The first episode of Mad Men gives a glimpse of how women were truly seen in the 1960s. It shows us that women were unable to advance in the workforce, and it accurately describes how women had to use their sexuality in order to attempt to receive what they want. Matthew Weiner’s argument for women’s rights and sexuality is clearly expressed in the first episode of Mad Men: “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” Below is a video clip that shows how women were seen in the 60s. A woman was simply seen as a sexual icon that was unable to advance in the workforce unless she used her sexuality.
The clip starts at 0:15 and ends at 0:28.
This image shows the cover of a magazine in the 1950s that highlights beauty for certain jobs showing that women were seen as a sexual icon from the way they dressed to the way they tried to advance themselves in the workplace with the inability to do so. Although the cover is from the 50s, the idea continued into the 60s.
Mad Men also shows that women were supposed to be stay-at-home moms. For example, Betty Draper is only seen as staying at home and taking care of the children. In the first episode, there is no mention of her job, but we see her interact with the kids and Don when Don comes home.
Mad Men also shows women as having to use their sexuality and the way they were dressed as sexual icons to advance in the workforce (if they were working). This concept is seen through the character of Joan Harris in the first episode of Mad Men when she is helping Peggy Olson move into her office. Joan Harris says, “Of course if you really make the right moves, you’ll be out in the country, and you won’t be able to work with us at all.” Joan Harris is referring to the fact that women are incapable of advancement toward higher jobs that the men hold. Joan also says, “He [Don Draper] may act like he wants a secretary, but most of the time they’re looking for something between a mother and a waitress,” meaning that the men that are in charge of Peggy Olson do not necessarily want the lady to do the job of a secretary. A mother is someone who sleeps with her husband (advancing in the workplace through sexuality), and a waitress was someone who did not dress like a housewife in those days (sexual icon). The show also shows Peggy making moves on Don Draper in order to thank Draper for standing up for her. However, Draper does not accept her moves, and Peggy becomes embarrassed. (6)
As depicted in the show, the pay for working women was not equal. Many men were also scared of women to advance in their work because they were afraid of not having wives that might be smarter or unable to take care of their kids. An example of the unequal pay is this picture of a chart that displays the women’s earnings compared to the men’s earnings as well as the dollar difference. As you can see, men made an average of $10,000 more starting in 1960 and an average of $14,000 in 1969. It is clear that the gap between the earnings increased with time through the 1960s.
An article that shows how men were scared of women advancing in the workplace can be found here. (9)
Overall, the argument that Matthew Weiner makes in his creation of Mad Men is clearly seen through many different forms and characters.