Sex And The City 2 (And Religion) (And Feminism) (And Race) (And Homophobia)

Diana Bass complains:

It just wasn’t very funny to see four smart American women parading western consumerism and sexualized identity in blatantly insensitive and anti-religious ways in a traditional world.

Wait a minute, what she describes may not be funny but it’s certainly the best thing I’ve heard about the film from everything that I’ve read about it! She continues with more of her worries that secularists are daring not to cater to religion:

I knew that they wouldn’t be robed in burqas (and wouldn’t want them to be), but I didn’t quite expect the Sex and the City women to lead a religious-style revival meeting for America in the United Arab Emirates while gyrating to ‘I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar.’

Throughout the picture, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are all trivialized. Christianity is, as it has been in the whole series, mostly invisible and seen only through the lens of materialist culture; Judaism received strange treatment during a gay wedding scene and through Charlotte’s conversion; and well, there are no words to describe the mean-spirited stereotypes heaped upon Islam. I wasn’t sure what was more offensive–having American ideals of freedom depicted by freewheeling sex-on-the-beach or having Muslims pictured as rich sheikhs, women-hating fundamentalists, and repressed female sexual power. What was this? The 1940s? Not even a vague attempt at post-9/11 Abrahamic interreligious understanding?

And Larry Niven of Rust Belt Philosophy counters her criteria for criticism:

I have a hell of a lot more sympathy for the feminist critique than the religious critique. For one thing, you can choose to be a Muslim (or not) and in most cases you cannot choose to be a woman (or not; certainly at the very least you cannot choose to be born and live the first several years of your life as a woman). But also, it’s really confusing for Bass to say that the appropriate response to Muslim fundamentalism is a “post-9/11 Abrahamic interreligious understanding.”
First of all, why is this post-9/11? What, in fact, does the phrase “post-9/11″ even mean here? Clearly she means for it to communicate something other than the current date, but just what that is I cannot say. The bigger problems are “Abrahamic” and “interreligious.” Bass seems to say that only religions need to concern themselves with the behavior of middle eastern Muslim men – behavior, in case you need reminding, that includes “taking their daughters out of school and forcing them to marry older cousins…forcing women to wear hijab, [and killing] them if they go out with the ‘wrong’ man or get a job or go to university or otherwise act like independent human beings” – and that it’s more crucial to obtain an “understanding” than to correct the morally atrocious behavior of any one of those religions. (Interestingly, she says at the same time that it is appropriate to correct the [very real] behavior problems of “western consumerism and sexualized identity” – which people like Bass are fond of calling a religion unto itself. Apparently some religions are more equal than others.) But in fact it’s even worse than that, because it’s only the Abrahamic religions that need to reach this understanding. Every other religion, apparently, is so laughable that she doesn’t even feel the need to count it. At any rate, it’s very hard to conceive of any particular “post-9/11 Abrahamic interreligious understanding” that could justify the treatment of women in the middle east.

Kalsoom, an American educated, Sex in the City fan from Pakistan, who blogs at Changing Up Pakistan thinks that the portrayal of Muslim women in the film is too monolithic and “othering”:

First – not all women in the Middle East are covered. Saudi Arabia? Yes. But have you ever seen a Lebanese music video? Have you walked down the street in Cairo? Modesty may be key to most Islamic societies, but that doesn’t mean all women wear the niqab. Despite the diversity of women in the region – some covered, others not, some conservative, others liberal or moderate – the film instead portrayed a sea of silenced Muslim females shroud in black, sentenced to shove one french fry at a time underneath their veil. Poor, poor, hungry, Muzzy women.Second – not all people in the Middle East are Muslims, and certainly not all Muslims are in the Middle East. For the love of God, do we still have to make that point? Abu Dhabi is not a representative of the entire “Muslim World.”

Third – Samantha [*cough* Star & King] may think that women are not allowed a voice, but if they had one, would they want to sound like her? The sexually empowered menopausal woman who screams, “Lawrence of My-Labia”? The one who throws condoms at angry souk men yelling, “I am a woman! I have sex!”? Somehow strung-out mental patient comes more to mind than empowered, opinionated woman.

And she goes on to argue that the cumulative effect of this was to silence, rather than identify with, the Muslim women in the film:

Sex and the City symbolized, for all its fans, woman empowerment through sisterhood. And while the second film was an attempt to enforce that idea, through the foursome’s journey to Abu Dhabi, it also failed to find a similar and deeper connection with women in that part of the world. Instead of the film using its ‘girl power’ appeal to explore the nuances and truly engage the Arab/Muslim/Middle Eastern woman, it polarized them as the “other,” victims of an oppressive patriarchal society. Ali, in his Salon.com piece, concluded, “After completely dissing the Middle East, its people, its religion and its culture, it’s “Sex and the City” that truly insults the Muslim women, by silencing them entirely.”

And at Feministing, Samhita interprets the film’s othering in terms of race:

The movie advances a type of feminism that relies on silencing women of color and rendering them invisible, only conjuring them up when they need to compare how much better they have it, or for the occasional faux attempt at cross-cultural dialogue. When Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha sing “I’m every woman,” they might as well mean “Every woman is white, wealthy, and American.”

It almost seemed that the movie was trying to carve out a difference between white women and women of color, erasing them completely, using them to make points.

In Sex and the City 2, they became caricatures of racist women I have interacted with in my life, people I couldn’t relate to anymore, people that would ask me if the kama sutra impacted my sex life or if I could say my last name again, slowly (Miranda would try extra hard to pronounce it).

And it’s also apparently homophobic:
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The Gink Chronicles at least thinks the movie is “the greenest” of the year.
Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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