Working Girls, Moms and Sluts: women in Against the Wall

5 Sep

I’ve got to admit I’m enjoying the Lifetime series, Against the Wall.  Sometimes the mystery storylines get a bit sidetracked by the personal life of Abby Kowalski (Rachel Carpani), but I don’t mind that much.  Maybe because I care about her character and look forward to seeing how she is going to fare each week in a family dominated by men, which tends to get reflected in her working life as well, since her father and all of her brothers are fellow cops.  Ok, she made detective and the way she made it, by taking a post in Internal Affairs, causes problems each week.  Perhaps that’s why the mysteries themselves aren’t so important.  It is how Abby needs to interact with her brothers and father each week that is the true drama.

Abby’s dysfunctional family relationship is contrasted with Lina’s (her investigative partner) stable marriage.  Lina is pregnant with her fourth child, her husband is on the Vice Squad, but he doesn’t have a problem with his wife being an Internal Affairs detective.  Abby, on the other hand, has a secretive affair with her brother’s partner, John Brody.  She doesn’t feel like she can reveal this affair to anyone, mostly for anxiety regarding what her brothers will say.  In the episode, “Baby Did A Bad Thing”, we discover Abby is right to worry.  Her brother, Richie, notices Brody brushing the hair off Abby’s face and goes ballistic about his partner sleeping with his sister.  Which honestly, seems beyond overprotective as Abby is at least 30, according to bits and pieces of dialogue.  So this show is not really about how married women fare in law enforcement or a career, this show is about how single women fare not only in a career but in their personal lives, and, is constantly purposing the question:  is there something wrong with Abby for not wanting to be married yet or is this now normal for a woman to enjoy focusing on her career?

What I believe is a sad mark on our current culture is that this question must even see the light of day.  Yet, it resonates, I would argue, with many female audience members, both younger and older than Abby as well as in her age bracket.  One of the most interesting dilemmas in this show for Abby is her sex life.  Because it seems that for a woman, she cannot simply have sex to release her stress and tension.  When Abby tries this with Brody, he begins pushing for a relationship, seeing her disinterest in intimacy as some sort of archaic challenge to conquer.  Now, if men would only begin to understand that if we seem disinterested, that means, we ARE disinterested.  Sometimes, women just want sex.  Just like men.  I know.  Shocking.

I believe that Annie Brunner, the creator of the series, is showing what sex and lack of love, a great deal of the time, is actually like for the modern woman.  And I’m talking for the modern woman that goes back to the 1940s, when women began to see during World War II that they could have full lives without being a wife and mother.  Because, you see, here’s another shocker:  not all women are wired to be wives and mothers.  Lots of wives and mothers aren’t wired to be wives and mothers but sometimes they are too ashamed to admit that.  It isn’t like every man is wired to be a husband and a father.  But you see, they still get seen as playboys.  And yes, people might snicker a bit and say they can’t commit, but there is still a double-standard, even today.  Women who can’t commit or don’t want to commit are thought of as either cougars, sluts, or obviously flawed because they could not somehow enter into a monogamous relationship.  And, I would argue, it is still not the norm to be a happy single woman who likes having a career.  But for Abby, we are getting a look at a woman with a normal sexual appetite who doesn’t have any desire to be stuck in a relationship.  Because what nobody wants to admit is that relationships, for women, are somehow like traps.  No matter how much you care about your significant other, as the woman, typically (not always because there are some enlightened men out there), you end up dealing with not only your own life, but most of your couplehood life.  And that extra ‘life’ is what can destroy not only the woman in the relationship but the relationship itself.  So, while Abby is enjoying herself with Brody, she is also using what I like to think of as an emotional condom.  She’s protecting herself from couplehood.  Because it is too easy, sometimes, to get lulled into couplehood by someone easy-going and eager to please.  Because sometimes women are tired.  But Abby, thankfully, is on her toes, and I believe, a positive role-model for women of all ages.  Not only to never settle and just date someone because it is easy and you can talk to them without a great deal of effort (like it is for her and Brody), but to say it’s ok for a woman to have sex when she feels like it, without being a slut.  And in case any viewers are feeling like she’s a slut, just watch the end of the episode I mentioned above and see her mother’s positive response to Abby’s sex life.

It’s an empowering change of pace to see a woman’s point-of-view in these terms.  Because you see, television is still so dominated by men that I get disheartened to watch men’s perspectives of how women should be acting in relationships.  I’m talking much more about network television than cable.  But it’s happening on True Blood (one of my favorite shows) and it happens with great frequency on shows like The Good Wife.  It seems on cable, women are finally able to take a deep breath and relax a little.  Not always.  But sometimes.

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