During the third season of Mad Men Feministing writers will offer some of our thoughts on feminist moments, scenes, and themes in the new episodes in order to start a discussion about these topics in our community. *WARNING: Lots of spoilers follow.
Bobby: “I’m bored.” Betty: “Go bang your head against the wall… Only boring people are bored.”
My mom was always reading multiple parenting books when my sister and I were young. The books encouraged raising children to conform to the compulsory gender binary and were no doubt flawed in many other ways. But at least there was something available. Betty is stuck with the job of being a parent to three children. Don’s involvement is fleeting at best – he gets to have meaningful moments with his children without being there for all the everyday challenges. Betty knows how to care for a baby, but she is raising Bobby and Sally without any road map. It makes sense that she tries to silence Sally with the television and appease her with a Barbie. Betty won’t have to deal with anyone lecturing her on the merits of baby wearing, but she is also working an unpaid job with almost no support. -Jos
You know, I’m pretty sure my dad used to say this to me! But yes, totally agree, Jos. Though until recently, Carla has been doing that heavy lifting for the most part as well. -Jessica
Betty on moving to England: “I could get a pram and a real nanny.”
Makes sense Betty would want to move to England, where full time nannies are socially acceptable. I think it is worth noting that Betty was largely raised by Viola, her family’s African American maid, and that Carla plays a role in raising Sally and Bobby. Viola does not register as a nanny to Betty, but I imagine she filled a fairly similar role. -Jos
Joan plans to leave Sterling Cooper, Greg doesn’t get the job.
I understand it could be problematic if Joan leaves Greg because he’s not bringing her the kind of money and prestige she wants. I don’t care. I say use whatever excuse necessary to leave that asshole. If Joan does leave Greg that will probably be the reason closest to the surface, but we all know Joan has been through much worse with her angry, unstable rapist of a husband. -Jos
Ugh, could Greg be more sniveling? I’m genuinely curious abut how the writers will either bring Joan back to Sterling Cooper or keep her in the loop if she’s not at the agency. I don’t think Mad Men could exist without Joan! -Jessica
Betty gives Sally a Barbie from baby Gene.
While I know that Sally threw the doll out the window because it was supposed to be a gift from baby Gene, I like to think that this is more representative of her potential to be a future nonconformer and rebel. Also, if I woke up to that doll being back on the dresser, I would have freaked the f*ck out too. I used to have a puppet when I was a kid and became convinced he was going to kill me. His name was Charlie. *shudder* - Vanessa
I remember Charlie! He had a monocle, awesome. Despite all the Barbie implications, this is the first time I remember seeing Betty being actually warm with Sally – so I didn’t see it as a bad thing. -Jessica
Playing into the stereotype that women can’t drive?
This was such an atypical episode I’m going to need some time and another viewing just to process the storytelling style. I enjoy the relationship Mad Men has to period cinema. Season 1, for example, had a lot of stylistic nods to film noir. Season 3 is building a stylistic and genre pastiche – we’ve even had a musical episode. But the show has never been slavish to film history and is willing to create a unique vision of the early 60s. The writers also recognize that cultural artifacts do not only exist in the year they were created and is willing to incorporate elements from the 40s and 50s in creating the show’s world. This episode seemed to owe a lot to screwball comedies, a choice that works well with a storyline about a visit from Sterling Cooper’s new British overlords. So the tractor gag fits. But why did Lois, the show’s stock incompetent secretary, have to be the one driving? I do think the way other characters reacted to the accident was telling – no one seemed to make a big deal out of Lois’ terrible driving, as if it was to be expected. The implication: put a woman behind the wheel of a tractor and someone’s bound to lose a foot. The show at least engaged with the stereotype of women as bad drivers, but was this enough? And why did Peggy have to faint? -Jos
I could deal with Peggy fainting because Joan was SO bad ass. As usual, the one person on top of everything – just love her. - Jessica
Guy MacKendrick loses his foot.
I found the ableist implications in here interesting; the rest of the London crew completely dismiss the possibility of him continuing to work now that he’s lost his foot, even after Don’s comment – it’s like it is not even a question. - Vanessa
Joan and Don.
In the past two episodes Peggy has told both Don and Joan that they are living the dream. Seeing the two of them sitting next to each other in the hospital waiting room, Don in his most iconic pose, was a reminder that they both walk through the world as the ideal man and woman of the period. And that below the surface is a deep unhappiness. It was also interesting to see two incredibly sexual characters connect in a way that wasn’t about wanting or having sex with each other. Don and Joan’s sexuality links them in a more complex way that is about being kindred spirits. It’s incredibly rare in pop culture to see such a mature handling of a relationship between a straight man and woman that is sexually charged without being about sex or a romantic relationship. -Jos
Holy awesome analysis, Jos! I didn’t really see it when I watched that scene, but I’m completely feeling what you’re saying. - Vanessa
I felt the same way as Jos. Andrew (my honey) even said something about it as we were watching – it’s so nice that the writers haven’t had them be together or have a history or anything like that. They’re just a lot alike and equals in a way that wasn’t necessarily explored before that scene. -Jessica