In our house, we are late comers to watching the marvelous series "Mad Men." But, we have worked valiantly to catch up--we ordered the past seasons, watched them all, and then joined the viewers who are watching the current season 5.
There are many reasons to enjoy this series. As people who came of age during the 1960s, my husband and I keep remembering the original events that inspire the on-screen escapades and interactions of highly believable, if not always likable, characters.
But the theme that wrings truest for me, and causes me great psychic pain, is women's liberation. Oh, that is almost an out-dated term, but there was a time not so long ago when women really were second class citizens in America. What is so maddening is that, even as we watched women struggling in the series "Mad Men" to be taken seriously, all around in our current political environment we seem to be fighting these battles again.
This past week's "Mad Men" episode was especially painful for me. The episode was titled "The Other Woman" interweaving three story lines. If you don't watch the series, I won't go into the particulars, but suffice it to say that one story line involves a woman who works in the advertising agency at the heart of the show being asked to sleep with (OK, have sex with) a potential customer just to land the contract.
As the story unfolded, my immediate and strong reaction was -- ewwwww! Oh, yes, I remember such times. Of course, I never encountered such a bald proposition as the one posed on "Man Men" when I was in the workplace. But I certainly recall the obvious way women were looked at in the workplace. I recall having conversations with male co-workers where the subtext had nothing to do with my work abilities. I recall the presumptions that women had one particular place and value, and it did not center on a woman's capacity to think.
I remember a conversation I had with our daughter when she was a young girl. The external pressure on girls is so strong to BE pretty, and not brainy. I told her--if you have to choose between beauty and brains, pick brains. Beauty fades, intelligence doesn't. At the time, she was young enough that she must have thought her mother was daft. Who would ever pick brains over beauty?
While reliving a fictionalized version of women being oppressed in "Mad Men" I got to thinking of the political swirl of issues now that seems bent on marching women back to "the good old days"--days that may have been good for men but certainly weren't good for women.
How can it be that we are now seriously considering going backwards. Congress debates renewing measures against domestic violence. Really? Is anyone in FAVOR of domestic violence? Congress debates rolling back "equal pay for equal work" laws. There is mounting pressure to limit or even ban birth control. Seriously?
Along about this point in my mental meanderings, I find myself speechless. I cannot fathom WHY we would want to go back to the mad days of mad men.
Photo from http://www.amctv.com/shows/mad-men