I read an interesting article about The Devil Wears Prada from a feminist point of view. She brought up similar questions that I had when I first saw it, but I have a different idea about why this movie came to be.
For the record, I love this movie. In fact, I own it. If you just sit back and watch it for it's entertainment value, it's great. You really can't go wrong with Meryl Streep.
Anyways, in case you haven't seen it, the basic plot is that Anne Hathaway is a journalist and she can't get a job, so she takes one as assistant for the editor of a high fashion magazine. It's not the industry she wants, it's not even really doing something she wants to do, but she needs a job and experience so she takes it. And she gets sucked in, starts to not hate her overbearing, sometimes cruel boss. She spends a lot of time at her job, skipping out on a birthday party for an emergency. She ends up getting an assignment to go to Paris that her colleague really wanted.
The moral of the story is that she was wrong to do all those things and when she found a new job, she went around to everyone she wronged and apologized.
The argument is that she did nothing wrong, other than to have career aspirations and doing her job well.
The writer of the article argued it's because society doesn't think women should care about their career, they should only care about falling in love and making babies. That's part of it, sure. I mean, that's definitely the underlying cause of the problem anyways. But I don't think it's something quite so insidious as that.
I think women, in general, don't know what it takes to have a successful career.
The movie was geared towards women, it was based on a book geared towards women. At no point was a man ever thought to be the audience for this story, so I don't think you could reasonably blame men's preconceptions of women for the story being successful. I think it's that most women would look at the main character and think she'd done something wrong. She spent so much time at the office! She left the birthday party!
And the one that really gets me, the backstabbing.
She worked hard, and proved she was more competent than her colleague. She never tried to make her colleague look bad, or unfairly did anything to her, really. Her boss watched their performances, and decided that she was the better choice for going to Paris.
That's what happened.
And yet somehow, you think Anne Hathaway's character did something wrong. That's what really hurts women in the workplace. If you would turn down a pivotal assignment that could make or break your career because "someone else wanted it and you didn't want to hurt their feelings" then you don't DESERVE a career. She didn't do anything wrong! She just did her job, and proved that she was the better employee for the position. If she'd set out to make her colleague look bad so that she could go, then yeah, she'd be at fault, that's a pretty skeevy thing to do. But that's not what happened. Why should she try to undercut HERSELF though? She should own her accomplishment and be proud of herself, not wallow in pity for her friend who is a lousy employee. That's not her problem, that her colleague's problem.
And if her boyfriend really didn't like that she was so focused on her job, maybe he should dump her and find a girl out there who doesn't have career aspirations, because it sounds like that's his real problem. He's the problem in that relationship, not the other way around.
Overall, the main problem is that women I don't think have as many career-driven aspirations as men do, and why could that be? Maybe most careers are dominated by men, men they would have to work extra hard to convince that they belong. Maybe it never occurred to them they could enter those fields. Maybe someone actually told them those careers were for men.
I don't know why it is, but that's the real problem.