Mad Feminist News

 Posted by on August 26, 2009 at 11:52 am  Media-Web-News
Aug 262009
 

…I think I’m going to make this an intermittent supplement to the regular Mad News, highlighting items of interest in the feminist press.

Pandagon’s Amanda Marcotte weighs in on the “little Lesbian” controversy, and thinks through episode 3.02.

Post Bourgie insists Mad Men is not feminist, but a commenter points out she doesn’t make the argument based on internal-to-Mad-Men evidence, but on press about Mad Men.

Women & Hollywood questions the power of women writers on Mad Men.

Feministing continues Mad Men Mondays.

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  33 Responses to “Mad Feminist News”

  1. I also know other writers who were given the title "producer" so the production company could skirt around the Writer's Guild salary base for TV writers.

    However, those writers were employed by non-network shows: I doubt the networks could get away with that — at least, not ten years ago.

  2. yes, please make this a regular supplement!

  3. Let me be clear, in my experience, the title of "Producer" has both been used to pay writers underscale for off network TV, and used to reward writers in recognition of their work on network shows.

    Too confusing use of the word "Producer" to gauge how much writing has been done by the women on Mad Men.

    TV is collabortive, in either case, and unlike film, in TV a show is helmed (as well as created) by writer-producers — directors are hired for piecework.

    Writer-producers have the power on TV series: the writer who created the show, especially so.

    But it's no accident that Mad Men is populated by three-dimensional women characters: Matt was smart enough to weight his cast to women writers, no matter the title they sport.

  4. I liked Amanda's analysis of Betty, it's so spot on. She is too often dismissed as the blond bimbo by many recappers, when in reality there is a lot more there.

    • Matt has also said that his wife, Linda, is an uncredited writer on the show. He told us this the first time we met him, way back when. He runs everything by her, and she critiques.

      She also wrote this:

      Well, one day you’re there and then all of a sudden there’s less of you. And you wonder where that part went, if it’s living somewhere outside of you, and you keep thinking maybe you’ll get it back. And then you realize, it’s just gone.

      Matt knew he had to use it, but wasn't sure immediately whose it was. Thank goodness he figured it out.

  5. I agree, JS. I think Amanda's analysis of Betty was consistent with what I see (as potential) in the character.

    And I apologize if I'm putting this in the wrong spot (still a new viewer/reader) but I've followed a fun blog called "A Touch of Tuesday Weld" which posts great old ads, commercials, magazine scans, etc. from 50's – 80's. Today they posted this
    http://atouchoftuesdayweld.blogspot.com/2009/08/w

    Why shouldn't Betty drink or smoke while pregnant? Look how Docs treated morning sickness!

  6. Yes! This: the dark joke of the show is that Don keeps cheating on Betty with intelligent, sophisticated women, and he doesn’t realize that Betty would be the kind of woman he finds exciting if he didn’t oppress her and make her feel small all the time. is so spot on!

  7. Jezebel also does recaps with a feminist slant the Monday after.
    http://jezebel.com/5344203/mad-men-ann+margret-gi

  8. As for the piece disputing the number of women writers on the show, since most get producer credits, well, titles are fungible on TV.

    I wrote for two seasons on a cable sit com, freelance the first, on staff the second: and was listed as a consulting producer.

    As was every writer on the staff that second season (a deal the sit com struck with the writer’s guild, so the show wouldn’t hafta pay full writer salaries.)

    According to the credits, there were NO writers on the staff, that second season. None, nada, zero. But four of us, all “producers” wrote the bulk of the series, while on staff.

    Which may, or may not, be AMC’s deal. I doubt Matt’s being cheap with his writers, but AMC may have been looking to cut costs, and if not, writer/producers are the spine of TV series.

    The “Producer” title also can be a recognition for a writer, a bonus, rather than a subtraction.

  9. I'm more shocked by Betty smoking than by drinking. After all, French doctors prescribe a glass of wine in the evening, and the Irish encourage pregnant women to drink Guinness once a week.

    My mom worked at a major medical center, and the doctors there were telling women in the 1950s to quit smoking during their pregnancies. Of course, they also handed out Milltown like candy, because a calm mom was supposedly better than one who couldn't sleep.

  10. I’m more shocked by Betty smoking than by drinking. After all, French doctors prescribe a glass of wine in the evening, and the Irish encourage pregnant women to drink Guinness once a week.

    Didn't Francine smoke when she was pregnant in S1?

  11. Like the Tuesday Weld site, however, the blogger is wildly mistaken if he/she thinks a housewife would serve "pigs in a blanket" for breakfast.

    The "blanket" may make them sound perfect after sleepy time, but these little hot dogs wrapped in baked dough were considered a canape.

    I still come across them occasionally at parties.

  12. Jacqueline Susann, author of Valley of the Dolls, like Betty was so vigilant against gaining weight during her late 1940s pregnancy that she popped benzedrine (speed) diet pills.

    And gave birth to an austic son (whether that's cause and effect, is another matter, but Susann believed it to be so.)

    At some point, Susann and husband institutionalized the child (much more common in those days) and her drive to become a best-selling novelist was in part to secure her son's continued care.

    Pulp writer or no, Susann knew whereof she wrote about the destructive aspects of '50s pill popping.

    "in 1946, the couple had a son they named Guy. At age three, Guy was diagnosed as autistic. The following year, Guy was committed to an institution where he remains to this day. Mansfield and Susann told no one of their son's true condition. The couple told friends that Guy was asthmatic, and placed in a school in Arizona for the healthy climate. For the rest of her life, Susann was tormented with guilt over institutionalizing her son."[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacqueline_Susann

  13. 20 years ago, when a friend was sent to bedrest in the last month of a pregnancy, the doctor prescribed a beer a day, which she felt made the bedrest easier to bear.

    However, despite any warnings earlier, I remember my stepsister smoking and drinking through her pregnancies in the late '50s, early '60s.

    First son was dyslexic, but again, who knows about cause and effect.

  14. My mom also said that during her pregnancies, which were during the 50's and 60's, she always stopped smoking. Not that she didn't start right up again after delivery, but still.

    I'm still disturbed by this episode and forgive me if I vent a little. I am not seeing in any of the feminist or other blogs the stuff I saw in the Peggy/Don arc and I'm going to try to articulate it here.

    Back when I was going to consciousness-raising groups in the '70s, one of the common gripes was that whenever one tried to bring up a feminist perspective on some media transgression (like Ann-Margret acting 14), we were told, basically, "you just need to get laid, honey." That's what I was hearing in what Don said to Peggy – that she was only jealous because she wasn't getting any. So when Peggy went out and tried on her Ann-Margret/Joan antics, I could only think, "NO! He's wrong! Sex won't fix it!" To me she seemed very vulnerable and lacking in self-esteem to sink to that level. Everyone is saying that she was taking control and doing market research, but I wasn't seeing that. She surely doesn't need to experiment to know that the tactic works!

    She's constantly getting the message from men at work that she's sexless, a prude. Sure she can ignore Ken, but she just got a the same horrible insult from Don, her idol. Some part of her believed it coming from Don and that's the part of her that was motivated to go out there and prove she could get a man, in any way she could. She adopted those tactics because she didn't believe it was possible to attract a man by remaining true to herself. It wasn't "empowering," it was desperate and sad.

    Please understand that I'm not saying they should have written anything different. It makes sense that someone living at that stage of the advancement of feminism would be confused about all this and act it out. But please, don't tell me Peggy is empowered or in charge, because she's definitely not. She's working her way towards it, but slowly and painfully.

  15. I have to say, DB, that I didn't understand the line "leave a few tools in your toolbox" at all, so your interpretation is interesting to me.

  16. Well I had that same first reaction that Peggy's hurt feelings were completely justified but on rewatch I thought that what Don was saying was not as bad as the way Peggy took it. I think he blew off her comment about how embarrassed they'd be to do this as a play and said you're not an artist knowing that he isn't one either and advertising is not about expression, it's about manipulation. I also thought leave a few tools in your box refers to the fact that maybe Peggy could be an artist, maybe she could write plays but this is not the job for that tool so leave it in the box. Every time I've ever heard that expression I interpreted it as sure you're able to do better than this but better than this is not what's called for.

    I do agree that what Peggy did with picking up the guy was about soothing her ego and finding some ground on the topic of whether or not she's desirable and manipulating some guy into sex by letting him think you're less than you are is not empowering in and of itself and not something to do as a lifestyle. But I do think that it helps to try it out and find out the truth. I really think if she had decided to solve the question by thinking it through it would have been psychologically hard. What makes the "you just hate it because you're jealous" or "you just need to get laid" argument so irritating is that you have nothing at all but your sense of self to tell you it's a lie. When you know you don't need to get laid it's a lot easier to say to yourself, "no actually I just don't like that because it's stupid."

    Peggy did play down her accomplishments and intelligence in her hookup but she did not go home and put on a new outfit, she didn't flatter him, she didn't stroke his ego, she didn't giggle. She used Joan's line but beyond that she didn't try to be Joan. And she was tactful and sweet about not wanting to keep in touch with him. I think definitely she did not clarify about her job because it wouldn't have progressed the seduction but I also think she was careful to make lies of omission rather than false statements. I also think he would have been glad to fuck her even if he knew she was a copywriter but it wouldn't have been relevant and she didn't have any reason to get into it since she had no plans to get to know him any better.

    I do agree that it's a slow, painful process. I think even now young women who don't have much experience look around at these women trying so hard and pulling out all the stops and discarding their dignity and wonder, "is that what you have to do to get sex and be attractive to men?" And the quickest cure for that is to go out and actually see how little is actually required. When you can get a guy in your everyday plain clothes without doing anything fancy and find that he wants to see you again you find out very fast that no, none of that is necessary, it's all pretty much a joke. And that makes it about 100 times easier to look at women who are doing that and feel secure. It really is a hard process but I honestly think that just testing it cuts out several months or even years of doubt and questioning. You could wait for the right guy or you could just have the fortitude and strength of conviction to say "these guys don't know what they're talking about," and that's great but I think that's harder than it looks. Out of all the reasons it's okay for a man to just go out and pick up a girl and fudge the facts a little to get her into bed, about 90% of them I don't really buy. But if a guy wanted to do that just so that he could answer the question "do I need to change my entire appearance, my demeanor and my values to get sex," that would be one I could get behind. I think what Peggy did was go out and have her version of safe sex with a seemingly decent person in order to answer that question and I also think that she answered it for herself and cut out a lot of angst in the process. It would be nice if the answer was obvious. It would be nice if the answer was obvious to a girl in 2009, let alone 1963. The answer was not obvious to me in 1990 when I started to look at everyone's opinion and wonder if I needed to become a whole different person in order to be an acceptably sexy woman. I pretty much did what Peggy did and found out that I'm fine the old fashioned way. Except that we did have condoms so that was much better for me. One thing I didn't like in that scene was I had no idea if the sex she got was mutually gratifying.

    Sorry to go on all day but I hope I am being convincing!

    by the way I love that this is a regular feature and i hope apart from blog roundup it is a chance to read the feminist thoughts of everyone here, I love it.

  17. what Peggy did was go out and have her version of safe sex with a seemingly decent person

    Picking up a stranger in a bar and relying on him to provide a condom isn't exactly safe, in my opinion. She got damned lucky she didn't end up with another Greg Harris, M.D. But I really like your post.

  18. Hmm. I think that means you are not convinced but I'm glad you liked it.

    I don't think it's exactly safe either, more just relatively safe. It's unfortunately extremely difficult to have sex with a stranger without a condom at his squalid apartment and be totally safe. heh. If but it were!

  19. I didn't get the trrolb ox line either, but I decided it meant, 'don't waste your energy on this one. There will be more important fights down the road." Peggy, who only sees the road in front of her, interprets that as a rebuke.

  20. I loved how Pete mentioned Metropolis, and then later the same night Peggy jpked about becoming a robot.

    In Metropolis, the ruling class makes a robot version of a woman who's a smart labor leader. The robot version of the girl is easily controlled, where the real girl wasn't. And the girl robot is still considered one of the sexiest images in early film. It all seems to point to the idea that our fantasies about what a woman should be are very artificial.

  21. I just realized that I probably did not get across that random sex with some dude is not a prescription for feeling bad about people shitting on you at work. I am really just saying in Peggy's case it was probably a lot better than going home and feeling angry and mentally going over her case for why she's not just a bitter hag. It's good when someone knows that but I don't think Peggy did and I don't think this was a bad way for her to work it out in her own particular situation. I notice a lot with the character of Peggy that she manages to find her wisdom but it takes a little work for her. The funny thing is that it takes her a lot less work than it takes me or most people I know. That's why I admire her. But unlike a lot of characters in tv, film and literature you do get the chance to see how she stumbles and how she finds her way in a very human way and I think this is another move forward to her. I feel like I trust this character.

  22. "A Touch of Tuesday Weld"? Any blog that references Donald Fagen's "New Frontier" has to have something going for it. (That was one of my favorite videos from the 80s, too.)

    And gave birth to an austic son (whether that’s cause and effect, is another matter, but Susann believed it to be so.)

    They believed the "refrigerator mother" theory of autism then; it was rarely diagnosed because doing so was fighting words then (and also, there was relatively understanding of it). So if she felt responsible, that's not surprising. But unless he was misdiagnosed, it's highly unlikely his condition had anything to do with her prenatal habits. (Said she from the aspie corner, who also had an aspie grandparent.) Not that it's a great idea to take speed while you're pregnant anyway, but still.

  23. "relatively LITTLE understanding of it." My queendom for an edit button and more dopamine.

  24. #19 What I meant was, I don't think it was safe, but that she was definitely working something out.

    Just to clarify, I don't think the toolbox comment was what set her off (or me, actually). That was just about saving it for a bigger fight, well which is kind of insulting, too, in a way because it's a woman's product. But anyway, the thing Don says that is so insulting to Peggy is "you know how this works [the whole all women want anything that they think will attract men thing], sorry if that makes you uncomfortable" In other words, you're just in denial about wanting to be like Ann-Margret. The truth is, Peggy really doesn't want to be Ann-Margret so her trying it on in response to Don's assertion is really painful to watch.

    I think Don is only that much of a dick to her because he was in a bad mood. He asked her if it could wait and she said "no" so she might take a lesson there. He wasn't really ready to listen. But by the end of the episode, Peggy's ideas have sunk in and Don begins to pay attention to other modes of female attractiveness or ways of being, as represented by his response to the teacher.

  25. "My friend’s mother was prescribed speed pills after her pregnancies, but that was in the late 70’s/early 80’s…it seems to have went on for a little too long and may even still happen."

    I don't know about doctors prescribing at that late date, but I do know that amphetamines were still available illegally, in the early '70s pill form (took one once in college and didn't sleep for three days, crashed and lost interest in the stuff), and my brother shot it for a couple years in the early '70s (until he developed hepetitis. And then he gave up drugs, and he's fine now, folks.)

    But amphetamines were a racket, I believe "diet" doctors were still doling them out for way too long.

    Whether a steady diet of amphetamines during pregnancy can cause autism in a childe is a question for another day, and I'm aware of the since debunked "refrigerator mother" theory, but Susann herself believed the use of amphetamines cursed her son.

    Valley of the Dolls may be pulp, but it's a tragedy wound around the abuse of doctor-prescribed amphetamines and barbituates in the 1940s and '50s, and the destruction of the women who use them to maintain the "glamorous" entertainment lifestyle. The "Dolls" of the title are both the women, and their nickname for the pills.

  26. “Jacqueline Susann, author of Valley of the Dolls, like Betty was so vigilant against gaining weight during her late 1940s pregnancy that she popped benzedrine (speed) diet pills.”

    My friend’s mother was prescribed speed pills after her pregnancies, but that was in the late 70’s/early 80’s…it seems to have went on for a little too long and may even still happen.

  27. Great exchange of posts by DonnyBrook and elaine. It gives me a much better grasp of the Don/Peggy scene. I would add that I think that Don was speaking clinically (and cynically) in his reaction to the film clip; she didn't really make his "heart hurt," that was his analysis of the intended effect (Obvious contrast with the Maypole dancer, who really did make his heart hurt.) When he continued to speak just as bluntly to Peggy, it struck just a little too close to the bone for her.

    One of the things that Peggy shares with Don is that they both know that the ads are about personal feelings. Whether she learned it from him (I remember him telling her something like "It's all about the feelings," but I can't place the exact quote and episode) or he recognized it in her, they both allow thir personal responses to be reflected in their work. It's what makes them good at what they do (artists, no matter what Don says). It can also screw them up in their personal lives. Compare Don, caught up by his own pitch of the Kodak Carousel, rushing home to find an empty house, to Peggy, unable to shake off the idea of Ann-Margret, so uncomfortable in the singles bar.

  28. #29

    Pete Campbell and I have an uncannily similar taste in movies.

  29. "Valley of the Dolls may be pulp, but it’s a tragedy wound around the abuse of doctor-prescribed amphetamines and barbituates in the 1940s and ’50s, and the destruction of the women who use them to maintain the “glamorous” entertainment lifestyle. The “Dolls” of the title are both the women, and their nickname for the pills."

    It's funny to see the Jacqueline Susann equation, especially since January is named after one of her characters…maybe Matt will sneak one of her books in a Betty scene.

  30. Please understand that I’m not saying they should have written anything different. It makes sense that someone living at that stage of the advancement of feminism would be confused about all this and act it out. But please, don’t tell me Peggy is empowered or in charge, because she’s definitely not. She’s working her way towards it, but slowly and painfully.

    I have to agree with you. I found her annoyance over the whole Ann-Margret matter rather extreme.

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