Single Heterosexual Female
Throughout our daily lives we have many roles that help define who we are. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a cousin, a friend, a student, an employee, a colleague, a Portlander, a yogi, a Christian, Caucasian, heterosexual, single, an American, and I encompass numerous other roles in my life. While many of these characteristics are an important part of who I am, I will further discuss what it means to be a single female and how the media represents this category. The popular culture artifacts that will be used to further explain how single females are portrayed in the media are “Sex and the City”, “He’s Just Not That Into You”, and a YouTube video that went viral called, “Shit Single Girls Say”. These three artifacts have representations of two competing views that the media exposes and creates stereotypes of single females; one is of women who are strong, confident and perfectly content being single and the second stereotype is a representation of single females whose main goal is to search for love.
“Sex and the City” was a television show on HBO, created by Darren Star and ran from 1998-2004 with two subsequent movies in 2008 and in 2010. This show followed four single women living in New York City who represent four different views on what it means to be single. Each of these characters are self-reliant and date a wide range of men. The central character is Carrie, a modern independent woman who pushes the boundaries on views of how a woman in her 30’s should live. Although she is satisfied with her single life she continues to look for a partner, not necessarily a husband, and returns to a former lover and tumultuous relationship multiple times. Miranda is a tough, direct, and straight to the point lawyer who puts her profession in front of her love life and believes all women need to be independent. This character thinks realistically rather than emotionally. Samantha is a unique character in that she puts herself first and does not believe in monogamy. She is unashamed of her actions, loves sex, and will voice her opinion on sex and relationships proudly. Her character mirrors what many might think a typical bachelor would act like in that she is promiscuous and apathetic towards love and dating. The fourth character, Charlotte, is a hopeless romantic that believes there is one person out there for everyone and has opposing viewpoints on relationships and singlehood as the character of Samantha.
The show “Sex and the City” seems to have somewhat of a cult following of women, and it is of my personal opinion that this is because it broke boundaries of what was typically shown of single women in the media. It gave women four different characters that are relatable to a large portion of single females, discussed human struggles, and empowered the single lifestyle rather than shaming it. Although the aim of the show was to follow these women as they find love in New York City, their happiness isn’t dependent on choosing either a career or a marriage, unlike many other postfeminist shows, (Arthurs, 2003). Instead od demeaning singlehood, it celebrates singlehood. In season 2, episode 4, titled, “They Shoot Single People, Don’t They?” the New York magazine portrays Carrie in a negative light using the title, “Single & Fabulous?” The magazine uses a poor test photo of Carrie smoking a cigarette without makeup as a representation for single women claiming that being single over the age of 30 is disgraceful and something women of a younger age should be careful of becoming. As this episode continues, the women come together supporting each other breaking the stereotype represented in that magazine, proudly claiming that they are indeed single and fabulous and do not need a relationship or marriage to be validated, they have their passions, career, and each other which is more than enough.
In this show, sex is also openly discussed by the women, and sex outside of a monogamous relationship is common. The characters promiscuity is not hidden. Each character is financially independent and are strong in their own ways. Many could criticize that the characters do not embody what feminism is meant to stand for since even though they are independent the storylines are about these women finding men, however, it shows a different side of what a single woman can be. For example, the character of Samantha is interesting as her stance on sex and relationships is very different than what may be represented in other forms of media and how society may think a single women should behave. The video below is a compilation of Samantha’s viewpoints on sex and relationships. She openly discusses sexuality, her love for sex and has very little filter. For instance, as proclaimed by Samantha in the video, “I will not be judge by you or society, I will wear whatever and blow whomever I want as long as I can breathe and kneel.” Although it may be vulgar, she is proud and unwavering in her beliefs that it is perfectly normal for any woman to be sexual and secure with herself, which is not something often celebrate in the medias representations of single women.
As shown in the above video, this character is an interesting topic to explore because she has an firm opposition of many social norms. She is highly independent, confident, and strong. Her openness about loving sex challenges many cultural ideals. She doesn’t believe in the idea of marriage, doesn’t want to have children, and questions the idea of monogamy.
The second cultural artifact is a romantic comedy movie released in 2009 based on a best-selling book by Greg Behrendt called “He’s Just Not That Into You”. The book was created as a self-improvement book for single women, based off of an episode of “Sex and the City,” to advise women that they should stop making excuses for mediocre relationships, and if the men these women are dating are not making a true effort that they are “just not that into you” and you should move on. Although this movie was entertaining and showed some truth in dating through a comedic lens, it’s main theme was women were searching for love, as this is somehow an innate calling women have and must follow. The opening scene of this movie, provided in the video below, is an example of how each of these women are in distress because they have not found love, and are making excuses as to why prior love interests didn’t work out. These women appear to have the desire to find someone and do not appear to be content and confident in being single. Instead they are trying to find a sense of happiness in finding a relationship. As shown in this video, scene after scene is a broken hearted adult woman being supported by her friends as she is confused as to why she cannot find a partner. Each of them blame the male suitor for “not be ready” or “scared of commitment” instead of reminding them that they do not need to find happiness in finding love.
The main character in the movie, Gigi, is a single female who is looking for love and is portrayed as hopeless in her search. She is naïve in that she doesn’t know how to “play the game” of dating and appears, in my opinion, to be weak-minded. I find it intriguing that the creators of “He’s Just Not That Into You” chose to put Gigi in this light of being naïve on her grand search for love. Yes, it is easy to get lost and confused in the dating world, but there is so much more self-awareness involved that this character didn’t have. This character was so hopeless that she needed the advice of an independent single man to help her recognize that her aimless search was misguided. I can see how women can relate to this movie such as, going out on a first date and thinking everything went well only to not hear from them later and making excuses as to why a potential dating partnership ended. This movie can contrast what “Sex and the City” represented because even though in “Sex and the City” the women did have love interests a prominent theme through the series is that it is ok to be a single female, and this autonomy is what they thrive on.
A final example of how single females are portrayed in the media is a YouTube video that went viral with almost 8 million views called, “Shit Single Girls Say.” In this video men dress as women and mimic in a sarcastic fashion, what they think are common conversations among single women. I highly suggest people to watch this YouTube video and think about what the intension and ideas they are trying to communicate.
I find the video to be hilarious and is a great representation on stereotypes the media has of single females. Many of the conversations revolve around finding “hot guys” and the contradiction of how many women don’t agree with marriage/relationships and other just want that fairy tale happily ever after. However, this is a very small glimpse of what being a single female in like. From my experience, it may be true that many women are searching for love, but there are many women who are working hard to build careers, travel around the world, and gain life and world experience.
Through each of these three popular culture artifacts there are some commonalities. There are the strong, firmly independent single females such as Miranda and Samantha from “Sex and the City”, and the hopelessly romantic type of character played by Charlotte from “Sex and the City” and Gigi from “He’s Just Not That Into You”. Then the YouTube video represents each of those categories in a humorous way.
Arthurs, Jane (2003). Sex and the City and Consumer Culture: Remediating Postfeminist Drama. Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1468077032000080149?journalCode=rfms20#preview
Cellgene (2011). He’s Just Not That Into You Beginning Scene [YouTube video]. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1uqtnGENzo&feature=youtu.be
Cole, Derrick (director), Hovick, Jenn (director), & Ludwig, Brittany (director). (2012). Shit Girls Say [YouTube video]. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?=47aS3uSCHLc&feature=youtu.be
H., Kirsty (2011). If You Love Samantha Jones, You’ll Love This [YouTube video]. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgHpCgDsDO4&feature=youtu.be
King, Michael Patrick (Executive Producer). (1998-2004) Sex and the City [television series]. United States: HBO
Kwapis, Ken (Director). (2009). He’s Just Not That Into You [motion picture]. United States: New Line Cinema