15
Sep
2011
If I Were A Boy
A Powerful Business: the Women of Mad Men
Becky
If I were a Boy"¦" is the story of a young woman dealing with what it means to be a girl today. The world is different for the young 20 something generation, largely because most women of that age now work, often waiting to get married and have babies, if they decide to have them at all. The very definition of what it means to be a woman is changing. Pop culture presents an interesting place to look at what it now means to be a woman, what it means to be feminine, and consequentially what that all means for everyone else. The story will range from sci-fi, to fashion, to music and even politics, but mostly its going to be about how all of that affects me, and my life as a girl.

Recently Netflix started offering Mad Men on Watch Instant. So I've lost all my excuses for not watching and I have become completely obsessed. I'm only midway through season 2, (my job is slowing my progress) and I now see the genius that everyone has been talking about. Not only are the plot and characters intriguing, but the trip down Nostolgia Lane is fascinating. The subtle details in the show give unique windows into what has changed since the 60s. There are the obvious changes, like no longer smoking inside or drinking bourbon for breakfast at work. But it's the smaller things that prove the most striking.

For instance, I believe it's in the pilot when Betty Draper is talking to her friend in their living room. Her pregnant friend is obviously smoking while they both have a glass of wine, but that isn't what stuck out to me. Betty's children run into the room and the little girl has a drycleaner bag over her head. One of the bags that today are printed in red that they are not toys and how easily children can suffocate in them. But Betty doesn't comment on how the bag could kill her daughter, instead she instructs her to remove it or it will wrinkle her dress. This seemingly inconsequential scene actually shows how profoundly American culture has changed in the last 50 years, what new fears we have and new taboos we are conscious of.

Among the most intriguing changes are those that have occurred in working American women since the 60s. The most recent episode I saw, "The New Girl" (Season 2, Episode 5) really got me thinking. In the episode, Bobbie Barret, Don's latest girl on the side, is staying with Peggy. Bobbie is older, and she is the manager/wife of an actor. At the end of the episode, Bobbie advised Peggy, "Don't be a man, be a woman. It's a powerful business when done correctly."

In Mad Men, most of the women struggle with what it means to be a woman in the 60s. Many of them want to work and succeed in business, but don't know how to do that when business is a man's world.

Not to mention all of the catcalls and constant pick up lines, things that if someone said them to me at work I would sue for sexual harassment. In the office culture of Mad Men women struggle to be more than sexual objects. They don't want to stop being women, but they want t be treated on equal footing as men.



It makes me wonder how things changed. Obviously today men cannot say those things to me in the office, they know they would be sued. But why did it become taboo?

Was it that women finally got fed up and started putting their foot down and forced men to stop? Is it that men started to see women as more than sexual objects and started to consider them equals, maybe because of the work women were beginning to do? Was it regulations that changed popular culture, like with seatbelts and smoking inside?
Obviously Mad Men takes place in a different era, which is part of why it is entertaining. It's fun to look back at how things used to be, even if it isn't 100% accurate. It points out what has changed in society, and, more startlingly, it points our what things are still the same.

I definitely relate to the working women in Mad Men, even though they lived 50 years ago. I still struggle with how to be feminine in my office. Little things like painting my nails stress me out. Is it too girly that I wont be taken seriously? Or will anyone even notice? Do I have to give up my girly-ness to negotiate things like my salary?

I enjoy watching Mad Men for what it portrays and the life it makes me fantasize about. But it definitely shows me how much women's lives have changed, and how much I still have in common with the secretaries who put up with thinly hidden pick up lines in the office.




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