Don’s Nuanced Misogyny

August 9, 2009

don-draper

Misogyny and sexism take center stage throughout the first two seasons of Mad Men.  The upstanding men of Sterling-Cooper treat women as little more than sex objects, belittling their independence and assuming their inferiority.  The booze-fueled “boys club” atmosphere of the firm only emboldens and legitimizes their disrespect.

That said, Don is written as having an oddly progressive stance on women.  On the one hand, he readily accepts Betty’s status as cook and cleaner, typically watching TV while she does the dishes or makes dinner.  In Season 1, he initially refuses to work for a female client when she speaks out of turn.  “I won’t sit here and let a woman talk to me like that,” he exclaimed.  Yet he is also the only man at Sterling-Cooper that wholeheartedly respects Peggy and her work as a copywriter.  There’s also the scene in Season 2 in which he is visibly upset on the elevator as two men speak about sexual acts in front of a woman.  It’s like the seeds of chivalry that may grow to become a progressive tree.  Or at least semi-respectable bush.

While the other men at Sterling-Cooper are, for the most part, pretty uniformly despicable in regards to their treatment of women (save, of course, for Paul–the guy dating the black supermarket employee), Don is written in a much more nuanced light.  He cheats on Betty, sure, but he has an abnormally high level of respect for women.  I’m left wondering, though, if developments beginning with Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in 1963 might prompt a reactionary stance from Don, alienating someone that could have been a powerful ally for women’s rights.

-Jeremy

Advertisements

4 Responses to “Don’s Nuanced Misogyny”

  1. Daniel said

    He’s the same with blacks too. Remember in episode 1 of season 1? He’s willing to have “a conversation” with the black waiter when the waiter’s boss says scornfully that he “can be a little chatty” with a rather harsh eye pointed at him. I’ve always sort of rolled my eyes at this because it seemed that those characteristics were just meant to help fulfill Don’s depiction as the “perfect man” (at least on the surface) but that he can act sexist in other ways and racist also implies that Don has a complex view on race/sex.
    Maybe you’re right, maybe he’ll realize his hypocrisy soon. It wouldn’t be unbelievable.

  2. […] on Don’s every word and whim and taking care of the children. As Jeremy said in an earlier post, In Season 1, he initially refuses to work for a female client when she speaks out of turn.  “I […]

  3. […] been doing this forever but how about a little perspective folks? You need only watch an episode of Mad Men for a clear reminder of the truly deep misogyny that saturated the business world merely 40 years […]

  4. […] been doing this forever but how about a little perspective folks? You need only watch an episode of Mad Men for a clear reminder of the truly deep misogyny that saturated the business world merely 40 years […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: