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.