Mad Men's Argument for the Women's Movement

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Mad Men's Argument for the Women's Movement
Episode 11 is a clear demonstration that women in the 1960s had to bond to help each other

Megan, devoted to Don and his children, always wanted both marriage and family, and an acting career. She is very smart, as well as beautiful, sensual and ambitious. Her professional detour at Don's firm showed her seducing him and then, with a serious nudge from a dad where there were strong oedipal bonds, decide that having been given every advantage at Don's firm, she wanted to leave to pursue her acting dreams. Don struggled but supported her until he realized that her success would mean periods of separation. Rather than discuss this maturely, he withdrew, and she demanded something more of him. He heard her. Later, she came to his office for what men usually came to women for -- a purely sexual experience that left her feeling fulfilled and powerful for her audition. Don did not refuse her. (Concurrently, Megan brought a skilled actress with her, who used her sensual talents to help the male team know precisely how to approach the Jaguar account -- and pitch to male desire for ownership of an exquisite woman.) Subsequently, those auditioning Megan treated her like a pound of flesh.

The most deeply unsettling focus of this episode was on Joan, who refused Roger's offer to help support a child born of their earlier affair. Above all, Joan wanted marriage and the protection and legitimacy her generation of women depended on exclusively to provide. It was during this scene that Joan's good-for-nothing husband, who we saw rape her before their marriage, sent her divorce papers. It was also during this scene we saw Pete (who may be ducking tomatoes on the street as I write) ask Joan, in his true-to-life sickeningly passive aggressive manner (the same one he used to distance himself from his wife) to spend a night with a disgusting major owner of a car dealership in order to receive a Jaguar account. This was something Don was adamantly against; but after he left the room where Pete presented the idea the other partners, even Roger, aquiesce with varying degrees of distaste. By the time Don visited Joan at home to tell her it was not necessary for her to prostitute herself (he does not use these words) -- that the presentation could win on its strengths, or the account was not worth having -- it was too late. Don's presentation was masterful, and the account was won. However, he now is not sure if it was won because of his abilities, Joan's one night stand, or a combination (thus a foreshadowing of male resistance to the Woman's Movement, and its perceived threats). Joan is no longer a mere employee. She has insisted upon and has received a modest percentage of the partnership, which frees her from dependence on Roger, her good-for-nothing husband, or her whining, frustrated, and inappropriate mother.

For one who saw a young friend die following an illegal abortion, and another friend commit suicide under cruel divorce laws that offered neither alimony, no fault divorce nor equitable division of marital property, the truths of this segment are stunning reminders of the 1950s and '60s: Women saw that to survive and raise our daughters and sons to understand how essential self and mutual respect are, it was essential to become another woman.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.
Article contributed by
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SaraKay Smullens

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I look forward to your thoughts and sharing with you.

To be continued,

SaraKay Smullens, MSW, BCD, LCSW, ACSW, CFLE, CGP 

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Credentials: BCD, MSW
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