The show might be popular amongst women in general, but the feminist women I know are utterly obsessed with it. I was so intrigued by this that I did a little survey at work, asking these women why they liked the show so much.
|Is it odd for feminists to be obsessed with these characters?|
Mad Men portrays the men of the early 1960s as womanising chauvinists. The lead character, Don Draper, is a kind of alpha male who beds a succession of women, whilst his wife, Betty, is a Stepford wife, who is loyal and sweet, but who is driven to psychotherapy by her role as a housewife.
So you can see why feminists might like the bias of the show: the men are uncaring cads, the women are either oppressed housewives or else struggling at work to make it in a man's world. The feminist women can watch the show and glow in the knowledge that feminism was about to burst onto the scene and deal the womanising cads an almighty blow.
That's how the women at work explain it to me. But I don't think that it's an entirely satisfying explanation. None of the women admitted it to me, but I'm willing to bet that they find the male characters appealing. Mad Men resembles female romance fiction: the male characters are difficult to tame, roguish, high status bad boys, the women are fully decked out for heterosexual encounters in their stylishly feminine dresses.
I'm guessing that Mad Men allows political women to escape back into a less casually androgynous world - but without the political guilts.
And what of the idea that feminism rescued women from womanising men like Don Draper? It's a pretty difficult theory to defend. In the 1970s, feminists pushed for a sexual revolution in which women were to be "liberated" to pursue relationships for sex alone, rather than for marriage or romance.
Inevitably, this changed what men and women selected for in relationships. If men weren't selecting for marriage or romance, but for sex, then what mattered was whether a woman was hot. Therefore, the culture became increasingly sexualised, with the development of a raunch culture influencing increasingly younger women.
Switch on the music videos on TV and try with a straight face to claim that women have been rescued by feminism from being sexually objectified.