netted a guy to marry, dropped him when he turned out to be no good, and continued making her own way with out whining over the lack of a better half.

Could this be because The Mary Tyler Moore show was seeing things from a mostly straight point of view?

Sex and The City, while based on a book by a woman (Candace Bushnell), was created for HBO by a gay man, Darren Star - and produced by another gay man, Michael Patrick King.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, and from what I can see in the way of research, neither Brooks or Burns were gay (though Allan Brooks was the creator of Cap'n Crunch Cereal, so he should be made a national hero for that!)

There was a great line in the Simpsons once where Patty and Selma (Marge's sisters) are talking about a Sex-and-the-City-like TV program they enjoy called, Nookie in New York. Which Patty describes as "Four single women who act like gay men".

I think Patty was on to something: You see, we gays, (some of us at least) enjoy our fantasies. We like bigger than life situations and outrageous fashions and boyfriends who are bad ... it's a curse for many of us. We are just so damned creative that we tend to go overboard at times. And maybe that is why some women see the gals in Sex and The City as nothing more than Technicolor versions of real women - drag queens possibly - who live in a world of crazy clothes and unending martinis with a neon version of The Big Apple as a back drop.

Now before I am attacked, I do understand that SATC did indeed feature some serious turns such as one of the characters dealing with breast cancer, and another one caring for her husband's mother who develops Alzheimer's disease --- and that is admirable; but for them most part, from what I can ascertain, SATC is just a frothy cartoon world with no real substance.

So what is my point here?

Well, I don't know that I have one. But I do have a couple of questions.

Ladies, do you consider yourself a feminist? And if so how would you describe your brand of feminism?

Is the Gloria Steinem brand of feminism that I saw blossom in the 70's dead?

How do we reconcile anti-feminist-feminists: people like Ann Coulter and Barbara Ingram? Women who, were it not for the feminist movement,(whether they would like to admit it or not) would never have the public sounding board they have now.

What do you say, girls? Is it all about 'Making it after all'? Or is it more about finding the right frock, job, and man, and looking like a runway model while doing it?

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