Monday, April 03, 2006

Some Thoughts Inspired by Sex and the City

Once upon a time, I had HBO. I watched some movies; a season or two of the Sopranos; and Sex and the City. I liked the show. It was the second or third or fourth season, and I was so happy to see four women be friends, and not torn apart by jealousy over boyfriends. Someone pointed out that it was just a story about gay men in female bodies; I didn't care. There were no "happy" female friendships that I knew of on TV, and I was relieved to see one show portray them.
This mythical time didn't last long.
I rented season 1 a year or so ago. Additionally, one of the local channels is playing bowdlerized repeats of SatC late at night. I watch it occasionally, when I can't drag myself to bed. Now? I'm horrified by the neurotic, relationship-oriented attitude of these women. Even Samantha, the bed-hopper, starts out as looking for a relationship. And the whole thing with Mr. Big? I don't understand how it is that he treats Carrie so horribly. Honestly, he never lies to her about being in it for fun, so I don't understand why she's so mad when he's... just in it for fun.
I'm sure better writers, and better parsers of culture, have written about this, so I'll skip the rest of the general comments. But last night was the episode when Miranda found out she is pregnant, and it got me thinking.
First of all, even though Miranda's plan is clearly to get an abortion, the word is not spoken. I can only hope that it was edited out. A network that has the "courage" to put mobsters and polygamists should have the courage to say the word abortion. But it wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't, much in the way "masturbation" was never mentioned in the famous Seinfeld episode. After all, Miranda eventually decides to keep the child; that is, the producers eventually bow to the conservative forces in this country that don't allow a major character to have an abortion.
The same thing happened recently on ER: the character Abby got pregnant and agonized for an entire episode (ooh! a day!) over whether to abort or not: she wasn't comfortable with her genetic history, or her nurturing abilities. But she decided to keep the baby.
And on Seventh Heaven, the less famous Duff sister played a young woman who got pregnant while in college. She was quoted in gossip columns as being glad that the writers had her character keep the baby, that her character didn't take the easy way out.
(As an aside: What????)
And I've been pondering a puzzle. I can't tie it directly to this media black-out, but it's at least related on a broad gender level. What's the puzzle? Well, the US has never had a female president.
Now, I confess I took this for granted. The US isn't ready for it yet, I said to myself. But two weeks ago, the New Yorker had a profile of the first female president in Africa. (The first black female? the first of a major country in Africa? Nerts: she's some sort of first, and now I don't remember which.)
I realized that my underlying assumption was that the world was not ready for a female leader of a country.
And that I was dead wrong.
I'm terrible with history, and with names, but even I know that Margaret Thatcher was PM of Britain. In the 1980's. And that Britain has/had even more openly sexist attitudes than the US. And that not only had Thatcher been the head of state (and an of an "important" country), but that I -- me! with my poor grasp of history and world events -- could think of at least two other politically important women: Indira Ghandi and Golda Meir. And I knew there was another woman, whose name I can't remember, and whose country I can't remember, but she was the leader of a Pacific area country for several years.
So why isn't America ready for a female president?


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