It was perfect timing. Feminism had been the subject of my reading. Our dinner was ready and the remote control was in my hand. We surfed Netflix. We saw Mad Men. We'd never seen it before, but we'd heard of it.
"Let's watch this one", I said. So, we sat back, enjoyed our nachos and introduced ourselves to the world of Mad Men: The early 1960s business world of Madison Ave.
"Oh! I love this time period, let's watch it!" Wow! Everything I had just read about feminism and American gender ideology was unfolding right before my eyes in this television show. It was perfect!
These tips were essential, not only to succeed in the office, but to survive in the office, and in the politics of daily chauvinism. The chauvinism was played by both men against women, and women against women. The girls enjoyed their positions, it's all they knew during this time in history when few women competed in this male dominated world above the city. They knew how to play the game and they played it well. Their state of the art technology was a peripheral element to the dominant theme of the series: disappointed promiscuity (and many of the characters didn't realize their disappointment).
The saga was riddled with infidelity and hegemony. The families of the men were introduced before the affairs were known, however the home lives of the secretaries were not disclosed. The viewer didn't know if the secretaries were married or not (it was fairly clear that Peggy was single) which made their personal lives insignificant. These scenes not only normalized infidelity, it made the secret exciting. The hegemony in this series was shameless. Hegemony of men over women, and hegemony of head secretary over subordinates. But of course, male dominant hegemony won over a woman's authority.
On the surface, Mad Men is a fun series to watch, and admittedly, it can be addictive. The wardrobe, make-up and set design are attention getters which makes it fun to watch, and each episode has enough themes to keep one's attention, but almost everyone of those themes depicts male chauvinism and hegemony. It is easy to see that the emotional drive in the women's march on January 21 of this year, was rooted in a lifestyle that is no longer accepted, but that still remains to a certain degree.
"This show is really cute!", I said as I ate my last nacho. A few episodes later, after the characters were developed, both my husband and I decided we weren't interested in the after hour liaisons, nor were we interested in the blatant male dominance over women. However, after analyzing the purpose of this show, I could see how much we can learn from the over-emphasized gender issues that showed how drastic the inequality was during this time in history. We can see what was once the social norm, and we can learn what not to accept in the present era. I'll end with another phrase describing this same era: "What were we thinking?"
1: Do you allow yourself to watch shows that are aesthetically pleasing, but normalize things of which you disapprove?
2: What behaviors do you still see in our society today that were depicted in this series?