Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why do feminists like Mad Men?

One thing seems to unite feminist women. An absolute craze for the TV series Mad Men.

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?
The answer I got was that they like observing how far women have advanced since the 1960s. They seem to imagine that they are watching a documentary piece of history rather than a work of fiction.

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.


  1. The show does not depict the actual 1960s but the 2010 Hollywood Leftist caricature of what the 1960s were. It is necessary to depict that time as evil and regressive in order to demonstrate what great progress liberalism has provided us with since then, and to enable modern liberals to feel superior to the reactionary villains of the past.

  2. The sex/sexiness is an obvious draw. I imagine that the subject matter also has something to do with it. Glamorising advertising, or the image makers, is very trendy. Lol if they showed a program about astronauts in the 60's today, the traditional super stars, they probably wouldn't show them as alpha dogs but as one drink away from a breakdown.

  3. Tarl makes a great point.

    What struck me most about Mad Men was how unhappy all of the characters were. Here are a bunch of beautiful, successful people, most of them with money and they are all miserable. And scheming. And mean.

    Betty Draper has a highly cushy life. She has a lovely house in the suburbs, a successful, handsome husband, two beautiful kids, and a housekeeper to do all the work, and she's miserable. She's also a terrible mother with no empathy at all, completely unplugged from her kids. This is presented as to be expected, but many women of her generation and circumstances used their time and resources to get involved in causes they liked or thought important, in doing charity work, or just socializing.

    Peggy is the real feminist icon. She comes from a Catholic background, presented as repressed, uncreative, and (of course) parochial. One of the first things she does at Stirling and Cooper is to sleep with Pete. They do not have a relationship, as she is socially far below him, but merely a couple of strange trysts. She gets pregnant but blocks it out, winding up in the maternity ward never having confirmed to herself that she is with child. That realization, coupled with giving her child away, put her in the mental ward. When she (eventually) gets out, she seems to have decided to be more direct in pursuit of her goals and begins to copy more and more of the behavior of the men in the office, deliberately rejecting the double standard. At the same time, she refuses to dabble in office politics or petty cruelties, making her neither fish nor fowl. She doesn't fit in with the men or the women at Stirling Cooper. By season 3, she's partying and doing recreational drugs when she feels like it and has moved to the city and is living the single life. She is portrayed as the most competent and creative of all the younger generation at SC, outshone only by Don who is, of course, a wreck except as creative director.

    I stopped watching after one ep of season 3. The show is visually arresting and thematically layered. There is a lot being conveyed indirectly and I found that fascinating, but it's a soap opera with an agenda and none of the characters are personally appealing with the exception, perhaps, of Pete Campbell's wife, Trudy, who seems kind and good and is doomed because she married Pete who is a smug, preening weasel.

    Don Draper has a very masculine frame to him, but it's all exterior. He's a mess on the inside, and after two seasons of constant drinking, smoking, and womanizing I found him distasteful and not worth watching even for the eye candy.

  4. Right on, grerp, regarding Trudy. She seems the unicate example of grace and normalcy in that show. She has no male counterpart. And you nailed Pete, too, who's character seems to inexplicably attract some women I know.

    It took a while for it to dawn on me that this show is a deliberate and clever portrayal of men as [glamorized] jerks with little substance or conscience. After that it became obvious that it is the women who are the exclusive moral standard bearers of the show. They are powerful either directly or indirectly and without them the world those men inhabit would collapse overnight. Add onto this the rearward projection of lionizing homosexuality and you have the principal social dynamics covered.

    A more realistic portrayal of such professionals from that time would probably have little market appeal. The men would be illiberal in most regards as well as insensitive (by our standards), and the feminizers would be seen as upstarts or weaklings at that stage.

    Visually Mad Men is enthralling to watch, with impeccable wardrobe, settings, etc. It is seductive for anyone who lived in that time, including people who are still "young" today.

    Taking up bets now that they will play the race card this season.

  5. So if the women are the strong characters, working women that is, as well as hard done by, then that explains the attractiveness of the show for Feminists. I mean what fun would there be without an enemy to castigate or overthrow?

    As for the appealing cad characters these are a staple in all sexy shows, eg JR Ewing.

    Also the show must luxuriate in commericalism, capitalist culture and presentation, which would also be a draw. I've not watched Mad men though, (or *cough* want to lol).

    I wonder though if you look at the DJ's sexual harrassment claim, its tapping into boy's club mysoginist exptations/beliefs. It would be interesting to know how much of behind the scenes life is like that and how much of it is boring.

  6. I experience something similar to these women colleagues of your Mr. Richardson. I think it's all part of the "myth" in ideology. I watch Mad Men because it is a refuge from the misandrist popculture that surrounds me, even thought it is stereotypical of men and unflattering; in other words, the attitudes of the men and how they treat their women is refreshing; when watching it, I enjoy the overtly patriarchal universe in which it is situated. It's a feeling perhaps comparable to what Southern US Agrarian paleos experience when they watch Gone With the Wind... I'm not sure if I am being clear - it's difficult to put this in words.

  7. "To succeed in the U.S., one of the deals is you will have to become a white man, and what that means is you will have to give something huge up, which we've all done willingly, and that is very painful. And that is the story. You can reinvent yourself, it will be tolerated, but you are losing something that you don't think you value, but it's going to hurt you, because you can't escape yourself."

    Notice he doesn't even bother to pretend he's talking about the show any more. Weiner's complaints about the 60's via his TV show are essentially his complaints about today--namely that the US is racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, etc. where you can only succeed by "becoming a white man," by which I guess he means act in a way that minimally conforms to American standards.

    And he complains that this demand "is going to hurt you" because it impossibly divides you from yourself, by which I guess he means his Jewishness.

    Wow. Just wow. There is probably a book somewhere in all of this, but at the very least Weiner is a case study in Jewish antagonism toward Anglos, resenting even the offer of assimilation/integration we have made them. If even successful Jewish Hollywood moguls can't assimilate, who can, I wonder. Anyway, I have no idea what the man expects us Anglos to do, but it's clear why he resents us.

    Perhaps his characters' misery is an expression of his own.

  8. 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.

    Mad Men as high class "Mills & Boon", with a feminist gloss. I love it!

  9. Bartholomew I'm not familiar with the show or the character in question but its an interesting comment. The Jews are probably the most deracinated and most assimilated ethnic group in America, I'm open to counter arguments on this, but the writer certainly would be. So deracinated ethnic groups are sort of in a bit of a limbo, they’re not quite this not quite that. They may throw themselves into assimilation but how much of that is fully possible? Every piece of cognitive dissonance experienced can make people’s life’s harder and of course the Jews also have a bit of the historical grudge. They're also ambitious to succeed and may resent some of the elements of the climb. So many of them have tapped into left wing cultural critiques of blaming the white man.

    Westernism is universalism, we know that there is an element of this. Westernism is also not universalism and its particular to countries, regions and ethnicities. Only we in the West say that someone can become an American/Australian/White man. Its not something the Japanese or the Saudi's would consider. The actual process of becoming a "white man", however, is obviously complicated.

    What this means for Anglo's I'm not quite sure. Firstly we are willing to absorb others, the answer to that is gratitude. Should it be really possible for every ethnic sub group to operate on an equal playing field in a nation? Do we have to wait for every ethnic sub group to have its own President and Prime Minister? Blatant or subtle racial discrimination, if it happens isn't good, however, I think we've concentrated fairly well on that as a society. It doesn't do to throw the 60's in people's face and say nothing’s changed.

  10. Daily Mail article from childless journalist Liz Jones that reads like a parody:

  11. Jesse wrote,

    "The Jews are probably the most deracinated and most assimilated ethnic group in America, I'm open to counter arguments on this, but the writer certainly would be."

    Yeah, I'd agree if we're talking about ethnic groups that are still identifiable as such. The Germans or Swedes, for instance, are so deracinated they're not even distinct any more from WASP's.

    The first half of the post got cut off (it was long anyway). In it, I just linked to the entire interview with Mad Men's creator, Matthew Weiner. It's a good read.

    Anyway, as far as the Jews go, yeah, I generally wouldn't touch that topic with a 10 foot barge pole, but this interview is just too interesting to pass up. Weiner's resentment is so palpably racial/ethnic, and he states so plainly that it influenced what the show is.

    I just can't understand his resentment. Is it really all that much to ask of immigrants that they become one of us? If, as Weiner says, it really is too much to ask, well, why should we take in any more?

  12. Simon,

    I read the Liz Jones article. She is unmoored. Her message seems to be that children get in the way of expensive hobbies, organic cooking and impeccably maintained houses. Parents, she thinks, put too much time into their kids and not enough time into keeping the house perfect. She's also very keen on people having a work ethic - but not for the purposes of raising children - but rather to maintain some kind of perfect Vogue lifestyle.


  13. Bartholomew, I also prefer to avoid the topic as it tends to attract obsessive types, which makes any reasonable discussion close to impossible. But you're right that in this case the show Mad Men has been influenced by ethnic grievances/alienation.

  14. Mr. Richardson wrote,

    "Bartholomew, I also prefer to avoid the topic as it tends to attract obsessive types, which makes any reasonable discussion close to impossible."

    I completely understand and agree.

    I brought it up both to point out one possible reason why the characters seem so miserable (they're extensions of their creator) and also because, well, of all the non-Christian immigrants to the US we've had, I've always thought the Jews were easily the most compatible. I know Weiner is just one man, but the way he speaks and the way the interviewer responds to him gives me the impression that the average Jewish Journal reader is supposed to understand readily Weiner's, uh, issues.

    That just floors me. I mean, are Weiner's sentiments that widespread among Jews? If even third, fourth, etc. generation Jews of all people can't assimilate completely without residual issues, well, really who can? I certainly don't see how Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims (MUSLIMS!) or anyone else could.

    But, anyway, I don't want to attract the Nazis, either, so I'll let it drop. If nothing else, though, this interview ought to make us think long and hard about just how "assimilable" all of these "super high IQ" northeast Asians will ultimately turn out to be, who racially, culturally and religiously are much, much more different from us than the Jews are.

  15. While the interview makes an interesting read, Mark is right, it is probably better to avoid this topic. Sadly the internet is full of crazies and about half of them are obsessed by Jews. It makes any discussion on the topic or even related topics a study in futility.

  16. The point is what do we mean by assimilation? If its live western lifestyles, adopt western customs and patterns of thought, yes they're assimilated. But if its feel at home, how can you feel at home in a society that prizes individualism so highly? Western society in that respect is a lacuna. If you feel ethnically secure you can reach out and engage in individualism, but if you don't, western life can become a frustrating or hollow experience and then you might have to find a bad guy to explain why you feel uncomfortable or wear a hyper touchy ethnicity on your sleeve.

    As for the asians and other ethnic groups I think the issue doesn't spring up until the 2nd, 3rd etc generations. The first generation immigrants are secure in who they are and are happy to experience the opportunities of the west, they’ll also hang out primarily with their ethnic group. Its the second etc generations who feel confused because they're in a little bit of a limbo.

    Jesse [not seven at all] I hope I didn't offend you?

  17. Re the Asian issue:

    Northeast Asians are the least troublesome type of immigrant for several reasons.

    1) Northeast Asia (Japan, China, Korea etc) is fairly wealthy. This means that unlike other immigrants (Arabs, Indians, Africans etc) they don't bring with them the baggage of a society where crime runs rampant and violence is commonplace.

    2) A large percentage of Chinese and Koreans are Christian. Japanese are atheists which is pretty much the same as most Anglos these days anyway.

    3) Ethnic identity is important to them, but pales into insignificance when compared to wealth and status. Asians will often bleat about racism etc but ultimately what they are most concerned with is becoming successful. In other words they are willing to sacrifice ethnic identity for prestige.

    4) Both Korea and Japan are run by a democratic government and Japan has been continually adopting Western values ever since the Meiji period (sometime around the 1800s.) As for the Chinese, they've been in Australia for almost as long as the Italians and Greeks. There's never been any problem with them.

    The only problem with Asians is they work too hard, and though in theory this seems like a good influence I'm personally not keen on the idea of our workplaces becoming Asianised (ridiculously long working hours for hardly any pay etc.) Though things seem to be heading in that direction anyway.

  18. In the US, when Mad Men first came out, feminist journalists were not shy in expressing their, um, "interest" in the Don Draper character, despite his philandering ways, because he hearkens back to a kind of masculinity that is now pretty much absent from most men. It's not that the feminists were saying modern men should be philanderers and drinkers, but the masculine frame Draper has is rather uncommon today, thanks, ironically, to the mess the feminists themselves have made.

  19. Novaseeker is spot on. I do not watch the show "Mad Men" at all, but I have seen pieces of interviews, and I've seen the video of adverts for the show. It is obvious even with the sound off that the character of Don Draper is an alpha male.

    Women, all women, are drawn to alpha males. It's not a conscious choice, and of course they can override it, but the attraction is hardwired in the brain (probably the limbic system). So there is irony in feminists, who seek to androgynize and even castrate the real men around them, being attracted to an imaginary alpha man.

    As we learn more about brain structural differences between men and women, it will become increasingly obvious that feminism is not based on science or reality; gender isn't just a social concept. I pray that this happens when there's still a functioning civilization for us all to live in.

  20. Anon wrote,

    "As for the Chinese, they've been in Australia for almost as long as the Italians and Greeks. There's never been any problem with them."

    I don't think you quite understood what I meant.

    I know that Asians don't riot or mug people in dark alleyways (though the number of Asian youth gangs keeps increasing). I don't mean that they cause problems for us.

    I meant that immigration/assimilation apparently isn't so good for them.

    To my knowledge, Mr. Matthew Weiner doesn't go rioting or mugging people in dark alleys either, but clearly the man is miserable. How can we call immigration and assimilation such a great success just because the really smart ones don't rob little old ladies in the park? If that's our standard to measure good, well it seems a little short to me.

    The reality, as shown in that interview, is that your heritage/ethnicity is a part of who you are. You can't just airbrush it away to suit your globe-trotting. And if you try, you'll suffer--apparently a lot.

    I know liberals say that it's the host population's job to make the immigrant feel welcome, but that's why Mr. Weiner's case is so interesting. I mean, come one. What else can we do for the man? He gets to make TV shows for a living--where's the oppression? And yet, his misery is palpable--he's suffering. Is money/"economic migration" really worth that cost?

  21. Anon wrote,

    "In other words they are willing to sacrifice ethnic identity for prestige."

    And what happens when they finally win their prestige (which is likely, given how capable they are)? Why should they keep sacrificing their identity at that point?

    How are you considering the long term implications of your policies?

  22. So today we say you shouldn't have to sacrifice your identity for prestige and everyone gets in touch with their ethnic roots and goes to multicultural fairs etc. In that circumstance its ethnicity as a sort of kitsch identity.

  23. Bartholomew, I didn't mean to argue with you. I'm sorry that I misconstrued your post. I just wanted to point out that out of all ethnic groups, Asians have the least problem with assimilating and to me that makes them the best immigrants. To be honest I don't care if assimilation gives them identity issues; that's their problem, not mine. The fact that they choose money over ethnicity doesn't have anything to do with me.

    What I have a problem with is those who refuse to assimilate and still demand the economic benefits anyway: those like Indians, Muslims etc. I think this is more of an issue because it impacts directly on our culture and society; Muslims campaigning for their own laws and so on.

    Also, I don't believe Weiner is truly "suffering" in any way shape or form. You'll find that many privileged liberals feel they can validate their position by conjuring up some "hardship" they must endure, and ethnicity is one of the most common.

    As for this:

    And what happens when they finally win their prestige (which is likely, given how capable they are)? Why should they keep sacrificing their identity at that point?

    If Weiner's argument is correct then people must be whitewashed in order to gain prestige. Therefore prestigious people wouldn't have any identity left to sacrifice.

  24. No need to apologize, Anon. Informed debate is what makes these comment boards so worthwhile. It's been good debating with you.

    You wrote,

    "If Weiner's argument is correct then people must be whitewashed in order to gain prestige. Therefore prestigious people wouldn't have any identity left to sacrifice."

    Right, but Weiner seems to be saying there's a difference between what you pretend to be (in order to succeed) and what you remain (even after you succeed).

    Apparently, it isn't much fun to pretend to be something you're not. And when you have the prestige/power not to have to pretend any more, well, men like Weiner quit. And we get shows like Mad Men.

    I don't see any good reason to believe that Asians are any different.

  25. If someone want to look how was 60s decade, look the 60s tv series. For example: "The Saint" or "dream of genie".