Mad Men: Female Trouble


Last night, we got to experience the different approaches the women (and girl) took in order to communicate their feelings, and no matter the tactic—confrontation, cold shoulder, desperate act, death—they were heard by the men in their lives.

Joan’s strong points are her charm and efficiency, and—being distressed by her husband called to duty in Vietnam—she had no patience to employ the former when dealing with Roger’s disinterest in responding to the latter.

He picked up on her social cue with the help of his secretary, who let him know why they were all “walking on eggshells” around Joan. Feeling guilty, and having a soft spot for Joan, he sent over two (Swedish?) masseuses to “rub [her] the right way.”

Meanwhile, Joyce showed up at SCDP to invite Peggy for a drink. But it was really just a cover to get Peggy to sit down and have a chat with Abe, who apparently relies on his lezebel friend to ask girls out for him. Peggy sat politely while he was going off on his diatribe about corporate America, and when the conversation turned to one of her clients, Fillmore Auto Parts, Peggy was genuinely appalled to learn that the company doesn’t hired black employees in the South. (It would seem that SCDP had implemented one of those “Chinese walls” Dr. Faye had mentioned.) And while she was respectful of Abe when he was offering up judgmental opinion after opinion, when she added to this “discourse”—by likening racial discrimination to workplace sexism (although that wasn’t the term she used)—he mocked her again. So she left.

And while he was too chicken to ask her out himself, Abe seemingly grew a pair overnight, and showed up at Peggy’s office with an essay or something that she “inspired” him to write about the evils of advertising. Anyone who wants to actually watch someone read what they’ve written is an automatic asshole. This whole time, Abe thought he was “better on paper” but his article only pissed Peggy off even more. Being all counter-culture and lefty liberal, he actually told Peggy how she was “supposed” feel after reading it (flattered not insulted).

She ripped it up and handed it back to him.

Different from Joan’s social sophistication and Peggy’s directness was Sally, who decided to cry out by fleeing the suburbs to visit her father in the city, much to his chagrin.

Running away—and the fantasy of having a better life in a new destination—is childish, and thus age appropriate for Sally, but Don actually did that as an adult, after fighting in Korea. He must’ve related to her when she confided him later how much she absolutely hates living in that house with Betty. But he knows he isn’t capable of having a job and being a primary caregiver. And yet, this is just accepted as fact instead of failure (as it would be with women in similar positions, down the line).

Meanwhile, while he’s ineptly trying to prioritize his work and personal drama, he leaves his daughter in the hands of a dead woman. It was almost like Miss Blankenship had just had enough and was like, “Peace. Deal with it yourself.”

Even though she was Don’s secretary, Bert and Roger were affected much more by her death, having fought over her affections back in the day (per Sterling’s Gold).

But Roger’s grief was more about him, specifically, that her death reminded him that he’s getting old, and will eventually die. Joan went to comfort him. (It didn’t help when they walked by an office of younger employees—who haven’t had two heart attacks, and don’t have a husband stationed in Vietnam—who were laughing at a joke in which the punchline involved pissing on someone’s grave.) Roger and Joan went to one of their old haunts, a diner in a seedy part of town. They ended up getting mugged on their way home.

And then they turned a corner and had sex in an alley. The next day Joan said about the incident, “I’m not sorry, but I’m married and so are you.” She seems to be more in touch with reality than Roger, and knows, as she always did, the limits of their relationship.

But Sally, still a kid, had the deluded optimism that perhaps living with her father could work out. He likes her rum-soaked French toast, after all. However, like Joan, Don knows the limits of this relationship. Sally had an “episode” when it was finally time for her to be turned over to her mother. Everybody could see the hysteria, but no one really questioned what motivated it. She’s clearly terrified of Betty, and the thought of what her mother might do to her for such a brazen display of rebellion. But after all of that crying and running and falling, Sally realized that anticipation is often worse than the actual event, because Betty greeted her with kindness.

It’s likely because, with Don present, Betty didn’t have to misdirect her anger toward Sally. And like it or not, Sally had to go home with her mother, not having any choice in the matter, since she’s still a minor.

Back in his office, Don gets grief from yet another female in his life when Dr. Faye freaks out on him for putting her in the awkward position of being a stand-in mother for a few moments. They quickly make up and she tells him, “I love children but I chose to be where I am, I don’t view it as a failure.”

And then Joyce stops by Peggy’s office again, wanting to bring her on another ambush date with Abe, but Peggy declines. Then she drops a lot of wisdom on Peggy with her whole soup analogy.

Joyce gets into the gay elevator shaft, while Joan, Faye, and Peggy get into the hetero one.

And there they are, the three female archetypes. Redhead, brunette, blonde. One has chosen to take the doting wife route (although it’s not a picnic), the other has chosen to be a career gal (which is proving to have it’s own complications), and the third is stuck in the middle, still making up her mind—”26 is still very young”—about the choice she will choose.

But do you know who’s really screwed?

Because women of her generation are going to have these choices more readily available—and they’ll be expected to choose have it all.

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