A Word from Atop the Soapbox

** climbs onto soapbox**

My favorite show on the telly is kicking into its third, highly anticipated season. Yep, talkin’ ‘bout Mad Men. In giddy anticipation of the premiere a couple of weeks ago, I Tweeted about my insane affection: “ridiculously -- and i do mean ridiculously -- excited about the Man Men premiere tonight. Just exhaled w/passion thinking 'bout Don Draper.”

Got an interesting response from my Twitter pal Djd323232 that surprised me a bit…“Just curious - doesn't the complete lack of respect for women on that show drive you nuts?”

I responded that “it did at first. Along with the constant smoking. But I have been able to put it into context. it is a true sign of the time… it just solidifies the authenticity of the prog (sic). i'm not fussed. the show's about more than that for me...”

We went on to have a spirited and respectfully civil discussion about this issue, both making our points.

But it got me thinking. For a while. About my gender and history and treatment and where I stand and what I do.

It was my first real job out of college. I was the Bright Young Thing in my office. Passionately opinionated, wearing my liberal idealism on my sleeve. Experientially naïvely naïve, as only a 23-year-old can be. I toiled as a print production coordinator for a company that distributed corporately-produced educational films – while I had a desk in a cubby, I basically worked in a plant. With many folks, male and female, who’d been with the company since before I was born.

To say there were generational differences would be an understatement.

Not only was I young, I was female.

And while there was NEVER the slightest hint of sexual harassment, there was some sexual, for lack of a better word, discounting.

The first time the swarthy genial warehouse manager called me “sweetheart” I let it slide, chalking it up to being just a random thing. After the fifth time, it was obvious that using such terms was part of his regular vernacular.

And it really bugged me. A lot.

I was already on my feminist soapbox around the office anyway – the “executive” suite of offices had only a men’s room and the fact that there was no ladies’ room irked me.

What can I say – I was a very idealistic, Mary Richards-esque 24 years old. Give me a purpose, a perceived injustice, a cause – I’d take it on. Give me any rule, I’d break it…


I mentioned my youthful feminist complaints to my office bestie, a wonderfully wise and seasoned woman nearly 20 years my senior. Who knows why we were friends – we just hit it off. She gave me some very wise counsel that calmed me down and squelched the flames coming off of my hypothetically burning bra.

She reminded me that I was of a different generation than the gentlemen with whom I was working. And that for them, the use of the word “sweetheart” or “dear” meant nothing condescending or demeaning. It’s just how they communicated. Nothing more, nothing less. If anything, these guys used it with affection. And I simply needed to put it into context.

I’ve mellowed a bit since those days, at least in this regard. I’m still all about Doin’ It for My Gender, but I like to think I’m more mature and clear-headed now with my actions and attitudes – remembering to take all things into consideration and looking at a situation from all angles.

And it’s that attitude which allows me to watch Mad Men without going ballistic regarding the treatment of women in the program. As out of place (and frankly, abhorrent) as it seems now, it’s true to the time in which the show is set. I can see where this might bother some – and I respect that – but I’m simply choosing to check my 21st century mores at the door and watch it from a creative and storytelling standpoint. It’s a trick I honed in graduate school, when I had to set aside my religious and moral perspective to fully understand certain authors and their messages.

It works for me. Your millage may vary.

Regardless. Context. Not a bad thing to keep in one's toolbox.

**jumps off soapbox**


yoonamaniac said...

Very true even though I haven't seen the show. That's why I try not to jump into conclusion about an individual based on one or two remarks made by him/her, but it IS very hard.

Devyl Gyrl said...

For whatever reason, every time I have tried to watch Mad Men, it was in the middle of the season. I wanted to catch it at the beginning of this season, but ended up missing it, again. One day I'll catch up on all the episodes missed and probably be hooked. While I liked the show itself, none of it ever makes sense when I flip on an episode.