Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How Mad Men Reminds Me that We Haven't Come that Far

The double edged sword of sexism was also a possible title for the blog post. I've recently renewed my interest in the fashionable television show Mad Men, which gives an in depth look at the dynamics of the advertising world in the 1960s. I'm currently half way through season 4, trying desperately to catch up to the current season (5th) because I hear it is awesome.

So, I'm calling spoiler alert NOW. If you have not seen the 4th season, I'm going to be giving a bit away. Not anything that is hugely plot related, but still. If however, you have seen the 4th season, or simply don't care about spoilers, then by all means, read on.

Two of the main female characters of the show are copywriter Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) and office aide/secretary/keeps-the-entire-operation-running-sometimes Joan (Christina Hendricks). In the episode "The Summer Man," a young, freelance copywriter Joey (played by Matt Long *yum*) starts casually dropping sexual insults at Joan. After a scolding from her, he blows it completely out of the water when he draws an offensive cartoon of her engaging is a sexual act with another male employee. Peggy sees him drawing it and tells him to stop, but Joey finishes it and tapes it up on Joan's window. Joan's reaction is to tell them that when they all get drafted and sent to Vietnam, she won't care if they die, because she never liked them. They are all astonished she would say something like that (personally, I would probably say the same). Anyway, Peggy goes to Don, who doesn't like the cartoon but won't do anything about it. He tells her it's her problem and to fire Joey if she doesn't like it. Peggy fires Joey. Later in the elevator, Joan and Peggy are discussing the cartoon. Peggy says she fired Joey. Mad that Peggy went over her head, Joan says, "So all you've done is proved to them that I'm another meaningless secretary and you're another humorless bitch."

Joan's point is that while she knows there is nothing in particular that she can do, she makes it known that she doesn't give a crap about them. She can't fire them, but she can make their lives in the office a living hell if she wants to do so. She's bluffing her authority, and they believe it. By Peggy firing Joey, Joan is still just a meaningless worker bee. She could still make their lives horrible, but what's the point since other people have higher authority than her? Peggy doesn't like the cartoon, and truly she's right in firing him. So in reality, they both have valid points. And that is why the situation sucks, and is still relevant.

I used to be the kind of girl that had a lot of guy friends, but as I have grown up and matured, I've realized that guys are not all that great to be around sometimes. Being around guys (at least, the immature ones), when they make an offensive comment and you call them on it, they immediate chime in "It was a joke, chill out." So you pipe down. But if you say anything more, you're too sensitive and can't take the humor. But obviously this is a common "humor" for guys, so you hear it a lot. So you have to take it or you're too weak to handle it. Ok, here's my enormous issue with this: instead of me having to listen to you degrade women, how about men just don't degrade women? Shocking, right?

Mad Men is set in the 1960s, and yet I still deal with crap like this today. After repeatedly saying a sexist comment and following it with "I'm joking," umm no!, eventually you're actually just being yourself and making excuses. And it's bullshit. But unfortunately, there is no clever denigrating term for me to use against men. Granted, that would just bring me down to their pathetic level, but sometimes my immediate instinct to just fight back. But to be the better person, I have to choose my flight instinct over fight and walk away. Which is why today, I have more friends that are girls than friends that are guys. And the few guy friends I still have, know better than to say sexist crap with me around. And if they did, the situation generally goes like this:

Guy: Stupid, sexist comment.
Me: *menacing glare*
Guy: Sorry.

And any guy that reacts differently around me, probably won't have me as a friend much longer. Because I refuse to tolerate or deal with sexist humor. It's not a joke. It's just offensive. And that's why unfortunately, not much has changed since the 1960s.

No comments: