The second Sex In The City Movie has just been released, and judging by my little corner of the interwebz it seems to be causing something of a furore. I keep being sent links to article after article, blog after blog, all wailing about how utterly awful it is. If the majority of the (feminist in the main) detractors of the film are to be believed, SATC2 is the worst misgogyny to come out of Hollywood since Roman Polanski. The main thrust of these feminist writers’ arguments is that what was once an entertaining, empowering, feminist TV show about independent, career minded women, has now descended into a turgid shopping and fucking fest. With a little bit of racism sprinkled on top for good measure.
I don’t understand these tirades. It feels to me like these people have been watching a completely different show from the one I have. I thought SATC had always been about shopping and fucking. Oh and eating, and drinking cocktails, and most of all talking. Women talking about shopping and fucking. The careers of Samantha, Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda were merely backdrops to their decadent sex-filled lifestyles. A private view at Charlotte’s gallery for example, was just an excuse for the girls to pick up men between the canapes. A new male PA at Samantha’s firm was a lead-in to some hot on-the-desk fucking. And perhaps the iconic image of the show, Carrie typing away on her laptop, wearing only a bra and pants, was always about the bra and pants not the writing. But I didn’t think we watched SATC for stories of empowered women, making it in the male dominated professional world. We have The West Wing for that don’t we?
God knows there is enough to criticise the TV show for, let alone the films. Its representation of anyone who doesn’t belong to the whiter than white, middle to upper class, all-American Hamptons set was pathetic. The constant refrain from the main characters of ‘I need a fuck/boyfriend/husband’ to complete me, got boring after a while. Though the programme was made by Gay writers and producers, the portrayal of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters was cliched and grating. But I forgave it all that and more, because this was the first time in the history of mainstream, primetime TV that women had been shown in leading roles, seeking out, enjoying, and talking about orgasmic, pleasure-filled, exhilarating sex. This is the revolutionary aspect of SATC, and its legacy for feminism. No Hollywood feature length moneyspinner can take that away from us, can it ladies and gents?
Ah, but wait. I am not sure everybody does agree on this one. In reading these diatribes against SATC2 (which by the way I am sure is a terrible film), I have noticed something. The sexy, exuberant, experimental sexuality of the characters in the TV programmes, was not what these feminist critics enjoyed at all. They actually seem to have found it kind of vulgar. Take this quote from a review by Lindy West that has been Retweeted to notoriety on twitter today
‘Samantha, being the prostitute (< crossed out) sexual revolutionary that she is, rages against the machine by publicly grabbing the engorged penis of a man’
What was that word you crossed out in this new, faux ironic way Lindy? Prostitute. Oh. That word. Now I am a supporter of sex workers and I would love to see a sex worker character in a hit TV comedy. But Samantha Jones is in no way shape or form a prostitute. Her character has always been based around someone who has assertively sought out sexual experiences, on her own terms, for their own sake, and she has dated men from a range of economic backgrounds. She is the type of woman you could imagine hiring a rent boy for the night, and think nothing of it. Samantha’s longest most serious relationship was with Smith, a young out-of-work actor, whose career she boosted with her PR contacts and marketing know how (and cash). This is not the narrative of Pretty Woman.
Samantha is a feminist hero to me. She is sexy, intelligent, funny, independent, a bit guarded emotionally, but also vulnerable, sexually adventurous and fearless. What’s not to like?
Underneath the veneer of outrage at feminine stereotypes, objectification of women, and needy female heterosexuality, these critiques have revealed themselves to be just another attack on women like Samantha, who enjoy, speak openly about and experiment with their sexuality.
Another feminist hero of mine, Zoe Margolis, has recently won a libel case against the Independent on Sunday newspaper, who, in an article about her latest book: Girl with a one track mind: exposed, called her an ex ‘hooker’. When she won her case, Zoe said that she was celebrating her win as ‘a small victory for feminism’ because it was a successful challenge of a sexist media, which ‘conflates female sexuality with prostitution’. It is depressing to find that it is not just the media, but also influential feminists, who are making this same, sexist conflation between women’s sexuality and sex work.
I support sex workers. And I support women who want to enjoy and discuss their sexuality, without being labelled prostitutes or hookers. I am sure sex workers themselves do not want to be defined only in terms of their job, and that they would like also to be treated as women with sex lives, women who watch SATC maybe, and laugh and talk about sex with their mates as we all do.
So basically, what I am saying is, fuck you neo-puritans. Samantha rocks!