Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mad Men: The More Things Change, the More Things Stay the Same

Dear "Mad Men", where have you been all my life? Seriously.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been seeing people tweeting about AMC's show "Mad Men" and I didn't give it a second thought. It wasn't until I decided to cancel my cable (thought it sounded good at the time) and watch my television on the free website when I actually discovered the show. Last week I started watching an episode of "Mad Men", which I absolutely loved, but I couldn't really carry the story because it seemed that so much had happened in the previous seasons. Coincidentally, I received seasons 1 and 2 as a gift this week.

If you have noticed that I have been missing in action, then it would be absolutely correct to assume that I have been locked away on my computer watching all of season 1 and 2. And I'm totally enthralled with it. I love the fashion, the cut throat industry of advertising, the drinking, the smoking, the affairs, and everything else.

Right before I started watching it, a male tweeted to me, "You'll finally realize how much has changed for women since 1960". Or something to that effect.

Really though? Has much changed? The women are all in the secretarial arena (of what I've seen so far, minus the one female secretary who manages to move up as a copywriter). Many of the men are incredibly sexist, and the women in the office also perpetuate the same sexism on one another in the form of criticizing one another for how they look, act and dress and how it will have an impact on finding a husband. If you haven't seen the show, I am sure you can just imagine all the sexism.

So has sexism really fundamentally changed since then, or are men just scared that they might get sued for acting like the sexist pricks that many of them still are??! I am a female in an upper management position (the only female, by the way) and honestly what I see on an every day basis is pretty much a covert mirror of what was overtly happening in this television show. I'm called "sweetheart" or "honey" by men who are below me on a frequent basis. I watch the higher management prey on some of the secretarial staff. I have to sit and listen to men make completely sexist jokes to one another while in my presence. I have been sexually harassed by inferiors, although many men refuse to acknowledge that a woman who is above a man in position can be sexually harassed by someone below her.

In season one there is one episode where a female secretary is asked to work on an ad account for a "weight loss" device which actually happens to have a vibrator in it. She stands in front of all the male executives and has to listen to them make sexist jokes about their wives as well as sexual jokes. And she just grins and bears it. She doesn't say a word.

Oh...but that doesn't happen any more to women in the workplace, right? Ask any female executive in upper management and I will bet that she will beg to differ. I am an extremely dominant woman and it has happened to me more times than I can count. Sometimes I say something, but sometimes I don't; it depends on which battle I feel like picking on that particular day.

Read memoirs of female CEOs and executives and you'll hear all about their battle scars and how they sometimes call them on their shit yet sometimes use other assertive tactics. I once had to get in one of my colleagues face and tell him, "Oh, you want to have a pissing match, do you? Well, draw the fucking line in the sand. I can assure you that I can pee farther than your sorry ass while I am standing up. Now stop fucking with me because I will squash you". Sure I just wanted to report him to someone for being a sexist pig, but I knew that aggressive behavior and getting in his face would work better with that bully. And it did.

We've always had bullbusting women who've climbed their ways up kicking, screaming and clawing the eyes out of sexist jackasses-then, now and as far back as we can remember. Even if we don't hear about those bad ass early feminists, they've always been around putting men in their place.

Regarding the dynamics of the female workers in the show, I just blogged last week about my secretarial staff who happen to be all up in my business about whether or not I am going to get married or have children, what I am wearing, what I wore last week, my shade of lipstick, blablabla. They gossip, they flirt, and some look down on women who are divorced. I swear, to watch some of these office women back in the 1960s in the show is practically like looking at half of the women who work in my office.

And don't get me started on doctors. In one episode, the female character goes to see a male doctor to get birth control from a pervy doctor. He tells her that if she sleeps around he will immediately take her off the birth control pill because men won't want to marry a hussy. Oh, this stuff definitely happen any more, right? Well, I think one of my good friends would beg to differ. Last year she was denied birth control by the pharmacist on duty at a national pharmacy because the pharmacist told her that she was committing a "mini-abortion" every time that she took the pill. Ha. I'll save my own personal story about a certain emergency room perv doctor for a later post when I explain why I will NEVER go to a male doctor again.

So really, not much has changed since the 1960s. It's just a tad bit more covert than it used to be, at least in my opinion. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

I think it is important to men to point to what they view as progress in order to make themselves feel less responsible for the fuckery that persists.

White folks do the same thing to POC...It assuages their guilt and allows them to take some kind of credit for it by pointing it out.

Driving discrimination underground doesn't make things better for the oppressed. it makes it easier for the bystander to ignore it.

It is the equivalent of a man beating his wife to take the ass whooping inside so the neighbors will be able to act like they are just horsing around and everything is okay.

Wicked Bitch, Latina Fatale said...

You are right inkognegro. You are definitely not one of those asshat men. kisses!

NancyP said...

Things *have* gotten better in that it is possible to shame offenders in company. It is no longer universally accepted that men must be assholes and women must smile and take it. It is easier for women to say to their rude male peers, "oh, grow up already, you are just being tedious" (or stronger, as the case may demand). Of course, it helps to have the conviction that you are smarter than the offender.

In my case it helped that I had been raised in a well-off WASP family that practiced public decorum, and could do the stuffy old-money well-connected act from years of observation of my childhood neighbors and schoolmates who actually were 2nd or 3rd or 4th generation "old money".

The game can be played another way, of course. The self-made can act to evoke the hidden insecurities of those who inherited a position, and yes, many "sons of the CEO" do have such insecurities, particularly if their fathers were self-made.

Ah, the stupidity of class.

Things have gotten better in medicine - the newly graduated male ob/gyn has a harder time than the similar woman ob/gyn in getting patients, until word gets around that he's good and respectful. Most specialties are now sufficiently populated by women that men have a harder time acting the fool in public and pay a price (in reputation and referrals) for doing so. Surgical subspecialties and "Ivy League" type academia are two areas where there is still considerable sexism (and of course racism, but that's another long comment).

At any rate, that's my view.

Wicked Bitch, Latina Fatale said...

Thanks for your comment, Nancy. I think that there have always been women who have basically told men to shove it. As far back as the 17th century Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz told them all they were bothersome men and hypocrites, right? Granted, they eventually shut her up.

I still think on the outside that everything seems different, but I bet many men in workplaces would be sexists asses if they weren't afraid of getting busted. And maybe many male doctors aren't a bunch of assholes because they need to not be because they get money.

But who knows. I'm a cynic.

Anonymous said...

First, I'm am a guy and I really enjoy reading this blog for two reasons/
1. The passion WB has for women, rights, wrong doings, honesty, and voicing her opinion. The passion that goes into each story is like a mini edge-of-your-seat novel.
2. I learn from these stories. I learn that there are certain women that think certain ways and I respect that. I will be the first to admit that as a man, I find it difficult to understand what women think in certain situations. I do understand that I am only seeing a representative group, and not ALL women have the views that are adored on this website. I personally agree with about 50% of what is said here and I won't bash the other 50% because everyone is different and has reasons for their views.

Now I haven't been reading the site very long so if I'm wrong please tell me. But the one thing I find, soecifically from the audience comments, is that there is a lot of globally categorizing of men. And in this comment string I see a good example of fitting 'whites' into a global way of thinking.
I can tell you this. If you are the type of person who thinks in absolutes regarding people, Be it men, women, black, white, hispanic, then it's you who is keeping the prejudice alive and well. I can and do agree with many of these points, but to say "White folks do the same thing to POC...It assuages their guilt and allows them to take some kind of credit for it by pointing it out." simply discredits the point you are trying to make.
I know for a fact that my company pays women less for the same job as they pay me. I think that's horrible. I've told my boss I think it's horrible...oh, she is upper management and female, and she is excellent at what she does, I'll follow her to any business she moves to. And her boss is also female, as is hers who is the CFO of the company. Are we really going to still find a way to blame a man for that? Should I feel guilty for negotiating and accepting more salary, I can tell you I don't. Should I be lumped onto the 'all whites think...blahblahblah'? Never. Am I Captain Equal Rights? Lol, no....I'm far from perfect. If I even begin a sentence with, 'All Asian women..." wouldn't you just take that as someone going on a rant? Someone who insists on this belief and therfor that is indeed what they will see? I don't mind being dead honest here...and if you have any questions or statements that you would like to lump me into I will answer 100% honest either way. Yes, us guys can be jerks...yes, we are often sexist in our thoughts and sometimes our actions. You may not agree that some jokes are for the workplace. I don't disagree with that. But before you label someone sexist, what about when that same person turns to his male co-worker and lights him up with a few shots of 'get over here and sit on my lap, or, damn John, your ass is bigger than my car.' is he still sexist or just an idiot? Or is he just having fun because he doesn't think anyone cares?
I'm not saying these comments are ok, but I'm not saying they are not either. If the women in the circle I run in start dishing it out, I fire right back and at the end of the convince we are all laughing because it was fun. So it's just knowing the group or person you are dealing with.
Just my $.02, well, I kinda went on and on so it's about $1.25.

Marga Britto said...

There are people that just cant help being sexist, or racist. But they try because is "uncool" to be that way, not because they are convince of any wrong doing. It cracks me up, to see the similarities with white people adopting children of different nationalities, because it so cosmopolitan and cool.
Want to see how racism and sexism is official? "Because I am an Equal Opportunity Employer YOU Have to tell me your race or ethnic background", though is optional, why the heck is important to know your ethnic background? Or if you are a female or not, when you are applying for a job. We have a long way to go, not females or NOn white people, but all of those arseholes that make an issue of those two topics.