Thursday, August 22, 2002
By Anne Stover, Summer Intern, Asbury College Senior
I am now truly a woman of the 21st century; I viewed my first episode of Sex and the City last week. Watching this popular comedy is a weekly ritual in the television lounge of my summer dormitory. Girls crowd around the television ten minutes early so they won’t miss one second of the show. After all, this HBO series is watched by roughly 4.4 million households every week. It received nearly 100 primetime Emmy nominations for 2002, and won two Golden Globes and a Screen Actors Guild award earlier this year. Last year, it won an Emmy for outstanding comedy series. Phenomenal.
Yet, when the show was over and everyone dispersed, I remained on the couch, inexplicably depressed and perplexed by the implications of the program. The storyline last Sunday night was that Carrie, a thirty-something powerhouse New York City columnist, saw an older married couple sitting on a nearby bench watching the sunset and realized that she wants that kind of relationship in her life and that maybe the path that she has been following does not lead there. Heavy stuff! After all, Carrie and her friends are living the contemporary woman’s dream. This is the high life. Carrie has fantastic clothes, eats at trendy restaurants and has an amazing apartment. If the guys want to be like Mike, shouldn’t we girls want to be like Carrie?
Not exactly. Though Carrie has the job of my dreams-successful columnist in New York City and a book deal, there is a strong undercurrent of discontent running through the whole series. Viewing tapes of previous episodes, I discovered that for all of their surface glamour, the women live pretty empty and unfulfilled lives. The four women work long hours at flashy jobs, have sex with guys whether they are husband material or not, live with boyfriends and move out when it doesn’t work, only to begin searching for the next guy to go home with. At times Carrie and her friends admit that they hope for love, marriage, and family, but they do nothing to remedy their current situation.
While I know that these young career women are just characters on a television show, I also know that I do not want my life to look like theirs. Nor do most of the women who watch the show. The majority of young women say that they want to marry and have children. However, these same young women also want to be successful professionally. No wonder we are perplexed. Dr. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of the book Creating a Life, suggests young women think long and hard about what they want their lives to look like when they are 35 and 40 years old, and then to make a strategy to achieve their goals. She also reminds young women that putting a career before a family can lead to irrevocable consequences such as the inability to conceive and have the children most desire.
Perhaps the success of Sex and the City rests on the fact that good drama has to be based on truth and the reality of the “sex and the city” lifestyle is inescapable. Ultimately, what Carrie wants-what every liberated female character on the show is without-is a committed relationship with a wonderful man.
Why hasn’t this smart, attractive woman married some smart, attractive, equally successful man? These women epitomize all that is classy and cutting edge for professional women. Yet, in their quest for independence, they have given up their sexual power. Why would men face the responsibilities of marriage when they can easily get sex outside of it? Sex and the City dramatically illustrates what the research shows so clearly –that women are the losers of the sexual revolution. “Today, women are bearing the brunt of the cultural trends. Too many couples are choosing a succession of ‘hook-ups’ rather than marriage,” writes Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, and author of the report Gaining Ground: A Profile of American Women in the Twentieth Century. “The result is a sharp increase in the number of women who live isolated and alone with less and less ‘connectedness.'”
I hope that those millions of young women who enjoy watching the show will take the time to reflect as they look towards their futures, and not simply accept the Sex and the City lifestyle as an ideal model. If women truly want to have it all, Carrie is not the example to follow.