In discussing Mad Men episode 7.11, Time & Life, a number of Basketcases have speculated on Joan’s fate at McCann. Will she be given any accounts? Will she be fired, with her contract bought out?
To me it’s pretty obvious what Joan despaired of, when she said to Pete, “he listed off accounts for everyone but me”. She was talking not about having work, but about having respect. To Jim Hobart, Joan was not worth enticing by naming something that would thrill her. Ortho Pharmaceutical was specifically dangled in front of Ted only an episode after he said a pharmaceutical was his dream account. Each of the male partners, in fact, was told they would have their personal fantasy account. Joan was simply…ignored.
Joan is a partner with a contract, it’s probably more trouble to buy her out than to give her an office and throw some accounts her way—she’ll keep Topaz pantyhose, Avon, anything else girly. Maybe they’ll let her work on tampons or something. But they’ll never treat Joan like she matters, and they’ll never protect her from the toxic bro culture allowed to thrive at McCann.
Here’s a thing we know about corporate culture: It’s malleable based on what management encourages and discourages. In Severance, Peggy and especially Joan were subjected to relentless sexist insults in a business meeting. Are there sexists at SC&P? Of course. Do we think that kind of behavior is allowed at SC&P? Hell, no. Because when the partners put a stop to it, that trickles down, and the whole atmosphere becomes more civil. Seeing how those guys behaved in that meeting, we know, we know, that this kind of behavior is allowed everywhere in McCann, with smiles and back slaps and winks. And Joan, who knows everything about the behind-the-scenes ways that companies truly function, knows this better than anyone. When the SC&P partners arrive at McCann, they will have sexy accounts, but no managerial power that Jim Hobart and Ferg Donnelly can’t undermine at will.
For the next four years, in order to keep her money and fulfill her non-compete, Joan will live in sexual harassment hell, and no one with power will protect her.