Last week, I decided to give into my curiosity and give the AMC show “Mad Men” a try. Aside from era in which it takes place, I really didn’t know squat about it. I like the sixties fashions, so I decided to give it a whirl. The show is good, but it leaves me feeling – itchy – annoyed – uncomfortable. (Every character on the show is awful! It’s like a Joyce Carol Oates novel.) It is a very accurate portrayal of what it was like back then: Heavy drinking, chain smoking, doing both of those while pregnant, womanizing and sexual harassment. Good times.
And yet, I am intrigued. I know how these things work – the female characters will slowly evolve and embrace what little freedoms they have and the male characters will continue to look cool and cheat on their wives. The creator of the show, Matt Weiner, views his show as Feminist. And I think I agree with him. Girls coming up today have no real idea of how this country (USA) treated women in the past. Mad Men shows how much creativity and cunning it took a woman to succeed in a world where she was a decoration/maid.
It has got me thinking about my own views on feminism, and how those views have evolved over time. My ideals started out the same as most young women who come to embrace feminism: Angry. I saw everything as “Anti-Woman”. I almost gave a kid a beat down at a mini golf place for handing me a pink ball! (How dare he assume that just because i am a girl I would WANT a pink ball!) The idea was right, but really, we gotta choose our battles. Some things are not ever going to change. And why? Because not everyone agree that “some things” need changing. Took me a long time to come to grips with that one.
But, I studied feminism. I took the obligatory and useless college courses on the matter. I know what the male gaze is and I know every sect of feminism, but that doesn’t really help now does it. Taking a class about something as diverse as feminism, and then thinking you know anything about it is like taking one cooking class and then trying to make Baked Alaska. It doesn’t really work. You have got to get out there and really learn. So, I did. I read books. I watched movies. I talked to people and went to lectures. I joined NOW. I even wrote my college thesis on feminism- Horror Movies and Feminism: The Final Girl as Hero.
The problem with the movement is that there is no agreement. Some feminist look at Xena and Buffy and say: GREAT! Strong active women (and sexy!) fending for themselves. Others see the same thing a little differently: Over-sexualized women taking on a male, violent role.
I think it’s fine to look sexy and kick ass. But that’s just me. One persons “GURL POWER” is another persons “STEP BACK”. I don’t see how any self respecting woman can look at someone like Sara Palin and think – My God! That is what it means to be a woman. And again…that is where our problems lie, girls.
So, while watching Mad Men I began to think “Wow. We really HAVE come a long way.” And, for some things we have. Sure there is still a boys club and a Glass Ceiling, but the ceiling is lower and no one takes boys clubs seriously anymore. They are full of old men who haven’t changed with the times. But then I got to thinking about women as women. And I don’t know how much evolution has really happened – and when it has, has it been for the better?
Let’s look at another popular TV show. Grey’s Anatomy. Here we have a show based on a self centered resident doctor whose commitment phobia has her “married” to her “boss” on a post it note. And we are supposed to find this adorable and forward thinking. The other women on the show are so man crazy that I simply cannot keep up. Sure, it is a soap opera, so sex is part of it, but really. Could there be at least ONE smart woman on the show? It seems to me that today, women are calling themselves feminist if they decide to sleep around and not get married. I don’t think ONE woman on that show is a good example of feminism.
I don’t think much has changed since the time of Mad Men. Men still feel trapped in their jobs and like they are the ones who have to bring home the bacon. Women still want to look good for their man. And there is nothing wrong with that. We like being pretty little things in nice packaging. Disagree? Look at all the make up you wear and buy and tell me different.
I guess my whole point here is a simple and old one: To thine own self be true. You don’t have to sleep around to prove that you are a forward thinking woman, just as getting married or being in a relationship doesn’t mean you don’t care about women’s rights. Being “single” doesn’t make you anymore of a feminist than being married does. I think we have to start looking for a cultural balance before we get lost in the shuffle.