Monday, September 14, 2009

The Authentic Weirdness of those times.

Do you ever watch the show "Mad Men"? It's about men in advertising in the late 60s I think, and the women who have to put up with them. Last night I saw an episode where a woman asked for equal pay and got brushed off. "My secretary can't respect me if I make only $71.00 a week more than she." "Get a cheaper secretary then." A woman has a baby boy while the husband drinks in the waiting room. At work the next day he gets chided for absence, "Your wife had the baby, not you!" No concept that his life is altered in any way.

How would Mad Men be viewed in 1969, if it could be made at all? What we did view that year was "How to Make a Woman," an experimental play in Cambridge. The wife has a baby and says to the husband, "It's a girl!" He cries, "Shit!" Soon afterwards I joined the local NOW chapter and the rest is, well, still has the power to shock.

But after the shocks and transitions, time goes on and you go on and the whole thing kind or blurs and you tell the story of the sex-segregated want-ads and the restaurants where women couldn't go (Locke-Ober's anyone?); but it gets a patina of nostalgia. Then watching "Mad Men" you see how strange that culture was, how artificial. How deadening how infuriating and how in retrospect so downright weird.


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