Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Can't We All Just Fucking Get Along?

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  • giovanni tiso,

    She might regard herself as left-wing, perhaps because her family are life-long Labour voters, but all the evidence is to the contrary.

    Roger Douglas will go to his grave - and, quite possibly, ours - maintaning that he's a socialist.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    SATC is a show about four women who act like...?

    I can't rewrite the joke, but I wanted to note something. If I cast my mind back to lo those many years ago to when the show was first on, I liked it because I saw some aspects of my friend-relationships reflected back to me. There really weren't (aren't?) very many shows about groups of women friends, and although it all got overwhelmed eventually by the whole Big/Aidan/Carrie thing, it did have some story arcs that dealt with more than Jimmy Choos. How do you support a friend who keeps doing something really bad for them, which drives you totally crazy? What should your friends do when a parent dies? What if your marriage ends up being completely wrong for you and you forced your friends to be bridesmaids and now you look like a doofus?

    Plus, it was nice that they all had sex with people regularly without being killed off or taking part in some sort of 'punish the sluts' narrative. It was also, in parts, very funny. And this was despite how ham-fisted Carrie's voiceovers were, or the fact that I totally hated her character (god, all that *simpering* around her love interests was so annoying!). It's a pity that we all seem to have such a reduced view of the show now - which I suppose can be partly blamed on Michael Patrick King and the two films. But I also lay a fair amount of blame on reviewers and the gendered double standard Megan so eloquently expresses in her post.

    PS I feel like I have been unconscionably wishy-washy about feminism, and would like to be Deborah when I grow up. Unfortunately I'm nearly 36 already and I don't think it's likely to ever happen.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'm honestly not trying to wind you up, Craig, but I don't quite get the offence here.

    Course you're not, Russell, otherwise you'd be getting a full-on Santorum facial from a seriously pissy queen. (I'll leave a Dan Savage fan to explain that one :) ) I'm not disagreeing with you that the meme that SATC is little more than "the show about four women acting like gay guys" is far from new. All I'm saying is that deconstructing the assumptions behind gags like that is quite an interesting exercise.

    (And while we're handing out the linky love, hat tip to Deborah for the link to Salon's genuinely provocative and useful deconstruction of SCAT 2's eye-watering Orientalist patronage of Muslim women written by a straight-Muslim man who could make his point without rape jokes.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    It's a pity that we all seem to have such a reduced view of the show now - which I suppose can be partly blamed on Michael Patrick King and the two films.

    Oh, I still love the show. I didn't love the last couple of seasons, except for the fashion, but yeah. The movies didn't ruin it for me. And there are still glimpses of those friendships.

    I described the first movie as kind of like catching up with friends you haven't seen for ages. The second was more like catching up with friends you have drifted apart from, and remembering why.

    PS I feel like I have been unconscionably wishy-washy about feminism, and would like to be Deborah when I grow up. Unfortunately I'm nearly 36 already and I don't think it's likely to ever happen.

    God, me too. Or at least to have her adopt me.

    (Darling, the only way Liza Minnelli is getting anywhere near my fabulous nuptials is if she's made of chicken liver pate.)

    I thought about counting the number of times they said "gay wedding", but by the time I had noticed it, they'd already said it too many times.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    In my experience 'feminism' is not an absolute. It builds on your basic value system and you may take on this standpoint after experiencing or seeing personal or collective gender discrimination.

    So there are socialist feminists, essentialist feminists (biology is destiny), (neo) liberal feminists, eco feminists etc. One of the staunchest speeches on feminism I ever heard was by Ruth Richardson at one of those early United Women's Conventions. But for her it meant she could expect a parliamentary breastfeeding room for her personal use, but she didn't support a creche for parliamentary workers. Some neo-lib feminists happily pull up the ladder behind them, which is in direct contradiction to the values of socialist feminists.

    BTW if I had to label my own standpoint I would call myself a socialist/eco feminist.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3227 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Oh, I still love the show. I didn't love the last couple of seasons, except for the fashion, but yeah.

    Fair enough -- and I guess on one level SATC (like Skins) was what Chicago Trib TV critic (and tele-blogger) Maureen Ryan calls "not bad, but not for me". Which is probably a good thing, because as my Nana used to say: You try to be all things to all people, you just end up being nothing to nobody. Which is not that far from where Emma started...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Just to mix things up a little more, Thomas Rogers on Salon recently advanced the view that the SATC films were were bad for the gays:

    I like to think I'm not the kind of gay man who gets easily offended watching movies about gay people. These days, there's not that much to offend. Even frat-party celebrations like "The Hangover" are required to show some nuance and sensitivity toward gay characters and themes. But two movies in the past two years have made me genuinely angry, and the strange thing is, these two movies are aimed largely at gay men, beloved by gay men, and most surprisingly of all, made by gay men: "Sex and the City" and, now, its mind-blowingly tone-deaf sequel, "Sex and the City 2."

    Part of what made the original HBO show so important was its ability to keep its finger on the pulse: From its relationship dilemmas to its frank sexual talk, the show prided itself on being hip and edgy. The movies, by contrast, are a testament to what happens when people lose touch. They feel insincere, overblown, transparently commercial -- and in the case of the recent sequel, brutally culturally insensitive. But most surprising of all, given the fact that both movies were written and directed by the openly gay Michael Patrick King, is how retrograde they are in their treatment of gayness.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    I think this definition by Stef hits the spot

    Feminism - free to fuck up. Your life, your decisions, your responsibility. Just because you are an autonomous adult.

    I don't think I need more than that

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 578 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Just to mix things up a little more, Thomas Rogers on Salon recently advanced the view that the SATC films were were bad for the gays:

    Thanks Russell -- I was looking for that. And he's got a point, you know: Sanford and Anthony are damn close to textbook Pet Homosexuals. And I don't know quite how to feel about the idea that the most thoroughly non-stereotypical gay character on American television since The Wire's Omar (happily married, devoted family man... who earns a living in a seriously unfabuous manner) on American television is played by a straight actor on a science fiction show whose show-runner, executive producer and senior writers are also straight.

    As Andrew Sullivan might say, we're having a cultural moment here folks...

    Having said that, US TV still can't quite get it's head around lesbian/bisexual characters as more than sweeps-week stunts or queer eye-candy for the straight guy gaze. (Even Shonda Rhimes -- who otherwise ticks all the diversity boxes on Grey's Anatomy keeps being seriously clueless about GLBT-ness at Seattle Grace.)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    So let's rewrite the joke: SATC (an acronym with wonderful onomatopoeia for such a show) is a show about four women who act like...?

    Remember, no stereotypes allowed and it has to be at least Simpsons-level funny.

    That's, like, a kōan for our times, man.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Gotta agree with Danielle - it was a pretty funny show at the start. Then it got old and corny. Like most shows. And it's much easier to get bitterly offended by it when it's not funny any more. I don't think it got more edgy or offensive, it was just old hat, the actors were older, it turned into a soap. I despised the first movie and will not bother with the second until it comes out on Sky.

    Nothing to do with the "message". I could not give a flying shit about the message in movies. It's how the message is done that matters, if there must be a message. It was just not funny or entertaining at any level.

    As for the Feminism label, it's the same conundrum for every word that is based on a theoretical position. On the one hand, words are convenient labels and make speech faster. On the other, they must also necessarily compress the meaning down. In the end, they are never sufficient to define anything - nothing short of actually reading/hearing a lot of someone's opinion will ever properly capture it - everything else leads to information loss. I find myself constantly finding that people who adopt the exact same label as I do for something highly specific very often have quite different opinions about that something. Very small differences can lead to total flips in support. It's rather like finding someone really hot in a thumbnail, and then realizing they're actually not that hot when you see the hi-rez version.

    But what can you do? Words are the way we speak. They are necessarily information losing, slippery beasts. Every word is a stereotype. Only in combination can they lead back towards precision. Which requires of the audience that they actually put the effort in. It also means that you can only really talk with great precision about a very small domain, and word like Feminism do not cover a small domain (any more).

    If you take the path that it's very important how words are defined and used, you get the problems Emma describes, that it turns into a thousand camps. If you take the other path, you get the problem that the words lose meaning. Both ways are a Tower of Babel, one is from refusal to understand, the other from inability to do so. The only way out is taking the time to understand what people mean. Labels don't really do any work for us at all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Stevens,

    Oh dear - don't you rremember the feminist wars of the late 70s and early 80s? Massive bitter fighting over ideas, deep divides, largely forgotten now but painful at the time.

    And I, a man, was rather bizzarrely asked to contribute to the Akld Uni feminist magazine this semester - it displayed a nearly complete lack of any understanding of feminism by under-grads.

    Feminism still matters - there are real structural inequalities based around gender. But everyone is so busy drinking the kool-aid of mass culture they don't notice.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 230 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    it displayed a nearly complete lack of any understanding of feminism by under-grads.

    Could you expand on that? Are you saying that the fact that a man was asked to write for a feminist magazine showed lack of understanding of feminism in itself?

    I'm not saying that a man can be a feminist, but surely men can comment on gender issues, and this commentary can be of interest to feminists. As a matter of fact, you expressed a very strong position in your last paragraph right there:

    Feminism still matters - there are real structural inequalities based around gender. But everyone is so busy drinking the kool-aid of mass culture they don't notice.

    Why should a feminist magazine not be interested in considering for publication a more considered elaboration of this statement? I don't think that being a male disqualifies you from holding that view, or makes your thinking irrelevant.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And I, a man, was rather bizzarrely asked to contribute to the Akld Uni feminist magazine this semester - it displayed a nearly complete lack of any understanding of feminism by under-grads.

    Perhaps they think the other half of the human race actually has some part to play in those "real structural inequalities based around gender", and doing all the heavy lifting isn't woman's work alone? Just a thought.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    I think this definition by Stef hits the spot

    Feminism - free to fuck up. Your life, your decisions, your responsibility. Just because you are an autonomous adult.

    I don't think I need more than that

    But with respect, Raymond, you need a hell of a lot more than that to get to the point where that definition makes any sense. Women martyred themselves, went on hunger strike, made exhibitions of themselves, for example, for the right of latter-day women to be free to fuck up the vote.

    And my mum was not allowed to have a bank account in her own name when she got married, so all her purchases had to be signed off by my dad (to his credit, he was appalled).

    And only in my lifetime has it become relatively easy to deal with a contraceptive fuck-up. Just to give a few examples.

    Y'know? I see the beautiful simplicity of the line, but feminism, for me, aims at more than just some fundamental freedom to make a mess of your own life. Especially given that for so much of history -- and still now, around the world -- women have not been allowed a life, a decision, a responsibility of their own, nor been treated like autonomous adults. Women have pretty much been forced to live with the results of the fuckups of other autonomous adults.

    Which is why so much of early feminism was about freedom (or protection) from as much as freedom (or protection) to: freedom from violent drunken husbands, freedom from forced marriage, freedom from rape in marriage, freedom from the effects of venereal disease (a biggie for the Victorians), freedom from the inevitability of childbearing, and so on and so on.

    And also why so much of feminism has been -- and continues to be -- about collective action, rather than individual freedoms.

    As a utopian principle, sure, "the freedom to fuck up" has a certain ring. Yeah, we've come a long way, baby. But in practice? We still have a long way to go.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    I have absolutely no problem with the long comments, guys. I set this up because I don't know the answer, so restricting comment would be kind of pointless.

    I'm not saying that a man can be a feminist

    I really don't see why not. If feminism is an ideology, and as loose and open a one as people seem to be saying generally here, then why can't a man be a feminist?

    But everyone is so busy drinking the kool-aid of mass culture they don't notice.

    So... Battlestar Galactica and shoes stop people thinking? Again?

    Oho, so that's what y'all get up to at these "Great Blends" I never manage to make it over for.

    Aheheheheheheh.

    When it comes to feminism, and who is or who isn't a feminist, I'm prepared to say that feminists must be pro-choice. Not pro-abortion for themselves, necessarily, but pro-choice. They must recognise that other women are autonomous adults, fully capable of making decisions for themselves, and fully responsible for living with the consequences.

    Oookay, but, why 'responsible adults' in just that one area (given it's a really big one). I don't feel like I'm treated as a responsible autonomous adult when I'm told what my dress, hobbies, and sexual habits should (or more to the point shouldn't) be. Does that make the women who tell me those things Not Feminists? Because I think they'd be startled.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    I don't feel like I'm treated as a responsible autonomous adult when I'm told what my dress, hobbies, and sexual habits should (or more to the point shouldn't) be. Does that make the women who tell me those things Not Feminists? Because I think they'd be startled.

    Golly, who are these women?? I dunno if they're feminists or not, but they sound a smidge deficient in the etiquette department, not to mention the persuasiveness stakes. Do they doorknock, or do you meet them at social events, or what? Seriously.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    deleted duplicate post

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    So... Battlestar Galactica and shoes stop people thinking? Again?

    Can someone explain why the idea of 'false consciousness' is such a big joke these days? I don't get it.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I really don't see why not. If feminism is an ideology, and as loose and open a one as people seem to be saying generally here, then why can't a man be a feminist?

    Because, not unlike other ideologies, it is meaningless without lived experience. I don't think I could be rich and be a socialist. But I am relatively rich compared to other New Zealanders and certainly very rich compared to almost entire populations in other countries whose struggles aren't mine simply because I can comprehend them intellectually but not experientially - and that makes all the difference. I can be a supporter of third world socialist struggles, but not a third world socialist. I can be a supporter of feminism, a person who has an interest in feminism, but not a feminist.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Do they doorknock, or do you meet them at social events, or what? Seriously.

    One could cite the "women don't like group sex" thread of infamy on THM, but it was, shall we say, indicative of a larger trend?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    On the other hand, I regularly get brassed off by PETA and the lunatic fringe of the green movement (both of which would disapprove of many decisions I make in my life) -- but I am happy to come out in favor of the environment and animal welfare.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    getting along... getting along... ah, ah, ah

    If feminism is an ideology, and as loose and open a one as people seem to be saying generally here, then why can't a man be a feminist?

    is the world ready for... Femenism! ©

    ...but "feminists" implies the Borg

    fem-in-nine = seven-of-nine?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    I don't and can't dissagree with your points Jolisa
    I am well aware ( my mother certainly would have never let that happen) of what went before so that todays women can say this

    I just like the simplicityof Stef's statement

    And it fits so well with my personal veiws

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 578 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    Feminism - free to fuck up. Your life, your decisions, your responsibility. Just because you are an autonomous adult.
    I don't think I need more than that

    But with respect, Raymond, you need a hell of a lot more than that to get to the point where that definition makes any sense.

    Sounds like you're talking about a mission statement versus a strategic plan ..
    Isn't 'the freedom to fuck up' a more general definition of autonomy?

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 830 posts Report Reply

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