My best friend called: “I was
thinking of which of my most superficial girlfriends I would most like to
see Sex in the City with, and thought of you.”
We laughed conspiratorially. We are
professionals, intellectuals, the labels that allow us to be taken seriously
in what still remains a man’s world. We are both back at university,
re-tooling. We did it the hard way, relying on brains, not beauty (as many
young women still do, to get ahead), and a passionate commitment to our
But privately, over our regular
lunches, we unleash our girly avatars, treating one another to fripperies:
the latest Victoria Secrets push-up, a gloss that gives us ridiculous
bee-stung lips, last year’s labels at slashed prices on e-bay.
The film Sex in the City” an
offshoot of the TV series in which four attractive, professional,
financially independent women, meet frequently, (wearing whimsical, and
ridiculous labels) for conversation that is irreverent (objectifying pretty
boys), taboo (sexual independence and lesbianism) and serious (the battle
with breast cancer) was our thing.
We thought the film would be about
stuff women can never resist: fashion and love.
Would Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker)
snare her commitment, phobic long- term boyfriend, Mr Big (every pun
intended). But more importantly, what would she wear at her wedding?
Women worldwide who were hooked by
the series must have found comfort in this escapism. Like every marginalised
group, there isn’t a woman alive who hasn’t had heartbreak in her situation.
Very few can afford the comfort of
the hopelessly impractical labels these women wore: haute couture, vintage
frocks, and mile-high Manolo Blahnik stilettos.
We went to the film expecting a
chick flick filled with labels we could never afford, which it was.
There was a gasp of appreciation in
the audience at the photo shoot Carrie does for Vogue, channelling every
major designer from Prada to Chanel, and the piece de resistance, a Vivienne
There was the Louis Vuitton handbag,
a feast of Manolo Blahnik, Prada, Fendi. Even a telephone area code was a
But the film surprised us. It was
not about stuff at all. Glancing at one another, we found tears running down
one another’s faces.
Later, red-eyed, over a glass of
wine we unravelled. Why did we cry?
I have heard it dismissed as a
women’s film. Labels I dislike intensely. “Women’s magazines” “women’s
films” “women’s issues.”
Women are increasingly the
foundation of all countries as they outstrip men academically at every
In the numbers game, earnings,
control over nations’ resources, decisions to go to war and access to
wealth, men are winning, not necessarily due to merit, but due to age-old
chauvinism, a pugnacious hold on power.
Women’s compassion is seen as a
“soft” issue, dismissed by men. But they need us to nurture the young, the
ill and old, to bury the dead.
When Carrie goes across town on the
subway in her pyjamas, at midnight, crossing dirtied snow to be with her
lonely recently separated friend, my friend and I both remembered the cancer
that claimed our loved ones and how we helped pull one another through.
When Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda
draw a protective shield around Carrie during a terrible crisis, I was
reminded of the painful, but universal, scene of the five women who held up
a sheet and the sixth who gently rolled my dying brother onto it from a
Women are their brothers, husbands,
fathers, children’s, war-ravaged soldiers’ keepers: the keepers of humanity.
The designer labels are shields and
swords. Samantha is incredibly upset when her boyfriend gets her a diamond
ring that she wanted to buy for herself, as emblem of her independence. A
reminder of how far she’s come and a reluctance to be owned by a man.
Ultimately, when Carrie gets her
prince, who goes down on his knees for her, he seals it by slipping a pair
of designer shoes on her foot bought by Carrie herself.
Carrie by now has realised that even
independent girls can’t dismiss the men they love. Sex in the City is the
new Cinderella story where women take their place in the world without
losing their humanity.