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Sexism and the city: why are we so fascinated by famous women feuding?

Friends disunited ... Sex and the City stars in their heyday.
Friends disunited ... Sex and the City stars in their heyday. Photograph: Craig Blankenhorn/AP

Much like the Sex and the City season six finale, the “feud” between Kim Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker is disappointing, unsurprising and, in spite of one’s better judgment, fascinating. (Note that Wide Awoke will not speak of the two SATC films because, by virtue of their never decreasing awfulness, they are the very opposite of woke: asleep, if you like).

A quick recap: following the unexpected death of her 55-year-old brother, Cattrall responded to Parker’s condolences by accusing her SATC co-star of exploiting his death “in order to restore your ‘nice girl’ persona”. She described Parker as “cruel”, added: “You are not my friend”, and finished by linking to an article about “the mean-girls culture that destroyed Sex and the City”. Basically, all that’s left is for Ryan Murphy to come on board and we have the treatment for season two of Feud: Kim and SJP, right there.

What Murphy’s brilliant series about the notorious rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford did, and what #MeToo continues to do every time a female actor is asked about it in an interview (as they currently are in the same way an actor of colour has long been interrogated about race), is to put this age-old fantasy of actresses clawing at each other’s throats into context. That context is the ugly backdrop of sexism, ageism and inequality that has yet to fade.

“It is competitive,” the actor Ruth Wilson said to the Observer of the industry, “and you’re often the only woman on set.” What does this mean? That women will be pitted against one another. If male dominance is the cultural norm, when women clash on set over pay or how much of their bodies they are willing to show during sex scenes – as Cattrall and Parker reportedly did on the SATC set – they will be regarded, not as tough negotiators, but as “difficult”. If they don’t want to do something they will be perceived as diva-ish, never as uncompromising. Fallouts, when they do happen, will be relished, perhaps encouraged. And for the millions of us who loved Sex and the City, flaws and all, it means we are left bereft by the knowledge that the unshakeable female friendship it celebrated, which we pretty much never see on screen, is rarely so nurtured in real life.

This article titled "Sexism and the city: why are we so fascinated by famous women feuding?" was written by Chitra Ramaswamy, for The Guardian on Monday 12 February 2018 03.03pm

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