Friday, June 18, 2010
Do I really want to watch Sex in the City? No, but this looks like it's the movie, the first one, 2008. And I missed it. So yes.
Except it's a No, a serious waste of time. The film is overly soppy, boring, and as much as I love a good chick flick, this doesn't work for me. The only thing I like about Sex in the City I is Jennifer Hudson-- Louise. The story goes that Carrie Bradshaw, a writer, has hired Louise from St. Louis as her personal assistant.
Jennifer owns the screen, she's the only thing to watch in this movie. When Louise leaves the job, when she leaves the script, I'm thinking, I don't need to watch any more of this. But I do watch, just a little more, to see how Carrie will resolve her conflict with girlfriend Miranda. And how in the world will Miranda ever get back with Steve?
Marital therapy, of course.
Anyway, why review this movie with little redeeming social content, unless we want to talk about the soft (not so soft) porn? Oh, let's not do that. Not now.
Jennifer Hudson is a woman of color, and watching this eminently watchable, lovely, actor I find myself asking, How could anyone judge anyone else based upon the color of their skin?
I'm training my intern about sexual discrimination and sexual harassment. She asks me a question about the law.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically, Title VII. The law defines protected classes of people who are protected from unfair discrimination in the workplace, and in schools. The ironic history of Title VII is that in the early sixties, when the law was a nascent bill, hotly debated in Congress, the workforce of the United States was primarily male. Indeed, most working people were blue collar-- this was a time when a person in tool and dye, or the auto industry, could find steady work, support a family.
It became fairly obvious to Congress, a male dominated club, especially to representatives and senators from the South, that if racial discrimination became illegal, their constituents would suffer competition for their livelihoods.
And yet, that's what was on the table, a law that barred discrimination in the workplace. So someone thought up something absolutely brilliant: Throw in sex as a protected class! Make sex discrimination at work illegal, and the bill won't pass! Nobody wants women in the workforce competing for jobs! But when it came out that that this was why they included sex as a protected class, the good people in the Congress passed the law anyway. What a country! Think of this on the Fourth of July, and sing along.
But back to our story.
All well and good, says my intern. But why are people so prejudiced? How do they become judgmental? Is it because they learn this in their families of origin?
And maybe it's true, some people carry on a fine tradition of racial/ethnic hatred. But it is more likely, unfortunately, that personal experience hard-wires racial stereotyping. Our brains just love to keep it simple. Don't make me think. That's the brain.
I had the pleasure of hearing Joanne Trapani, a diversity presenter for Cook County employees, talk about how, for a long time, she associated being Irish with being a drunk. All it took was three dates with three Irishmen who drank her under the table.
We all have one of these examples, experiences with people different from ourselves that drive us to faulty generalizations based upon too little data. Here's mine:
My mail doesn't come on time, and sometimes there's just no mail delivery to the office at all, none for the entire building. Worse yet, it isn't picked up from the box on the corner, either, not at the times posted. My mail carrier is African-American. The last mail carrier was African-American, as was the one before her. The post office nearby is mostly staffed with African-Americans. I should know better than to blame race or skin color, and I don't. But that data! Three out of three!
Not wanting my mail to take a hiatus in a blue metal USPS box, I take my correspondence to another neighborhood. Over there the postal workers are Asian, primarily Korean. Once I mailed a letter at 10:00 a.m. and the letter arrived same day. So you know who's getting my business.
What do we do with this? Fortunately, we have Ms. Trapani as a role model. We stay rational, accept that our experience is severely limited, recognize there are dozens of other variables at work, that it is not skin color, not race, not national origin, not sex, not age, not disability, responsible for late or non-existent mail delivery. The bell curve tells us so, the rules of Normal-- that if you consider the entire population, not your limited experience, then you'll see. Some of us are smart. Some not so smart. Some of us are organized. Some, not so organized. Some of us play tennis well. Others miss the ball every time. It is the luck of the draw, life. All random, the cards we have to play.
When social scientists generalize about things being random, we're saying, when it comes my mail carriers, my luck is bad. That's all it is. Nothing to do with color or culture. Just bad luck.
It is scary, however, how we form assumptions about entire races of people, millions of them, based upon a few random experiences with "representatives." It is so scary that Congress made it illegal to do this in the workplace, to act upon our fears, exclude people we're not so sure about.
And lucky for us, Hollywood is doing everything possible to to publicize the absurdity of our assumptions by sprinkling our feel-good film-going experience of diversity with something that apparently many people really do love and can feel good about. Gratuitous sex, or soft porn.