Thursday, March 06, 2008

Cashmere Mafia: why so grim?

Being married, I end up watching more female TV than I otherwise would. Last night, I sat with my wife and watched an episode of Cashmere Mafia.

The show is about four forty-year-old high flying career women. These women have all successfully followed the path laid down for them by feminism by focusing on gaining power at work. In this sense the show is feminist, but Cashmere Mafia doesn't present us with a feminist utopia. If anything, watching the programme is a grim and dismal experience.

The women do not have their lives worked out. One of them spent last night's episode arranging an infidelity to avenge her husband's affair. Although she decided at the last moment that she couldn't go through with it, she found a number of ways to pay out on her husband, who spent much of the episode being humiliated. Similarly, another character had to deal with the fallout of an affair between her fellow directing manager and a younger female employee. The guilty male manager, too, spent much of the episode being lectured in humiliating terms. A third woman, who broke up with her fiancee after beating him for a job, lectured men on the need to accept powerful women like herself at work.

It might sound as if the women are presented as triumphing over men. The overall effect, though, is to suggest that the women's lives are pathetic and their personalities cold and unlikeable.

Why would scriptwriters apparently doom their show by coming up with such dismal story lines and such cold personalities?

One possible answer runs as follows. The women of Cashmere Mafia have been brought up with the feminist belief that the gaining and wielding of power is an essential good in life. But having achieved this power, what do you do with it?

In more traditional societies, power was supposed to be wielded for a larger purpose, such as the good of a particular community. The feminist understanding of power is radically different. The feminist idea is that power is an individual good, something that makes us autonomous and therefore more human. This kind of individual power is contested in society, with men having organised to get it for themselves at the expense of women.

Therefore, when the Cashmere Mafia women get power, it's not used for larger, productive social ends. Instead, the focus is on the individual power contest between men and women, both at work and at home. Given that there is unlikely to be a lively power contest in a happy marriage or in a stable work environment, perhaps it's inevitable that the scriptwriters have presented us with an unappealing set of conflicts between men and women.


  1. Surely for someone with a modern liberal mindset this power conflict between men and women IS the "relationship". What else could there be?

    There is no suggestion in the show of any relationship which isn't about negotiating conflicting needs. Even the "happy" couple seemed to be in conflict all the time - they were just better at negotiating. (I saw about a third of the episode you're talking about and a bit of one other so I am prepared to be corrected on this.)

    What worries me about this type of program is not that this view is presented, but that it's the ONLY view that is presented. At that point it ceases to become entertainment and becomes propaganda.

    Gramsci would have been so happy.

  2. cfl,

    I think you are on the money here.

    My wife and I watched one on Wednesday night, with David Spade (?) and the guy who used to go out with Elaine on Seinfeld.

    One married couple, one engaged and a single.

    The couples' relationships (especially the engaged) seem to be about one upmanship and getting what advantage you can out of the other.

    I know it is comedy, but this does seem to be the modern representation of relationships.

  3. I'm lucky enough to avoid the show. But seeing the previews I guessed it would about what you've observed.

    It's nice when your gut is right. ;D

  4. Indeed, the only relationship between the two genders is conflict.

    Hence the only conclusion to draw is that modern feminism amounts to nothing more than militant misandrist lesbianism.