Mad Men Midweek Fix: Christmas Comes But Once A Year

Mad Men Midweek FixDuring the fourth 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. This year we’ll help you get through the middle of the week wait for the next episode. *WARNING: Lots of spoilers follow.

Glenn and Sally.

This is shaping up to be an amazing season for Sally Draper. She’s starting to grow up, and she’s learning how to be a woman from her mother’s example. We saw her imitate Betty’s stance, the slight tilt of her head, her way of speaking, and saw it work for her in getting Glenn to take action (10 year old Kiernan Shipka deserves a lot of credit for her performance this week). We saw her enjoy the special attention, but we also saw that, in the divorce, waiting up for the absent Don has transferred to Sally (I thought the moment of her looking out the window was a little on the nose for this show, but the message certainly was not lost). – Jos

I heart Sally.  Her new bf?  Not so much.  I know it’s supposed to be a creepy kid love story, but I find him a bit too stalkerish for my taste.  But Sally is great; she’s definitely negotiating how to fit in vs. standing up for herself (ralphing the sweet potatoes was just too awesome) and it’s really fun to watch. – Jessica

Glenn is a serial-killer-in-training. I bet the lock of hair he took from Betty is braided up in that lanyard he left on Sally’s pillow. Shudder. – Ann

What Ann said. - Samhita

The return of Freddy Rumsen.

I’m sure it’s no mistake Lee Garner, Jr. was in the episode where an absent character from previous seasons returned. Yes, I wanted it to be Sal. It’s striking that getting drunk enough to pee down your leg at work is more forgivable than being gay (or refusing to do anything Lee Garner, Jr. says, as we saw in some embarrassing moments with Roger Sterling). But it was nice to see a recovering alcoholic on this show, to see that in this way Freddy Rumsen really has changed.

Where Freddy hasn’t changed is his advertising sensibilities, which really showed how much the work our characters do has changed. Freddy was proposing campaigns very similar to the lipstick ad that gave Peggy her big break, but Peggy’s work is so far ahead of that now. - Jos

The dynamic between Peggy and Freddy is interesting, because Peggy’s work isn’t the only thing about her that has progressed. Sometimes we don’t realize we’ve changed until we spend time with people we haven’t seen in awhile. Freddy’s return sparked a realization for Peggy about how confident she has become in herself and her professional abilities since the days when she relied on him as one of her few workplace allies. She’s evolved. And, at least when it comes to his views of her, Freddy hasn’t. – Ann

Peggy wants a husband.

I’m a little irked about this. Peggy has always seemed to care more about propelling her career than finding a man. I assume that’s why she got so pissed when Freddy made that comment; she realizes she’s fallen into the marriage trap: she’s playing the role, acting the virgin, and she knows it’s just not her. – Vanessa

Yes, Peggy has always been more career-focused than marriage-focused. But social pressures on women to partner up are nothing to scoff at. That were especially strong in the ‘60s, and certainly still exist today. – Ann

Completely agree, Ann. No scoffing here! I guess I’m just curious to see how strongly she succumbs to those pressures with this dude over the course of the season, as she’s seemed to avoid in the past. – Vanessa

Peggy’s “virginity.”

“This never happened. It will amaze you how much it never happened.” Does Peggy hiding her sexual history mean she’s actually considering marrying this complete cipher of a guy? – Jos

That presumptuous moment that Peggy is a virgin was just priceless. And I really hope what you say is not true Jos! - Samhita

Perhaps I’m too much of an optimist, but I can almost see Peggy going along with the “virginity” nonsense because she realizes that’s what she has to do to play the game.  (I was just waiting for her to give a fat eyeroll or something when he kept bringing it up.)  In the same way that Peggy hid the birth of Pete’s kid, her playing virgin could be just another way that she’s creating a narrative for herself that allows her to get what she wants.  In this case, a kinda skeezy guy. – Jessica

“Civil rights is the beginning of a slippery slope.” “If they pass Medicare they won’t stop until they’ve banned personal property.” “Storm our houses and rape our wives.”

For some reason I expected more from Bert Cooper…. – Samhita

“In a nutshell it all comes down to what I want versus what’s expected of me.”

Well if there were ever a slogan for the show… – Jessica

Or for life in general. – Ann

Don and Dr. Fay Miller.

Dr. Fay is the new Rachel Menken. Remember Don and Rachel had a similar dynamic, where she was looking for his professional opinion and he was expecting mere flirtation. The difference is that now Don is in a very different place — which makes me very curious to see how their dynamic is going to play out. – Ann

What Ann said. – Jos

The return of Lee Garner, Jr.

He’s still gay! - Ann

Don and his neighbor Phoebe.

While Don has prided himself on his manly manhood and independence, it’s interesting how helpless he is as a single dude. Not that he wasn’t reliant on Betty when they were together too, he seems more dependent (on women) than ever in the last two episodes: on the woman who cleans his house and makes him dinner, his neighbor Phoebe and his secretary. – Vanessa

I think you’re right, Vanessa, except that Don has always been reliant upon women — for basic necessities like food and housekeeping, and also for affection and validation. Watching Don fall apart and attempt to reconstitute his female support system is a real refutation of the notion that, even in the 1960s, women just relied on men for everything. – Ann

Don and his secretary.

I just didn’t think Don’s character could get any worse, but this was so uncomfortable to watch. Just awful. And then the “bonus.” Just, no, wrong. Don needs a timeout. – Samhita

Agreed – although Don was always sort of sleazy, he never looked twice at the women he worked with in his office. And that whole scene and the morning after was fucking horrible. I think this is an indication of just how rock bottom he is. – Vanessa

I hope she quits. Watching this dynamic play out will be painful, and Don could definitely use a properly delivered “I quit because you’re a total sleazeball” speech right about now. – Lori

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/mighty-ponygirl/ Mighty Ponygirl

    I think the worst part of the bonus scene with the secretary was that Don probably thought he was being a good guy about it — that yes, he’s slept with her, but she doesn’t have to worry about him packing her off, that he still appreciates her, and that her job is safe. It was wrenching because she obviously was hoping that it was the start of something and he was trying to make it clear that no, it wasn’t, and he did so in absolutely the worst possible way.

    But when it comes down to it, Don has not been able have sex without leveraging the most blunt male privilege available to him. The psychologist rejected him, as did his date in the first episode. The only women who have slept with him have been sex workers and a secretary who is not in a good position to say no. I’m sure we haven’t seen bottom yet, but he’s getting there. He’s desperate. Menken rejected him for a while and he was able to bide his time, not so much this season without his family to keep him bolstered.

  • http://feministing.com/members/mighty-ponygirl/ Mighty Ponygirl

    Also, I think that Peggy now feels that she has to choose whereas before she figured she could have a career and a family, it’s just that the latter hasn’t materialized yet and she was so busy establishing herself with the former it didn’t really bother her. I don’t think it’s “wrong” to want to get married — it’s not just “pressure to marry oh that’s so horrible,” or else why would we be celebrating Prop 8? Obviously, Mad Men isn’t showing the best and brightest aspects of marriage in the 50s and 60s, but even if Peggy has a better understanding of what marriage means for women, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want love and companionship. And if people are beginning to make a stark either/or choice out of it (which, obviously, is bogus and stupid), she’s entirely right to reconsider and figure out what she’d rather have if it comes down to it.

    It may be that cipher guy is the first husband, a mistake Peggy makes just to try to have it all and then realizes that he’s not as egalitarian as he pretends to be with all his “swedish love” lines.

  • rmj

    I totally agree with Ann about Glenn – he’s targeting/training her for abuse. And it looked to me like Peggy was already engaged. I’ve got some discussion of Glenn/Sally, a discussion of consent in this episode, and a screencap of Peggy’s possible ring over at my Mad Men weekly discussion series, Mad Hoc.

  • http://feministing.com/members/slipkpie/ Rick

    I do like how snarky Peggy has been this season

  • http://feministing.com/members/haiderzs/ Zahra

    spot on commentary, ladies.

    Every week i’m just so stoked to see which character unravels in what way and how. I feel like Don is still Don, but yes, he needs to be put in place by someone (for crying out loud, it’s the 4th season!) and I hope it’s Dr. Fay Miller. I was kinda hoping last season it would be Sally’s teacher, she even briefly told him off ‘I don’t date students’ fathers’ but she too, could not resist his charisma/mysteriousness/sexual appeal for too long.

  • http://feministing.com/members/yekaterina/ Yekaterina

    I was wondering about Peggy sleeping with her boyfriend following the conversation she had with Freddy Rumsen. I cant figure out if she was defying the message his was sending her (‘dont sleep with him or he wont respect/marry you”), or whether she was negotiating a compromise using Freddy’s advice by having sex with the bf (‘leading him on’ would, after all, be very ‘physically uncomfortable’ to him), but at the same time she clearly does not reveal her sexual history. So, she does get to have the sex, save the guy all the prospective ‘physical discomfort,’ all while preserving the image that can help her keep his ‘respect.’ Or did she just decide to have sex and not bother with the whole virginity explanation?

  • http://feministing.com/members/melissam/ Melissa

    I’d be interested to see more discussion on how loneliness affects each of the characters. It seemed to be a very common theme in this episode, and it has definitely come up before. I like the parallel in Public Relations post about Don and Betty both acting childish; I wonder if loneliness plays a part there as well.