This past Sunday, viewers tuned in to the series finale of “Mad Men”. The series is the story of advertising executive Don Draper in fast-paced Manhattan during the 1960’s. Draper, along with his chain-smoking, hard-drinking, skirt-chasing colleagues are portrayed as the norm for that time and place.
In a recent New York Post article, author Heather Robinson says the women she interviewed for the piece, 30 and 40-something women who worked in advertising said that it seemed as though life was a bit easier back then for marriage-minded women. The surprising results of women interviewed said that while the sexual antics of the main male characters were sleazy and not something to be celebrated, what did stand out to them was the character of “Joan” the office manager. In a time when it was hard for a woman to feel as if she had control in any way, Joan did not date any men who did not dress for an evening out, plan for that evening, and pay the tab. Many of the women Robinson spoke with said that online dating and the “hook-up” culture made dating practically a lost art. All but gone are the days when men called women to ask them out on a date.
But wait a minute, didn’t the burgeoning women’s movement of the same era tell women that they didn’t need men at all much less a man who opened doors and pulled out chairs? Author Melanie Notkin, when interviewing women for her book, said the answers she got crossed all cultural and ethnic lines. What appealed to the women she spoke with about the guys of “Mad Men”, was that they were men who knew what they wanted, would not dress down for a date, and throw a little chivalry into the mix.
So does the fact that in some way modern women find Don Draper sexy mean a big fail for feminism? While today’s women insist on an equal playing field with men professionally, perhaps it is only natural for them to appreciate a car door opened, and men arrive to pick them up for a date dressed to impress. Some things apparently do not change, in spite of the women’s movement. Women like manly men, and the “Mad Men” oozed just that.
In the now famous words of an advertising executive, you’ve come a long way Baby.
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