I barely know what time it is, as I just got back from a memorial service in Paris for a very dear friend. But I was greeted with an urgent message from my daughter that I immediately had to catch up with the latest episode of Mad Men, titled "The Other Woman."
So I did ASAP, and so I write ASAP... because if any person on this planet ever wondered why the Women's Movement was necessary or why it was originally called the Women's Liberation Movement, this episode shows and tells them, loud and clear. Bravo to the writers! Bravo to the entire ensemble cast!
In the brilliantly captured 1960s world of episode 11 we saw Peggy, Joan and Megan completely dominated and insulted by men as they endured varying insults and indignities that young women today can barely imagine. Until change was insisted upon, and we saw the beginning of this insistence before our very eyes during this episode, even those men who loved their wives usually viewed them as possessions whose purpose was to serve, entertain, nurture and amuse, as well as provide children. Even educated husbands, unless they were raised in highly unusual families or somehow developed into the finest and most compassionate of human beings, saw marriage as ownership as they came and went as they pleased. Things got very ugly for women who said "no" to this accepted and ingrained societal way of life.
In the office, regardless of brainpower or innate ability, manipulation and condescension were the order of the day. This was true even when what was expected or demanded was the deepest possible insult to dignity and self esteem.
Therefore, more often than not, it was necessary for women to get what they desired or needed through sex. All of this occurred, of course, during a time when abortion was illegal. This and former episodes showed the deep struggle and shame of a single woman with child, as well as the shame of being divorced by your husband after having a child, and the economic terror tied to raising a child alone.
The burgeoning changes clearly shown involved all of the three women this segment concentrated on:
Peggy, a true genius at what she could produce professionally, earlier had been impregnated (her mom is raising her child -- family put downs are her diet) by Pete, whose moral compass is where the sun cannot shine (more about that later). Don had seen her early abilities and given her the chance to leave the secretarial pool, but the culture of the time and his own blindness, caused one too many insults. Peggy resigns, a very hard decision as she is a deeply loyal and decent human being. Her parting with Don, who is left with disbelief, is done with enormous dignity and courage. Peggy, looking radiant, breaks into an enormous smile as the elevator, her exit, is before her.