Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sometimes, I forget how thankful I am for the Feminist Movement.

I've just started watching Mad Men, y'all.

Apparently, our friend Jason knows someone in the cast - Jason, is it the second dude from the right? - but I've just caught on because of the whole 1,000 Emmy nominations thing everyone's talking about (it's actually more like 13).

For those of you who are catching on late, like me: The year is 1960. The heart of the show is an ad firm where all these guys work - and so do the ladies, as secretaries and office managers. Well, the woman pictured here, at least - the other women are little June Cleavers, taking care of the kids at home.

1950s-early 1960s culture was always a quaint spectre in my overall childhood development - I adored I Love Lucy, and I watched the hell out of some Nick at Nite: I Dream of Jeanie and Bewitched in particular. I'm wondering now if those shows were so funny to their original viewing audiences because they featured women at the helm. A woman, calling the shots?! Hilarious!!

Now granted, these were women dressed up in bimbos genie outfits, or accidentally getting drunk off Vitameatavegamin a la Lucy Ricardo, but still - women. As the main characters. The ones we're watching, the ones setting the terms of the show.

Back to Mad Men: The reason (one of the reasons) everyone loves it is because it's so damn realistic. And that goes for the man/woman relationships. For anyone like me, who grew up in the 1980s, decade of equal pay and shoulder pads, when Dad and Mom picked up their briefcases and went to work, it is fascinating to see how women were treated just twenty-thirty years prior. Like...seriously? Men could just stare at your ass in the elevator, and openly say things like, "well boys: sure am enjoying the view!" Or, your doctor could call you a "strumpet" (i.e. "slut") for requesting contraceptives?

With the advent of second-wave Feminist Movement firmly about 40 years behind us (first one: suffrage! You go, Susan B. Anthony), I don't think I ever fully appreciated what those ladies did for us. Sure, my jaw dropped when I took my first Feminist Studies class in college - you mean, almost every movie is filmed with the male gaze?! - but, I also never had a true point of reference. My doctor never called me a, uh, "strumpet." And - you're going to love this - I remember being in an English class in college, where some girl, a girl I really admire, who is now married to a semi-famous writer, turned her paper in with her own menses smeared on it. Deliberately. I think to make a point about female subjectivity...or something. And the professor didn't bat an eye.

So, Betty Friedan, Helene Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Carol Hanisch - thank you. Thank you for not only making it ok for my friend to turn in her English paper with menses smeared on it, but thank you for making housewifery optional. Bras too. For questioning the ways men and women talk to each other. For making it ok for ladies to stare at men's asses and enjoy the view. Daughters of the 80s, we take this stuff for granted. At least I know I do.

Lastly - Christina Hendricks. "Joan Holloway" on Mad Men. Wow, right?


Anonymous said...

It's not over yet! It's way better (especially in the workplace) than times of yore, but we all need to keep fighting the good fight!

Tolly M said...

Could NOT agree with you more, Anonymous! Thanks for reminding us.

James said...

Yes... Awesome show! I just started watching it too.

And yes... Christina Hendricks... wow.

Jen said...

Best show ever! Addicting and she is a modern day Marilyn!


Anonymous said...

joan halloway inspires me to dye my hair red, and then i also don't have to worry about baking my pale skin in the sun. she's so hot! not just because she has red hair, but it certainly suits her.

Mad Men Girl said...


I've entered a contest to win a walk-on role on that retro-licious TV show, "Mad Men".

If you wouldn't mind taking a couple of seconds to vote for me, go to my blog, or copy and paste the following link which goes right to my picture:

Thanks a bunch!