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.

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