Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sexism in the city: Why Sarah Jessica Parker drives men wild



I noticed, as I was reading reviews of Sex and the City 2, that a few male writers felt obliged to critique something irrelevant to the movie's quality or success: Sarah Jessica Parker's looks:

Jeff Bayer of The Scorecard Review: "...Let’s move past the horse-face jokes quickly OK? Neigh? Well, alright then."
David Edelstein of New York Magazine: "But what’s the point of spending that much when the cinematographer, John Thomas, lights Sarah Jessica Parker to bring out the leatheriness of her skin?"
Mike Ward at Richmond.com: "Or perhaps a cheap shot likening Sarah Jessica Parker to a parched two-humped camel. (Too likely to cause a PETA fracas.)" Ward distinguishes himself by going after all the SATC women, repeatedly referring to the film as a sequel to "Gumpy Old Men." Get it? Cause when a woman passes, oh, Megan Fox age, she might as well be a dude! Amirite!
Even when the reviewer is not so callow as to target the actress' appearance, some wanna-be-wit in the comments section is sure to.

Since SATC, and by extension its star, became Hollywood juggernauts, I have noticed that Sarah Jessica Parker drives some men wild. Certain men who don't find Parker to their particular tastes take irrational umbrage at her popularity as an actress and beauty icon.

I generally avoid critiquing women's looks on this blog, but it is hard to have this conversation without discussing Parker's appearance. I will say this: I think Sarah Jessica Parker has an accessible beauty. She, like me and most every other human being save the exceptionally blessed, looks best pulled together with the right haircut, the right attitude and the right clothes, etc. And since Parker is a famous actress with a unique style, an engaging personality and loads of money, she most always looks fabulous.

But Parker's sort of beauty is not for the Maxim crowd, who bestow their adoration on women who are a little more pneumatic, symmetrical, petite-featured and conventional--someone who fits more comfortably into the Eurocentric beauty standard. It is women like the aforementioned Fox who deserve admiration for their beauty, and thus, the power that comes with possessing it. How dare Sarah Jessica Parker confidently appear on beauty magazine covers and red carpets. How dare she play a romantic lead on the big screen. She's the frizzy-haired girl with glasses from Square Pegs for cripe's sakes! Who does she think she is? She is not beautiful unless I say so.

This "how dare she" thinking, I believe, comes from the same part of the male lizard brain that is responsible for all those articles and books about how black women should stop being discerning about the men they date. Don't get too uppity, black woman. Just 'cause Michelle married Barack doesn't mean you, average woman of little value, deserve an intellectually curious, ambitious, responsible man with a job.

Parker's looks have naught to do with SATC 2 or the actress' work in it. Acting, script, directing, costumes, locale--these are important. That some male reviewers feel the need to note whether Parker gets them hot is an illustration of the arrogance of male privilege. It is hard to imagine the same reviewers launching their review of the next Vince Vaughn flick by noting whether or not the comic is sufficiently sexy.

This sort of physical scrutiny is reserved for women. Men like the reviewers above hate Sarah Jessica Parker for daring to step out of her place--the one they have assigned her based on their own sexist values, where a woman's worth is measured by whether or not they would like to fuck her.

10 comments:

Moi said...


This "how dare she" thinking, I believe, comes from the same part of the male lizard brain that is responsible for all those articles and books about how black women should stop being discerning about the men they date. Don't get too uppity, black woman. Just 'cause Michelle married Barack doesn't mean you, average woman of little value, deserve an intellectually curious, ambitious, responsible man with a job.


Oh....this is beautiful. This whole post is excellent, but this really hit home for Moi.

Excellent, excellent, excellent...and one must keep in mind that Parker damn near runs the franchise and makes the most money. And while I personally don't think she's pretty (sorry), I don't think that's what's pissing men off about her. You're right, it's the confidence, the swag, and the fat-ass bank account these cranky, deadbeat journalists will never have.

Thanks for callin' out the haters, 'cause there's some serious BS going on.

And as for Megan Fox, of whom I'm getting really sick and tired of because I don't get the hype (and that's all it is), chica got fired from the Transformers franchise after the director warned her she would if she didn't gain some weight.

Yes. You read that correctly.

Kelly Hogaboom said...

Good post.

And I would add even the more worshipped beauties ala Megan Fox or whomever will often get skewered for being slutty (in dress or actions or appearance) or stupid. There's no way for a woman to be in the public without certain men inflicting their arrogant male privilege.

Anonymous said...

Good blog post. I especially liked how you pointed out that this is reminiscent of how black women are given the same treatment if they are discerning of the men they date. The entire "how dare she" attitude applies to both situations and makes me wonder if anything will ever change.

Still Amazed!!! said...

Bravo on calling out these "journalist" on their BS! I could care less who they want to have sex with and it is incredibly immature of them to judge her on her looks. Simple fact of the matter is no matter what one looks like there is someone who could care less. Even the so called hotties! Sarah Jessica Parker's beauty lies within her heart, soul, and character, Those qualities brings out the beauty in her looks to those who can recognize it. Men that judge based solely on looks have no idea what real beauty is and probably never will.

Honestly I used to not care for her for no reason in particular. However, after watching Sex in the City and other roles, I began to see what an awesome person she is and incredible actress! I now respect her more than most female actresses. Besides how insulting to be solely judged on ones looks when she has obviously accomplished so much. These journalist may have "beautiful" wives or girlfriends, but I doubt their hearts recognize the true beauty within leaving them cheated in the end!

Thanks for being real we so need more of that these days!!!

Monica Roberts said...

and 'how dare they' engage in transphobia by hurling 'that's a man' shade at any woman who doesn't meet the vanilla flavored Maxim beauty standard.

I had to call out someone on FB and on my blog last week for making the BS comment that Fantasia looked like Kirk Franklin.

RVCBard said...

The weird thing is that it's not just sexist, it's kind of anti-Semitic too. Not just the critiques themselves, but the . . . indignation behind them. As you say, "How dare she!" Insofar as the entertainment industry is concerned, it's OK to be Jewish (especially when that means Jewish money gets spent), but don't act like being Jewish makes you beautiful or sexy or glamorous.

Rochelle said...

Great post! 'How dare she' perfectly describes the indignation that so many men have that a woman they don't find attractive enough is such a successful actress. It really is disgusting.

This "how dare she" thinking, I believe, comes from the same part of the male lizard brain that is responsible for all those articles and books about how black women should stop being discerning about the men they date. Don't get too uppity, black woman. Just 'cause Michelle married Barack doesn't mean you, average woman of little value, deserve an intellectually curious, ambitious, responsible man with a job.

Oh yes. Definitely.

Uppity said...

I'm with RVCBard on this one. SJP identifies as Jewish, and she really hasn't hidden it throughout her career. Maybe that gets under some folks' skin, especially because of her seemingly what-you-see-is-what-you-get persona and features. So yes, the "How dare she" motif did come to mind as I read numerous "horse face" comparisons that seemed to drip like acid from SATC movie reviews. That aside, I think the movie's conceptual basis is trash, and I'm disappointed that SJP (despite all her Unicef work) and her co-stars allowed the show THEY breathed life into devolve into crass idiocy, racism, orientalism, and pseudo-feminism. Boo.

Karin said...

You have a way with words. Thank you for putting across this message so well. I would only add that it is not only men who hate on women who do not fit the dominant culture's concept of beauty; women, unfortunately, also need to learn to support one another and resist the woman-on-woman competitiveness that the culture of hate perpetuates.

Anonymous said...

The biggest appeal for me when I watched 'Sex & the City' is the fact that she ISN'T traditionally pretty but still managed to land hot guys with her style and personality. And of course how sexist and hypocritcal that NOBODY ever says jack about 'Seinfeld' and how he could get beautiful women despite being one of the FUGLIEST men on the planet. In fact a lot of movies and tv shows have men hooking up with women they are far beneath in the looks department what b.s.

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