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Sex and the City & Mill?

April 4, 2011

With all my exams over until finals week, I planned to party this entire weekend. So, of course I was pretty angry when I got sick all of a sudden, and had to cancel all my plans to stay in bed the entire time. I decided to watch Sex and the City reruns on my laptop, and as soon as I finished Season 4 Episode 10, the only thing that ran through my mind was “Deja Vu! This is exactly what Mill was talking about!”

In the episode, Samantha wants a job from hotel tycoon Richard Wright, but he refuses to hire a woman, and his reasoning is that “women are too emotional”… and that the fact that she slept with the head architect of the company. She replies saying “If I was a guy, you would’ve shaken my hand, bought me a scotch, and given me a key to an office. Its amazing, a man with such innovative vision could be so short-sited.” The next day she got the job. Simultaneously, in the episode before, Charlotte decided to quit her job, and among her reasons, she mentions that it was her husband’s suggestion.

With his piece “The Subjection of Women,” John Stuart Mill can be considered one of the earliest feminists of his time. He talks about the role of women in marriage and how it should be changed.  Women are expected to fit the role of “submission, and yielding to the control of others” and this “ideal of character is the very opposite to that of men.” (Mill 659) This is shown clearly in both examples in the episode. Samantha has the qualities and achievement necessary for the job, but because she is a woman, she is expected to be “overly emotional” and the fact that she slept with someone at the firm, her personal business, is assumed to impair her ability to work with men at the company. Thus, her boss decides to only hire her if she pairs with a “more stable” male partner. After she points out his act of discrimination and furiously leaves the office, the next day she gets the job, showing that her words impacted Wright and because of her outburst, she justly got the job she deserved.

Even in Charlotte’s case, her husband expects her to quit her job now that they are trying to have a baby, supporting Mill’s argument that men expect women to be submissive and listen to them all the time. While there is some logic to the argument of staying at home when raising a child, in the end, the choice to quit her job should be Charlotte’s decision alone, and her husband should not be pushing her in either direction.

This is how I believe the events in this particular Sex and the City episode reflects Mill’s argument regarding the role of woman in society.

  1. Brian Fisher permalink
    April 4, 2011 3:37 PM

    Sex in the City does in fact show show comparison to Mill’s assessment of women. I definitely agree that Mill would not tolerate such discrimination that Samantha inflicted. Additionally, I think Mill would support Samantha’s tantrum against her boss because Mill wants everyone to share their opinions. In doing so, it allows individuals to further argue their point which helps them gain more insight on their opinion. Also, it allows the unpopular opinion to come out through conversation and this can perhaps be the right opinion. In all, I agree with how you assess Samantha’s actions with Mill’s opinion of the subjection of women

  2. Josh Platko permalink
    April 4, 2011 5:31 PM

    Great post. I am glad that while you were sick and in the mode of watching Sex and the City thoughts of Mill went through your head. Mill made great innovations on the feminist movement as he proposed the new roles of women, especially in marriages. Good thing Samantha took the action to complain about the situation, her opinionated actions would also be accepted by Mill. He would love that she voices what she thinks on the matter, because it seemed to have a definate impact on the decision to hire her. As for Charlottes situation, I agree 100%. Mill wants people to make their own decisions and deciding, and wouldnt specifically dislike the idea of a husband making a choice for his wife. Mill’s ideas have been great for women today, but unfortunatley we still see unfair actions against women in todays world.

  3. arweil permalink
    April 4, 2011 6:40 PM

    As a big fan of Sex and the City, I found your post particularly interesting. I never would have thought it possible to compare Sex and the City to the ideas of philosophers but you clearly prove this not to be the case. I found your comparison to Mill’s innovations on feminism extremely accurate. I strongly agree with the idea that Mill would support Samantha in her effort to speak up and take a stand against the employer. Additionally, as Brian stated above, I feel that Mill would say that Samantha is simply expressing her opinion, and that the employer should (and perhaps did) learn from it. According to Mill, if you silence one opinion, you are keeping possible truths from being heard. In this case, Samantha made sure to get her point across and her opinion heard. Great assessment overall, who knew there was so much to be learned from a Sex and the City episode?

  4. Zachary TeBeau permalink
    April 4, 2011 10:10 PM

    This post is very good in providing a real world example that I think people can relate too. Another example that I can think of the subjection of women that Mill’s would disagree with would be the women in the workplace. The fact that women get paid less would be an argument that Mills would push for equality.

  5. Rian Handler permalink
    April 5, 2011 1:15 PM

    I really enjoyed your post. I am also a fan of Sex and the City, and I remember this episode well. Charlotte’s decision to quit her job like her husband suggested is a great example of what Mill was describing in The Subjection of Women about his view on marriage. I completely agree with you that Mill was a feminist. It’s interesting that such a modern show can still demonstrate Mill’s views on women’s role in society. Though society has changed greatly since the time of Mill, his ideas are still not completely outdated.

  6. Caroline Syms permalink
    April 6, 2011 10:57 AM

    I’m so glad you chose to write about Sex & The City! It’s one of my favorite TV shows, and it was really neat to see the connection you drew between the show and Mill. Mill would be proud of Samantha for taking a stance against her boss by voicing her opinion, being aggressive, and not submitting to defeat. It seems like it would be very easy for Samantha to quietly walk away, accepting the fact that women are subordinate to men, but we know Samantha Jones doesn’t take crap from anyone. She certainly won this “battle for equality.”

    Charlotte’s situation is an example showcasing male dominance. It’s unfortunate that Charlotte felt so pressured to quit her job by her husband. Husbands are supposed to support their wives in whatever they do. So many women nowadays have children and are back at the workplace within a few months. I feel Mill wouldn’t be pleased with Charlotte’s situation as it shows how society hasn’t completely accepted women as equals to men.

    It’s amazing to see just how powerful, influential, and bold women can be. Many episodes of Sex & The City exemplify Mill’s beliefs in smart, creative, and forceful mannerisms. Men should really watch the show if they still think they are the dominant sex and that women aren’t entitled to their own opinions!

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