Sex and the City represented a new and groundbreaking television approach to women’s representation and sexuality in the early 2000’s. The show follows the lives of four females as they navigate the challenges of their careers, friendships, and romantic lives in their 20s and early 30s. As Arthur’s articulates in her text “Sex and the City and Consumer Culture” this show focuses on “women as protagonists, whose actions drive the narrative, replaced the marginal and narrow range of roles available previously to women characters in these genres.” This show highlights several stereotypes and sexist experiences that affect women daily and encourage discourse regarding these challenges in an attempt to spark change.
In this video clip, we see Miranda completing the necessary paperwork to purchase her own apartment on the Upper West Side, and she is met with sexist and condescending remarks during the entire process. Her broker repeatedly asks her if it’s “just you” and inquires as to why she needs such a large apartment just for herself, going so far as to attempt to set Miranda up with her son when she says she doesn’t have a boyfriend. As she’s signing the papers, the broker asks her to check the “single woman box” and inquires if her down payment is coming from her father. These offensive and sexist remarks demonstrate the negative stereotypes associated with single women and society’s discomfort with financially independent, unmarried women. Arthur’s emphasizes that this show “publicly repudiates the shame of being single and sexually active in defiance of the bourgeois codes that used to be demanded of respectable women.” In this way, Sex and the City actually brings to light a previously unaddressed issue that was considered an unsuitable topic in television series, and utilizes the scenario to spark discourse as to why this discomfort of single women exists.
It further “self reflexively interrogates media representation of the single woman although the emotional power of these residual stereotypes is acknowledged.” The viewers can see that all these issues Miranda faces while simply trying to buy an apartment does in fact take a toll on her emotionally; however, she refuses to let society’s misogyny stand in the way of what she wishes to accomplish. While discussing her encounter with her broker over her friends at brunch, Miranda shrewdly notes that if she were a man, no one would have questioned her ability or reasoning for buying an apartment. This highlights the immense double standard that females still encounter in modern day society. While this de facto sexism and discrimination still exists, the actions of the independent characters of Sex and the City prod viewers in a direction that shatters these glass ceilings and gender norms in an attempt to empower single women. The clip ends with Carrie articulating that “they’re just threatened because buying a place alone means that you don’t need a man” and they agree that it is preferable to be alone rather than settle down for the sake of being with a man.
The series does an effective job in presenting multiple perspectives to these residual stereotypes, which I believe is imperative when it comes to changing these pre existing and accepted stereotypes. Charlotte, the most conservative of the four, demonstrates the conventional perspective of marriage and female roles within such a marriage. She interjects at the end of the clip that the broker wasn’t necessarily wrong and that’s why she rents, “if you own and he still rents, the power structure is all off. It’s emasculating. Men don’t want a woman who is too self sufficient” This statement demonstrates an alternative perspective, in direct comparison to the feelings of Miranda, Carrie, and Samantha. This is important because this show provides the one dimensional thought process as a response, in order to highlight how individuals in the real world may think of this scenario. It then further goes on to repudiate this line of thinking when Samantha sarcastically replies, “ I’m sorry did someone just order a Victorian straight up.” Samantha’s incredulous reply to Charlotte’s backward thinking comment directly represents how this series challenges gender norms and refuses to allow this preconceived notion of a woman’s single state to perpetuate in a cycle of sexism.
With that, I leave you with a few question to think about. As always, I would love to hear your feedback, thoughts, and analysis on this topic! Thanks for reading 🙂
- Knowing that this show aired in the early 2000’s, how do you believe current TV series are attempting to address and change gender norms more relevant in today’s society?
- Can you think of any characters in TV shows you watch that represent the conventional gender norms that Charlotte advocates for?
- What are some other way you think television series can utilize this platform to spark discourse in regards to eradicating negative and harmful stereotypes towards females?