June 23, 2014

"I was alive during the Mad Men era, and I happened to be the prime age to have come of age during the beginnings and real focus of the militant, modern feminist movement."

"There is nobody alive who understands that better than I do. I lived it. I can't tell you how many details. It was horrible. It still is."

Said Rush Limbaugh today, scoffing at the use of the buxom actress Christina Hendricks at the White House Summit on Working Families as an expert on what life was like for women back in the 1960s. Hendricks wasn't born until the mid-70s, and the notion that an actor in a fictional role understands what real life was like in the time and place depicted in the story is absurd.

I'd just like to say that if Rush thinks there's no one who understands it better than he does, I understand at least as well. I was born on the same damned blessed day as Rush Limbaugh, January 12, 1951.

By the way, I've never had any interest in watching "Mad Men." Critical praise might have motivated me, but I've actively avoided it, precisely because I lived through that era, and I know very well how women were held back in a workplace designed for males. It's painful to think about the opportunities I might have found if I'd had the encouragement and obstacle-clearing that young women today have. I don't need a fictional depiction purporting to show me what life was like then, and I can't imagine being entertained by it.

"Mad Men" is made for people who didn't experience it, I think. I could be wrong. Maybe the creators of that show mean to reach out to women like me, but I'll never know. I've always felt put off.

135 comments:

ken in sc said...

I think 47 was a better year than 51. I remember Truman, do you?

Anonymous said...

Personally, I was put off by the heavy-handed attempts in the first episode to address exactly this issue. They bring in a piece of new technology (ditto machine? voice recorder?) and the female secretary balks at the idea that she could run it. O brave new world! But the whole business of dramatizing previous eras and judging them (even implicitly) with the benefit of our own era's preconceived notions — that has no appeal to me. It's cheap and easy.

Beth said...

I watched the series as it aired, and then recently re-watched season 1 and had a very different reaction. The misogyny is really blatant. Ironically, even from Ms. Hendricks' character toward the one young woman trying to be a professional and not just a man hunter. I wondered if this was just a modern man's (the creator/writer) perspective of how "terrible" things were, or if it was really that bad. I was born in '68, so things were different by the time I graduated college. I would appreciate more of your thoughts on the "normal" life of the 60s, not the romanticized hippy culture

Chance said...

Season 1 of Mad Men transcends period piece and is an interesting Gatsby-esque critique of the American dream. Highly recommended. Subsequent seasons do rely heavily on interest in the sixties though. But season 1 stands on it's own as great storytelling.

rhhardin said...

and I know very well how women were held back in a workplace designed for males

Women had every chance in engineering and programming in the 60s. Some did well, most did not, owing to what held their interest, not owing to being held back.

The people who came in and worked weekends and holidays, just because the work was interesting not because it was late or anything, were all men.

Nothing kept the women away.

The men would have liked nothing more than some women around who you could talk to.

The fiction is that women were held back, today.

Progress is all marching in place, in feminism. Nothing advances. It's all complaint, and has always been complaint, and will always be complaint.

Sorun said...

"It's painful to think about the opportunities I might have found if I'd had the encouragement and obstacle-clearing that young women today have."

What career do you think you'd be much happier in? Are you unsatisfied with how things turned out for you?

Michael said...

You and Rush were both born a bit late for the Mad Men era. You would have had to be born in the late 30s or early 40s to be adults operating and understanding that era through the eyes of adults. I was born in the middle 40s and knew some of those types in the 70s in business in NY.
I caught the end of that era, a time when you boarded an airplane and people were smoking in their seats. You had to put them out for takeoff but otherwise it was OK to smoke. Cigars and pipes too. And amazingly nobody was fanning their hands and making faces at the smoke. It was just the way it was.
Abercrombie&Fitch, the real one, had a store in Madison in the mid 40s that had a fun room and a casting pool on the roof to test their bamboo flyrods. More than once I segued from a martini lunch to that roof and cast into the fishless pond. Men were wearing hats on the street below and between 42 and 43 on the east side of the street there was a hat shop where you could have your hat steamed and shaped and brushed clean.
Nobody gave a second's thought to women in business.

Rob said...

Don't you worry your pretty little head about it, Betty--I mean, Ann. Could you bring the coffee, hon?

Anonymous said...

I'm a few years older than Hendricks, plus I'm a man, and I probably know more about the subject than she does. Whatever. I haven't watched the show either.

I'll stick to Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Breaking Bad (if it were still on). At least there's no underlying political message being peddled in those shows.

Trotting out Hendricks is just another way Obama is trying to appeal to the great unwashed. Trying to make them think he's in touch with their plight. Fake.

Kirk Parker said...

"But, but, but.... Sally Fields!"

Ann Althouse said...

"You and Rush were both born a bit late for the Mad Men era. You would have had to be born in the late 30s or early 40s to be adults operating and understanding that era through the eyes of adults."

I grew up and formed my sense of what the world was in that period. It had a tremendous effect on my mind at a crucial point in life.

I understood that as a female, I could be a mother or a "career gal." And a "career gal" was a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse.

Also, I grew up with Playboy magazine openly available on the family coffee table, and I read it as a young girl, circa 1960.

Ann Althouse said...

In the world of Playboy, the secretary was a sexy lady whom the boss very actively pursued, often literally chasing her around the office. This was considered fun-loving humor for modern people.

halojones-fan said...

Rhhardin: my mother was told that she could only be a nurse, not a doctor, because "little girls didn't grow up to be doctors". I went to college in the 1990s and we still had professors who publicly declared that women had no place in engineering--"no temperament for it", he was fond of declaring--and made sure that any errors in their work were punished harshly, far more than men who could get extra credit, partial credit, or just whine their way into a higher grade. So, y'know, you're right that effort counts, but women in the 60s had to put in CEO-level efforts just to get to the same level as men. It really *is* more equal now.

halojones-fan said...

As for the original post: I don't watch "The Office" for the same reason. Why would I want to watch my life?

Patrick said...

Rush moderated a panel on terrorism a few years back. The panel had one if the actors from 24. That seems dumb too.

m stone said...

I may be presumptuous, but other young girls at your age, Ann, likely formed their worldviews or "sense of the world" from their parents and other adult interactions, rather than Playboy. That's my educated opinion from a contemporary of yours.

jacksonjay said...

Sucks to be Althouse. Slaving away, nine months a year at that third rate law school! Reminds me of the Michelle Obama Pity Parade! "I have never been proud ..." Do you pay ordinary income taxes like poor Hillary?

Hillary
Michelle
Liz the Native American
Althouse

What a pity! Never given a chance! Career gals!

So, a law degree was not opportunity enough?

I think you've had a Crack Attack!

Sorun said...

"This was considered fun-loving humor for modern people."

More humor: How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?

gk1 said...

I'm so glad the congress has things so well under control that they have time to piss away hearing time listening to an actress talk about conditions in the work place 50 or so years ago. Well done! Maybe next they can interview Kermit the Frog regarding the over use of fertilizers and their impact on our ground water.

Michael K said...

"I know very well how women were held back in a workplace designed for males."

When I applied to medical school in 1960, women were often passed over because the male members of admissions committees assumed a doctor shortage existed and that female physicians would not work full-time but would take off time to have and raise children once they married. Homely female applicants probably fared better based on my own experience as did older women who had children.

Now, it is 54 years later and those admissions committee members were absolute correct. Physician recruitment firms report that women physicians work about 25% fewer hours than their male counterparts. Here is a typical bullshit piece about it making excuses for women physicians.

Women physicians are often blamed unfairly for this pay gap. Their priorities, work habits, and desire for flexibility are given much too high a financial price tag when the data show that physicians who work “part time” are often more productive. But, when women negotiate for their priorities, they are penalized disproportionately, and so the price paid is high, too high.

Women choose low income specialties that have "shift work" patterns so they have more free time.

Then there are facts. such as

“Don’t Quit This Day Job” published in last Saturday’s NY Times. The author, Dr. Karen Sibert, is an anesthesiologist and mother of 4. She professes that the work habits of women physicians are going to lead to the destruction of our healthcare system. The looming physician shortage will be our fault.

What is the conclusion of yet another female written article ?

Our conclusions? 1. Evaluating a woman’s performance based on a male standard is the basis for every study and inherently disadvantages women from the start and undervalues the qualities women physicians bring to the workplace.

Of course it does. Men work those long hours, or used to. Women are more touchy-feely.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I can't watch it either. It wasn't my era, but I watched my mom suffer because of the mentality and I take that very personally - more personally than I'd take it if it happened to me in a way. (I had my own stuff, but it was at a later time and mostly due to people still in the workplace pipeline from that era.)

I have a friend who is a generational half jump older than I am and did live through it as a young woman. Mad Men gave her PTSD and yet she felt compelled to watch it and was always after me to do the same.

I declined. You don't mess with me in echo form, or my mom in real time and get my attention, sorry. I don't care how stylish and retro you are. There are too many other choices out there.

It is nice that it is so far behind us that younger people feel safely cocooned from the era, though.

Lorenzo said...

'I understood that as a female, I could be a mother or a "career gal." And a "career gal" was a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse.'

But you somehow triumphed over the patriarchy and became a professor.

Anonymous said...

I was born in 1949, so I have partial memories of the Mad Men era. I enjoyed the first two seasons tremendously. I liked the fact that Don Draper, for all his moral flaws, takes the younger woman character you allude to, Peggy Olsen, seriously as a professional and puts her to work as one—particularly his line to Peter Campbell, who has denigrated her, "You really didn't understand Ayn Rand." (The point being that Rand was a big advocate of work and careers for women and a firm opponent of women getting ahead by manipuating men.)

glenn said...

I like Mad Men because all the hot chicks wear those early 60's clothes. Short, Snort. Hot.

CWJ said...

Althouse wrote -

"It's painful to think about the opportunities I might have found if I'd had the encouragement and obstacle-clearing that young women today have."

And yet you achieved a comfortable tenured full professorship in an attractive city at a major state university. What exactly were you denied? A Supreme Court appointment? Cry me a river.

My wife ('54) and I ('51) have had wonderful careers over the course of our professional lives. None of which were what we planned much less even our first choices. We had to reinvent ourselves multiple times.

I would not think to minimize your accomplishments. They are substantial, but "painful to think"? As Crack says, don't play the victim. I don't, and neither should you.

Martha said...

I not only lived through the Mad Men era (born in 1948) but had a father who was an ad man. Don Draper could be modeled after my father--the hat, the smoking, the three martini lunches, the pervasive sexual harassment.
The charisma. That was my Dad.

Unlike Ann though I did not think of my future as limited in any way by being born female. I went to medical school -- one of 24 women in the class of 150-- and loved it.

And I thoroughly enjoy watching Mad Men on TV. Reminds me of my past and my Dad.

Ann Althouse said...

I studied art undergrad and felt that I had opted out of any serious career (even though I was valedictorian in high school). I got the idea of going to law school 5 years after I got out of college, getting a very late start to my law career, and I never felt I belonged there, though I graduated first in my class there too. I didn't stick it out at the Wall Street law firm, but chose teaching.

Secretary, nurse, or teacher.

See my point?

David said...

"It's painful to think about the opportunities I might have found if I'd had the encouragement and obstacle-clearing that young women today have. I don't need a fictional depiction purporting to show me what life was like then, and I can't imagine being entertained by it."

That is interesting, because you seem to have made your opportunities work for you and structured your life in the direction you wanted to go. Of course you started late, after a unchallenging stint reading crappy magazines. Yet you seem to have learned some good lessons from that.

So it was (1) late start and (2) lack of encouragement to aim for the very top? You might have been a Supreme Court clerk. You would have been a good one. You likely would not have been a Supreme Court Justice, since that's a crap shoot in a political game and you are not a political gamer. Or perhaps it could have been something entirely different. Nothing to do with law or art or anything that is your life today. Anyway your expression of pain surprised me a bit.

Of course being female is not the only way to be limited in your opportunities or ambitions. It can happen to anyone, and the limitations can be intimately personal rather than gendered or ravial. I passed on (or failed to recognize) a some life chances that I later realized I had evaluated quite badly. The poor evaluation was ultimately my responsibility, but due to some circumstances mostly beyond my conrol I had nobody trustworthy to help me evaluate. So it's not just a female thing. It has happened to most and could happen to anyone, in one form or another.

At bottom though I had a huge advantage and so did you: white, American, educated and living in the back half of the 20th Century. We all have suffered some unfairness in our lives. But compared to what? Most of the inhabitants of this blog, including its founder and benefactor, are among the very lucky ones.

One of the best things about the 71 years since my birth has been the expansion of opportunity that was only afforded to a relatively small group. Despite its imperfections, our society is far more open to all than it ever has been. This has been good for the individuals and good for the society.

The worst part is what some have done with that rise in opportunity. Manipulation, self pity, aggressive punishment of dissenters, etc. Many feminists are an easy target for these foibles but hardly the only ones.

As to Mad Men, it's just entertainment. It was created by some whippersnappers from my alma mater, Wesleyan. Wesleyan is a pretentious school, but these founders do not pretend to have a high level social message. They started developing this property as undergraduates. They loved setting the period mood and turned out to be quite good at it.

That's all it really is.

Sorun said...

"Secretary, nurse, or teacher.
See my point?"


There are two female Supreme Court Justices older than you.

David said...

Ann Althouse said...
I studied art undergrad and felt that I had opted out of any serious career


My five kids (3 female, 2 male) undergraduate majors: History, French and American Literature, Art and Environmental Studies, Anthropology and Art. (All 5 National Merit level SATs.)(classes of 1989-2006)

Post grad: law, business school, master of arts in teaching, MFA and none (active refusal.) All after a delay of several years.

So sue me, kids.

Michael K said...

" though I graduated first in my class there too. I didn't stick it out at the Wall Street law firm, but chose teaching.

Secretary, nurse, or teacher.

See my point?"

No. I also graduated first in my class all four years. I was very interested in academic medicine. I spent part of my senior year of medical school in Boston at the Mass General so, when I applied for the internship in a year, they would know me even though I wasn't a Harvard student.

When my wife and I got back to Los Angeles at the end of the year, she told me she was never leaving Los Angeles again. If I went anywhere else, I went alone. I almost went anyway when I was accepted but stayed and have regretted it ever since.

It wasn't just the women who made sacrifices. We divorced six years after I finished my training in Los Angeles.

I've spent 40 years teaching part time but earning my living in private practice. My student evaluations are always outstanding. She has no idea, or interest, in what I gave up.

Tari said...

My MIL was born in 1935, and I doubt she would find Mad Men edifying or entertaining. From B-school professors who actively tried to fail her, to hiding her 8+ month pregnant belly under a fat friend's coat so she could fly to NYC for market, rather than lose her job ... she has stories. And to her credit, she has a lot of crazy and fun stories too, and is not at all bitter that she ended her career in 2001 as a SVP and not as CEO.

I couldn't have done it. I would have been the vaguely dissatisfied housewife who never really made it far from the kitchen and PTA. I wouldn't have had the guts to do what she did.

I have never considered myself much of a feminist, but I'm very grateful for what the MIL and her friends did for me.

EMD said...

Secretary, nurse, or teacher.

See my point?


Now I see why Crack gets such latitude.

Sebastian said...

"I didn't stick it out at the Wall Street law firm, but chose teaching.

Secretary, nurse, or teacher.

See my point?"

So you chose teaching rather than firm work. Which changes the point of the old trinity.

And being a law professor isn't quite what that trinity implied.

Presumably you also chose motherhood.

And blogging, as a new form of writing -- at which you've done rather well.

From a distance, it looks like you've lived the feminist dream.

OK, so you started in art as an undergrad -- due to societal expectation rather than personal desire? Do you regret it?

I'm with CWJ. What are we missing? Did you think your two firsts entitled you to even more? That you should have started on a "real" career sooner? That you should have been a celebrated artist?





John Lynch said...

Mad Men is Boomer propaganda. Nothing important happened until the 60s. Before then men did nothing but smoke at work and cheat on their wives.

Despite the period detail, the show is entirely about looking at the past through the lens of the present. It's self-congratulatory and doesn't inform the audience about the past.

CWJ said...

Yes, I see your point. I wish you had seen mine

I repeat.

"My wife ('54) and I ('51) have had wonderful careers over the course of our professional lives. None of which were what we planned much less even our first choices. We had to reinvent ourselves multiple times."

Few people get their first choices in life. And sorry, but the women portrayed in "Madmen" were our mothers' generation, not ours. What you and I experienced in the seventies and eighties was perhaps as far away from their experience as ours is from today's young adults.

You're 63 years old. I'm 62. By now you should have come to grips with the life you've had rather than the life you wished you had. Regret is understandable. "Painful to think" strikes me as playing to the gallery.

FissionChips said...

Perhaps it all depended upon your family constellation. I was born in 1950 and while I grew up in the North Woods I went to high school in a Chicago suburb, which was blue-collar and heavily ethnic Eastern European. There was an excellent honors science and math program with a very rigorous and public ranking. Even in the honors program there was also very significant gap between the top five students and the other 25 (in a high school class of 800).

I consistently ranked number one, I but not by a lot and I am male. The other four were female. One became a successful surgeon at one of the very best Chicago area hospitals, one is a tenured math professor at a Big Ten university, one became a computer scientist and a senior technical manager at one of the country's largest computer firms, the other dropped out of an MD/PhD research program at a Big Ten university due to failing health and ultimately died of Lupus. I majored in physics and electrical engineering and have been a senior executive or the CTO of several of very largest US companies and now run my own systems integration boutique. In addition to being smart all of them were quite good-looking and two were dropdead gorgeous.

They had the advantage that they were all the first generation in their family to go to college

CWJ said...

FYI,

None of my wife's three careers fit your "Secretary, nurse, or teacher." Straightjacket. Yes, I get your point.

And University Professor equals teacher. Got it.

Alex said...

Althouse... are you seriously comparing the traditional elementary school teacher with a law professor? They're not in the same ballpark.

Carnifex said...

There would be only 2 reasons to make me watch Mad Men. They both belong to Kristina Hendricks, and she keeps 'em covered up, so ergo, I don't watch.

It's a bit like Titanic. I know how its gonna end, why would I pay 15 dollars to see it?

jacksonjay said...

Althouse "chose" summers off in Madison over 70 hr weeks on Wall Street!

Key word is CHOSE!

Anonymous said...

I entered into an MBA-path internship at major corporation while still in high school because I couldn't wait to get out there and contribute. Unfortunately, it was an unexpectedly conservative environment. Every woman there but me was in the secretarial pool. I had more status as an intern than women who had worked for decades or more. Horrifying and heartbreaking.

My older boss, a died-in-the-wool nice guy in the old-timey Jimmy Stewart mold, taught me exactly nothing, but did manage to find time to sit me down and draw me creepy little pictures of how women should be shaped - and lecture me on how they should dress to show that shape off to its best advantage - because he had been a Miss America judge once.

I did not receive one ounce of worthwhile mentoring from this 'nice guy'as did the guys in our group. My best friend, luck of the draw, got the younger female mentor in another department who gave her hardcore helpful advice and instruction on being female in the workplace, particularly Wall Street.

While not being out and out abusive, the experience was so negative, I took the hint and changed to a younger field that was at least somewhat more open to women, but which was also far more risky.

For those of you saying look how well it turned out for the professor (only she knows in her soul what was lost), there are plenty of people whose talents and contributions are utterly unrecoverable and that's a tragedy every time it happens. Some alphas will always make it through, but it is to the benefit of all that the maximum number of people possible achieve their potential, or at the very least, minimize its loss.

For other women, especially of older generations, the results were very real in terms of being forced into hard choices between suffering an abusive domestic situation and/or working poverty.

It makes me happy, in a bittersweet way, to see how much care fathers now take with their daughters' goals and career ambitions, which then flow into workplace expectations and treatment. It's such an incredible improvement in one generation.


Darleen said...

I understood that as a female, I could be a mother or a "career gal." And a "career gal" was a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse.

Also, I grew up with Playboy magazine openly available on the family coffee table, and I read it as a young girl, circa 1960.


1954 here, and I watched the 1st season of MM, utterly entranced by how they nailed the look of it. But the blatant sexism is NOT how the era worked.

At least not in So Cal and my dad WAS in advertising, too.

I was raised that I could do whatever I wanted - and if I was good at it and talented, I'd succeed.

Now the coffee table in our home had Life, Saturday Evening Post and the newspaper. Dad got me reading the paper everyday when I was ten.

Tom Gallagher said...

Hillary Clinton achieved success and power yet who can argue that for the sake of her family and the nation she should have been a teacher.

Annie said...

You chose teaching over Wall Street or even starting your own firm. How is that anyone elses fault?

Once written, twice... said...

I get the feeling you should add the "emotional Althouse" tag to this post because you seem to be on the edge of crying. Maybe that is why you got washed out of Wall Street? It's a tough world out their being shaped by tough people.

Harold said...

Along with many other shows, I've never seen an episode. Used to be that 1/3 of the nation or more would sit down to watch "I Love Lucy", or any other hit prime time show on one of the THREE networks, if you were lucky enough to live in a market with all three. With cable, there is no longer a shared experience that most Americans will understand references to. I'm not going to bother researching, but I seem to remember that the highest rated show right now draws less then 15% of the American people (aside from sports such as the Superbowl). And that none of the top rated shows for blacks is visible on the ratings for whites.

I only know who Christina Hendricks is because she is a staple of Rule 5 blogging, which althouse doesn't engage in.

Megaera said...

When I was hired in 1974 by the legal department of a large oil company I was only the second female to work there as a lawyer. The first's hiring, back in the late 40's, was a matter of legend. The autocrat who ran the company back then had learned that Legal had not hired anyone from his alma mater for several years, at which point the diktat was issued: you WILL hire the top grad from that school. There will be no excuses. Top grad that year was the only woman in her class, and the General Counsel saw to it she got an offer she couldn't refuse. Then he informed The Great Man -- a classic mysogynist -- that his orders had been followed, to the letter. There was doubtless apoplectic rage at the pollution of the sanctum by a female, but The Great Man couldn't publicly concede his own error, so she stayed. But no other woman was hired after she left, until I moseyed along. Always wondered what prompted my intake. Never found out.

Carl said...

I know very well how women were held back in a workplace designed for males

Ha ha, yeah. The 1950s workplace was designed for males kind of the way Auschwitz was designed for Jews.

Megaera said...

Further to the above, I don't watch Mad Men but my experience as a television watcher is that anything more than twenty years off the present is alien country to the writers and directors of Hollywood, and while they can make a reasonable stab at good period production values (hair, costumes, etc.) the lens they're trying to look at things through is set for their very own viewpoint, not the reality of the time they think they're trying to reproduce, yielding anachronism and misrepresentation. Perhaps they can't help it, but given the smug, preachy quality of a lot of TV writing, maybe the distortion is deliberate, since they know a good part of their audience is the product of modern schools and has the analytical capacity of a paramecium. Rewriting history for the sake of some particularly repellent messaging, like "Saving Private Ryan".

n.n said...

Money, sex, ego, or convenience.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

I do see your point. My mother hates the idea of Mad Men and especially Don Draper. She was born in 1936.

The Hendricks character does stick it out, becomes a partner, and quite wealthy after the buyout at the end of Season 7 part I.

Draper is getting his comeuppance. He has been forced to work under the direction of the no nonsense woman he once mentored and his trophy wife left him.

etbass said...

I lasted only seven episodes of season one before concluding this was just a sex drenched soap. Born in '40 and well into the business world in the early sixties, the period of Season One, I found Mad Men's treatment of the women at work to be unrealistic. Women were treated with respect back then and if there was behind the scenes sex activity, it sure escaped my attention.

It's true that women were clerks and secretaries but there was no resentment evident and life was a lot more pleasant both at work and at home than I see today.

Suz said...

Its fiction and as such - tries to interpret. It can only try.I doubt anyone who went through a certain period, or hardship, or difficult profession likes to see it adapted for storytelling. My mother was a nurse in city hospitals (and coincidentally is the same exact age as Peggy the female "new girl" in Mad Men - whose eyes we initially see that world through) and she can't stand most medical shows. Same goes for cops and cop shows.

You are actually younger than the characters in Mad Men - Peggy was the youngest and she was born 1940. (according to the timeline)

Doug said...


"Mad Men" is made for people who didn't experience it, I think. I could be wrong.I think you're wrong. At 61, I lived through that period, with many vivid memories of the era, especially the print and tv advertising. That's what "Mad Men" is about. The story of the creative hothouse that was Madison Avenue in the 60's is what is really the hook for the series - not some mind-numbing rehash of The Never-Ending Call for Male Reparations.
When one frames every conversation around one's gender, and frets constantly about the injustices of the patriarchy, this is what you get.

Brando said...

The use of "stunt" speakers is absurd--yes, using a famous actor associated with something to speak about that something seems cute, but anyone with two brain cells quickly sees it for the mockery that it is. What's next--hire Stallone to discuss the Vietnam War experience because he played Rambo? For crying out loud, just pick any of the older women in your administration and they can give you a better sense of what life was like for working women decades ago than some actress who hit her twenties in the grunge era.

"Mad Men" as a show is pretty good though.

campy said...

I guess we can go ahead and count the Althouse vote in Hillary's column right now.

Jon Burack said...

I have to rise in defense of Mad Men. Not with regard to the women's issue Ann is focused on here, but to say this show is about vastly more than that. By the way, I was a grad student at UW-Madison in the last half of the Sixties, so I know well the way women were treated in workplaces, universities, and among New Lefties themselves. But I really do think that is only one of the themes in the show, one that is handled with real insight by the way.

The show's brilliance, I think, is in its depiction of a member of the generation least considered when people wax nostalgic about the Sixties - the Korean War era generation caught between the baby boomers and their Depression-WWII era parents. And Don Draper, a tragic figure both noble and deeply flawed, is in fact the one figure who despite his lost-generation locus, is most attuned to the shifting attitudes swirling around him, and in his deeply flawed ways, responds to them with real and growing insight and creativity. This is what makes the show disorienting for all those who look back on it either with positive or negative stereotypes in their heads. Long live Mad Men.

Bob Ellison said...

Thank you for this post and discussion. Now I understand why Hillary is not laughed out of the race for the Presidency.

donald said...

Crack says don't play the victim? Really?

ROTFLMAO. Seriously.

paminwi said...

Hey gk? Know how to read? This was the WHITE HOUSE that put on thus stupid little summit. Not Congress!

Amy way you look at it it was waste of time and had TV stars who don't know crap about what they speak of. If you watched Morning a Joe yesterday they had this Hendricks woman on and she could not put together a coherent sentence about why she was speaking at this event.

This us what Obama gas been reduced yo to show "women" he is on their side.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Shorter Ann Althouse:

I'm ignorant of the show, and proud that I am. That won't stop me from dismissing it, however.

Also, women now dominate in K-12. How's that been working out? Also in business management and government agencies. How's that been working out, too?

rhhardin said...

The "ain't it awful" approach was good for picking up babes back in the 70s, though.

They wanted sympathy. It showed you were sensitive to their obscure needs.

St. George said...

Love it that the ad agency's owner has a Rothko--a gigantic red Rothko--hanging in his office.

No one on the show notices it.

Zou Bisou Bisou!

jim murray said...

Joanne Woodward made a statement some time ago that she understood how women undergoing an abortion felt because she had played one in a movie. Stick to acting.

Bob R said...

I think Rush is missing the point. Putting aside the fact that Hendricks real purpose was to attract TV cameras to a snoozer event, her testimony was intended to associate the administration's latest policy boondoggles with the first wave feminist goals that a huge majority of Americans (including Limbaugh) believe in. "Pass these stupid laws in 2014 because the Peggy Olsens of the 1960's had to take dictation from the boss's lap." It's a dumb argument, made all the time by all sides (by team blue on any thing to do with sex or race, by team red on anything to do with foreign policy.)

David Hampton said...

Wasn't that the period when American men were returning from Korea and the WWII vets were assimilating back into the work force? This displaced the women who were in the work place so that the men could go back to work post-war. That was also the beginning of the "can women have it all and be happy? Work outside the home and let someone else raise the children at a cost that usually was the same as what she earned? Enter the feminist movement who decided that "It takes a village" translated into letting the government raise your child and demonize the women who choose a more traditional role.

tim maguire said...

Having Christina Hendricks speak for oppressed women reminds me of the occasional idiot I used to hear opining that she wished Jeb Bartlett could be our president. (Bartlett was a pompous gas bag who looked good only because the writers made sure he was never called on his crap.)

I didn't watch Mad Men after the first season because it was boring. Nothing ever really happened. SSDD, season after season.

David said...

CJW said: "[Your accomplishments] are substantial, but "painful to think"?

Pain is pain. It's there no matter what you try to think, because it's a feeling not a thought. Thought comes in as you determine how to deal with the pain, how (and whether) to express it, how to ignore it or minimize it. Given her accomplishments, I found it interesting that our hostess felt this pain, and a bit of surprise that she expressed it. This isn't exactly a boo-boo for me blog, so some context is in order.

We all have choices to make, and nearly all of us have constraints which limit the choices. Or we think we do. As long is we believe them, they are there.

I was born in 1943. Now that was an era of hope and change. They hoped the war would end so their lives could change. My dad was gone when I was born and for two years thereafter. My mother had trouble dealing with that and (eventually) with most everything.

That had consequences. It caused pain. Not victimhood, just pain, bad choices and more pain. But that's life. It's lucky to be alive and stay alive for a long lifetime, pain included.

Renee said...

We forget the "want ads" were specific for gender and if you were married or not.

Ann Althouse said...

"There are two female Supreme Court Justices older than you."

Have you read O'Connor's autobiography? I have. Do you know what happened in her law career, as she graduated second in her law school class? The only law job that was offered was… (comic pause!!!)… secretary!

Anonymous said...

Re: "Secretary, nurse, or teacher."

Does this mean Hillary tops out at "Secretary" of State?

Mirth.

Phil 3:14 said...

We've traveled this difficult path for so long that we don't know when I've arrived.

Ann Althouse said...

You guys can minimize the inhibitions and limitations that were imposed on women, but, to paraphrase Rush, I was there. I lived it.

I could give you many, many examples of how my ambition was stunted.

Here's one. I was the best student in my high school trigonometry class, and when I asked my teacher if I should go on to take calculus (what's calculus?), she (she!) said: "That's for engineers." Not: You should consider becoming an engineer. You have the talent for it.

I proceeded to fill my schedule with 2 foreign languages, art, and theater. I took far more credits than I needed and never took a study period, and yet I skipped Calculus. I skipped Physics too.

I had heard about the career of lawyering, but I considered it impossible. In college, when I met a law student, a female, I thought it was very strange that she was going to law school. She was kind of strange, actually, and going to law school seemed to be an aspect of her folly.

Don't get me wrong: I love being a law professor and I feel extremely fortunate to have found this path early enough in life (when I was 34). But I will never know what I might have done, with my ability and spirit and work, if I had grown up in the 80s and 90s instead of the 50s and 60s, or if I had been a male.

Interestingly, my parents did not express sexist attitudes, and my father was, in the 70s, proud of having advanced women in his place of business. But their approach to raising children was to wait for you to think of your own ideas. It was very striking, then, when I told my father I was going to switch from the law firm (Sullivan & Cromwell) to law teaching, he said: "That's a cop out."

That was the harshest thing he ever said to me.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I didn't stick it out at the Wall Street law firm, but chose teaching.

Secretary, nurse, or teacher.

See my point?


Your point being that your elders were right about the type of career you would choose when given a free choice, and that pisses you off?

AJ Lynch said...

In a sane world, Hendricks would have turned down the invite to the BS Working Families meeting due to her understanding she is not a Mom and is not struggling.

And I bet there were no real middle class or lower middle class working Moms invited.

And Althouse, you need to grow a set- I think your fictionalizing your own life with this oh woe is me I was held back due to sexism I could have been someone. You are someone and you know it so cut the bull out.

Lastly - Mad Men is just entertainment- just good old entertaining TV - And it was made for one reason - to sell Commercials and Ads - think about that.

Anonymous said...

The internet teems with stranded insights. Little diamonds of light on the water that sparkle briefly then are replaced by those of the next ripple. Sometimes that ripple is overcome by the splash of a fat guy in a Speedo. The internet also teems with fat guys in Speedos.

Ann Althouse said...

I should write more about my parents, who had some distinctive attitudes around raising children.

One time, when I was in my 30s, some relative (someone who did talk to my father) said to me: "Your father is so proud of you. But, of course, you know that."

I didn't know that. The relative assumed my father had often said "I'm so proud of you" to me. But he'd never said it once.

The closest he ever came to saying it was "That's a cop out," because it revealed other things he sought but never said.

This must be the psychic key to my "Unsaid Things" tag.

If I had an ambitious spirit, I'd write a whole book on this topic.

Instead, I am stranding this insight here.

rhhardin said...

and yet I skipped Calculus. I skipped Physics too

You saved yourself dropping it later.

Women can't sustain the necessary interest in it to do it at top levels.

It's not talent. It's interest.

Ann Althouse said...

"We forget the "want ads" were specific for gender and if you were married or not."

I sure don't.

I have looked for jobs, looking only under "Help Wanted -- Female."

David said...

My wife is an outstanding athlete. She is strong, fast, excellent balance and coordination, high pain threshold, eager to work and competitive. She was born in 1948 and lived in places where there were virtually no opportunities for girls to engage in sports. Eventually she turned to ballet, and became quite good, but she was too tall and started too old to progress very far.

It was a great waste that she never had the chance to be a competitive athlete.

Diana Day said...

My mom's high school guidance counselor told her (in 1968) that she could be a nurse or a secretary, but better to be a secretary because lawyers marry them more often than doctors marry nurses. She did become a secretary and marry a lawyer but that bothered her throughout my childhood.

When her youngest kid was in high school, she went to college, then law school at age 59. She's working as an associate now. Im thrilled for my mom.

Would it have been better if she went to college right off?

I got to be raised by a brilliant woman, instead of shipped off to daycare, which would have been required if my parents both had lawyer careers. Also, I don't know if my mom would have had so many kids if she was a working lawyer while growing up, so the alternate "empowerment" past timeline probably doesn't include my youngest brother.

Which is better?

Anonymous said...

I'm still under the impression that the fuel for much feminism, the feminism that draws in reasonable women, is a sense of injustice, a wounded pride and the ability for the mediocre man to advance in a system above talented and even mediocre women.

All women had fewer opportunities, expectations and chances for development in many professions.

However, like every cause partially driven and exploited by Leftist ideology, I find the utilitarian argument a good corrective, despite its problems (the greatest number for the greatest good). Freedom of expression and freedom of choice is the most common ground I can find with free-thinking and independent women.

As always, the dangers radical feminists and ideologues pose to our freedoms with all that sloppy thinking and those bad statistics, the misanthropy of some crusty (genuinely) man-hating lesbians, the wounded-bird victims endlessly protesting within the cultural Marxist framework...haven't gone anywhere.

The hyphenated-name crowd still looks and acts a lot like a high-school clique in my opinion, peddling popular ethics while most seem OK being Dem party loyalists and hacks, on board with socialized medicine and education if need be.

There are few things more deliciously absurd than well-educated, upper middle class white-women twisting themselves into pretzels to prove their solidarity to the 'sisterhood,' their 'revolutionary' street cred etc.

That's a special kind of delusion.

Biology hasn't changed much if at all, nor human nature, economic scarcity,the distribution of intelligence and natural ability, near as I can tell.

Just a lot of laws, public sentiment and opinion.

Many of these people are running our institutions...

rhhardin said...

Women are confused by dispersion.

The phase velocity is faster than the group velocity. Think deep water waves.

Women's thought rides a crest that always fades away on them as it advances.

They seize on a rising but far following crest and the it too fades away.

Staying current is an ongoing project.

Follow instead the group. That's where the interest is.

This permanent insight is brought to you by physics and calculus.

Tank said...

AA

Don't get me wrong: I love being a law professor and I feel extremely fortunate to have found this path early enough in life (when I was 34). But I will never know what I might have done, with my ability and spirit and work, if I had grown up in the 80s and 90s instead of the 50s and 60s, or if I had been a male.

I think there's truth to this. My Mom who was way smarter than me, and smarter than my Dad, who was quite smart, never went to college, but rather, did the expected. Worked as a bookkeeper until she got married and had kids. Lucky for me, I got her full time as a Mom. She could have been - just about anything that required lots of core intelligence. I am undecided about whether it's better for society to have women use their smarts for career vs. being great moms.

It is weird, on the other hand, to hear you anguishing about it. Lots of people with IQs north of 130 don't realize how lucky they were to have lucked into that. Try going though life with an IQ of 90; that's a tough life.

Michael K said...

"when I asked my teacher if I should go on to take calculus (what's calculus?), she (she!) said: "That's for engineers." Not: You should consider becoming an engineer. You have the talent for it."

Were you a feral child ? Where did you live ? My high school girlfriend, class of 1956, not only took calculus and physics but graduated from Purdue in 1960 and moved with her husband to southern California where she worked for North American Rockwell on the space program. Along the way, she took some time off to raise her kids. A couple of years ago she was president of the Society of Women Engineers. Pretty good looking, too.

She also had some barriers but didn't quit and whine about it.

Ann Althouse said...

"Women can't sustain the necessary interest in it to do it at top levels. It's not talent. It's interest."

Can you sustain the interest in psychology it would take to figure out where "interest" comes from?

Why did I think I was so interested in art and theater and foreign languages?

You might think you've done enough to cite "interest," as if interest is the most fundamental thing. But what is the substance and the cause of interest?

Do you know that there are employment discrimination cases where the defendant employer used "interest" as the explanation for the sex ratios in the different jobs (and the consequent differences in pay)?

To think you've arrived at the end of the analysis is to avoid the very kind of sustained thought that you entertain yourself by characterizing as male.

Martha said...

Yes it is a change for the better that women are now told they have unlimited choices. But super careers still require talent, drive, and a time commitment that eliminates a lot of other life opportunities including becoming a mother.

All those things Ann did before ending up in law school I bet were personally enriching.

Bob Ellison said...

Professor, I have four sons and have employed many people. I'm younger than you.

My impression of the last twenty years is that the worst thing you can be is a white, male, Jewish, Asian person. (They don't come around very often.)

If you're a black female, you've got it made in the shade. Double-down if you're Hispanic.

You whine about old stuff, and maybe some of the whining is justified. I worry about my sons: white males. They're about to get screwed by the whining attitude you support.

rhhardin said...

I learned early to solve equations. Equal things are still equal if you add or subtract the same thing to or from each. How clever is that!

With a little work you can get the solution.

This interest was killed off by an actual course in algebra, which was mechanism only.

Bob Ellison said...

I'd like to see your analysis, Professor, of the gender differential in STEM pursuits.

The feminist assumption is that it's all because of male dominance. That's what got Larry Summers thrown out of Harvard.

Ann Althouse said...

"What career do you think you'd be much happier in? Are you unsatisfied with how things turned out for you?"

The first question cannot be answered. Who is the person I'm supposed to be talking about?

The second question gives me an easy out with the word "unsatisfied." Of course, I'm satisfied. Was that really the question you wanted to ask?

Lyssa said...

I studied art undergrad and felt that I had opted out of any serious career (even though I was valedictorian in high school). I got the idea of going to law school 5 years after I got out of college, getting a very late start to my law career

I studied psychology in undergrad, and didn't know what to do with it (I did very well in HS and college, though was never on top). I got the idea of going to law school about 3 years later, and ultimately went 4 years later, also giving me a late start in my career (and dropping me off in the heart of the recession).

All of this happened in the 2000's. I don't know what point I'm trying to make, or if there is one. This entire topic is very interesting, though foreign, to me. I believe that even my parents (younger than AA and Rush) would be too young for this discussion. The past is a different country, and all of that.

Anonymous said...

*The greatest good for the greatest number'.

Ack. It's early here in the West coast.

rhhardin said...

"Women can't sustain the necessary interest in it to do it at top levels. It's not talent. It's interest."

Can you sustain the interest in psychology it would take to figure out where "interest" comes from?


The Marxist approach doesn't interest me.

However, if you're interested, Vicki Hearne has the explanation without Marx, in the chapter "Beastly Behaviors" in _Bandit_.

Women's interest is held by complex unresolved problems; men are driven to resolutions, and their interest held by that.

Men abstract, women include.

It's interesting to them.

Calculus and physics are resolution-driven. You lose your social life, at the highest levels. For men, that's no cost at all. For women, it's fatal. They drop out before the highest levels.

The book has lots of other unrelated interesting chapters. It's a nice but rare example of a women who can write well enough to interest men.

She's also a lefty, who without noticing always writes on the right. A rare honesty, following stuff where it goes.

The modern cover blurb is written by somebody who hasn't read the book. Hearne takes no prisoners.

J Lee said...

While the White House knows the value of putting their message in a visibly appealing package -- hence the use of Ms. Hedricks to tout their summit on working families, it does show how, like Don Draper, they're not quite as up on their game as they were when the current series began, since the white-hot buzz about "Mad Men" dates from about the time Obama was campaigning for an assuming office, not today. It would be the equivalent of trotting Henry Winkler out at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue around Season 10 or 11 of "Happy Days' for a message about staying in school -- I'd rather look at Christina than Henry, but in both the real and the hypothetical, there's nothing new to the public's eye about the person making the pitch.

Carol said...

And a "career gal" was a secretary, a teacher, or a nurse.

Well *I* remember. Ann do you recall all the newspaper ads for a "Gal Friday"? Dozens, one after another. Imagine that now...lol

Anyway, entertain any other ambition was to invite Gender Panic. Am I normal? Will people think I'm weird or...a HOMOSEXUAL? Actually, now I think being a nurse would have been all right, but I knew no one in medicine.

It helps to have people in your life who actually do these things. Lawyers often come from lawyer families, medical from medical, musicians from musicians. I think that's where some of the outliers came from back then. My family were all office workers and that's where I ultimately landed.

Since the 1920s it's been terribly uncool to follow in one's parent's footsteps, but often that's the only clue to future possibilities a kid has.

Lyssa said...

Tank said: I am undecided about whether it's better for society to have women use their smarts for career vs. being great moms.

I think that that's an interesting point. (We've also lost the benefit of having very smart women become teachers.) I often think that my child(ren) will benefit a lot from having my husband, also quite smart, home with them.

Darleen said...

Sorry, Ann, but this all seems to be nostalgia over the path not taken.

And no matter who wasn't a full cheerleading YOU GO GIRL!! fluffer, the full responsibility for your choices remains ...

with yourself

The writers of MadMen seem to feel that without LAW sex harassment of women was rampant. But it wasn't.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

"I know very well how women were held back in a workplace designed for males."

I know very well how conservatives and libertarians are held back in an academia designed for flaming leftists.

These folks are held back in theater and news organizations too.

They are held back in government jobs.

They are held back from library positions of influence.

All of this makes me reconsider whether I should worship at the altar of Harvard or Yale admissions committees, like Ann Coulter does so often.

Rox G said...

David @ 6/23/14, 10:25 PM

Well said.

JHapp said...

The real point is that culture matters, it influences many of our major life choices. Hendriks is the natural choice for Obama, as her character is the most culture (marriage) destroying one the bunch.

chillblaine said...

I'm 51 and can still remember when it was scandalous that a woman would wear pants. Then "McMillan and Wife" came on TV and everybody could see that the beard, er, wife, could solve cases just as well as her closeted homosexual husband. It was around this time that the Playboys lying around the coffee table were replaced by Cosmopolitan.

tim in vermont said...

This post reminds me of an episode of Gomer Pyle, when he is playing poker and has a full house, he asks Sgt Carter if his hand is "the best," and Sgt Carter says "No, but it is pretty good!"

Gomer throws in his hand because it was not "the best, and I want the best!"

Of course, since it was fiction, he then drew four aces.

IQ is IQ, and it applies to Math, it applies to Law. You have monitized yours, as usually happens with high IQs.

Cutting edge science requires off the charts IQs, maybe you have one, IDK, and your teachers were certainly wrong to tell you that, but seriously?

My sister is still mad at me because I told her not to learn to type as it would pigeon hole her in the job market, and now everybody types all the time...

Oh well, she did in fact hold some very good jobs before retiring in finance (consumer, now Wall Street). I stand by my advice, though why she listened to her much younger brother, I will never know.

Roger Sweeny said...

Had you had all the opportunities you deserve, perhaps you would have been an SEC commissioner, and now supervise Dodd-Frank compliance for Sullivan and Cromwell's Washington office.

There are lots of ways to become trapped.

tim in vermont said...

that should say "Main Street not Wall Street"

She has never worked on Wall Street.

CatherineM said...

Ann is right. One of my sisters who will be 60 in November was failing math. My mother went to the high school to discuss it with the teachers. They said lady, it doesn't matter, she's just going to get married anyway. That was 1971.

CatherineM said...

I also had a boss who had an ivy degree, but could only get work as a secretary. She had a great boss who saw how good she was at arbitrage and promoted her to sales. The top guy didn't like this, constantly made comments and finally annouced to the trading floor that the only reason Barbara was doing so well was because she was sleeping with her boss. Not true of course.

She quit and went back to business school, then hid her pregnancy to make sure she got a deserved promotion. She went back to work after 2 weeks so she wouldn't be accused of taking advantage of her preganancy and replaced. This was in the 1980s.

CatherineM said...

I support Ann, but that's not all the show is about.

SJ said...

@Ann,

I was born in the 80s, and didn't enter cubicle-ville until the '00s.

So I have no idea whether "Mad Men" is accurate or not...

However, that comment about Playboy tickled something else in my mind.

I have never known a family that treated Playboy as coffee-table material.

Was the '80s a more uptight decade than the 60s?

Or did I grow up in a different segment of the culture?

--------------------------------

Thoughts about women and careers: when I was in Tech-University, one of the female Professors complained that when she was in College, many of her instructors ignored her. Because she was female. (For context, her age ought to be approximately the same as yours, Ann.) Somehow, she attained a PhD in Mechanical Engineering, and a tenured position at a Tech University.

I have pity on her struggle, but I note that those struggles didn't keep her from succeeding.

My family includes blue-collar men and white-collar men; it also includes women who were nurses and men who were teachers and ministers.

(Does any feminist want to increase the number of women who work with dynamite, and mineral-processing equipment? That was the all-male environment my grandfather worked in.)

In my work experience, most of the women I converse with are expatriates from India. And they are about 15% of the workforce.

But it's an Engineering office.

The Sales and HR branches of the company contain many women who were born in the U.S.

Sales is about 50/50 sex ratio; and HR is about 25% male, 75% female.

Is that discrimination on the part of someone? Is the number of foreign-born female engineers due to a cultural difference?

Or is this a statistical fluke, based on ratio-of-women-in-India-who-study-Engineering, population-of-India, and ratio-of-women-in-the-US-who-study-Engineering?

And does HR discriminate against men internally?

Freeman Hunt said...

I've never watched a single episode of Mad Men because the only things people mention about it are affairs, drinking, and smoking, so it sounds boring.

Fernandinande said...

and I know very well how women were held back in a workplace designed for males.

Females were held back in a workplace designed for men.

If true, did females design the workplace? If not, why not?

AJ Lynch said...

Freeman - I find it interesting to see smoking depicted as A-OK on a plane, in a hospital room, etc. You are still kinda young- so you should see that as eye-opening.

The clothes and sex of that era are nostalgia to me. Too bad for Althouse that she can only see the shackles on the women characters.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann do you recall all the newspaper ads for a "Gal Friday"? Dozens, one after another. Imagine that now…lol"

Yes, and I also remember when many secretaries/gal fridays were regarded as much smarter and better organized than their boss, whom they made look good and this was considered not disgusting or outrageous, but just the way life was and rather amusing, just like the way husbands called their wives their "better half."

This was a time of very gifted women working as teachers or staying home with their children, and this was an immense benefit to children (and to all of society). So we have lost a lot of what was built on this injustice.

Ironically, the truth is, if I had it all to do over again, I would prefer to live outside of the economic world myself and to stay home with children, to make a beautiful home life, and to have my extra time for reading and writing.

As I said, I'm not ambitious and like/unlike Chelsea Clinton, I am not interested in money.

Ann Althouse said...

"Anyway, entertain any other ambition was to invite Gender Panic. Am I normal? Will people think I'm weird or...a HOMOSEXUAL?"

That wasn't a concept that meant anything to me until I got to college. In fact, among girlfriends, we exchanged rings and spoke of marrying each other!

But I do vividly remember once mouthing off about something or other in a smart way and a boy saying to me "No one will ever marry you."

I still remember that boy's name. He really did push me back. What did I do? What had I said that made that the response? I'm going to have to figure out how not to say things like that?

Instead of: Ha! You're an idiot!

Ann Althouse said...

"The writers of MadMen seem to feel that without LAW sex harassment of women was rampant. But it wasn't."

Legally, sexual harassment is defined as a form of sex discrimination that occurs by imposing significantly different working conditions on the sexes.

It wouldn't require a law to get rid of that (and law isn't sufficient to eliminate it). But there certainly was a culture of accepting treating males and females differently.

eddie willers said...

Lots of interesting comments here, but I'll only say:

Ann....you were wrong to avoid Breaking Bad (as you acknowledged) and you are wrong for avoiding Mad Men.

As with Breaking Bad, you must get at least 5 episodes in before getting that it is more than the sum of its parts.

The last episode of season one will blow you away.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Why do cats and dogs have different "interests"? The old explanation for this is that they have different natures. Today, the notion of different "natures" explaining the differences in behavior between males and females of various species has pretty much fallen out of favor. And the philosophic thought behind this notion is neither taught nor read.

Today, the question, as Ann has posed it, rests on our modern understanding of causation. But this kind of inquiry will always lead to an infinite regress: if x is the cause of different interests between men and women, then what is the cause of x--and so on and so on.

holdfast said...

My Mom, born in 1946, was a reporter in South Africa in the 1960s, hardly a bastion of equality for women (or most anyone else) - she started as basically a messenger/copy gal and worked her way up to reporting real hard news. No college degree either.

The tension in the Mad Men era isn't about women being held out of the workplace - that had been going on for centuries (certain wartime expedients aside)- the tension and the drama comes from the fact that they were finally busting in. That's what's fun (and cringe-worthy) to watch - how the men and women adapt to changes in the working world.

Martha said...

Ann said: "But I do vividly remember once mouthing off about something or other in a smart way and a boy saying to me "No one will ever marry you."

I was told the exact same thing by many of my male classmates at Harvard Medical School in 1970. Actually some of my professors intimated the same sentiment.
Because I had attended an all female college, I was more amused than horrified by the display of male chauvinism.
But the threat of not being marriageable was real for women entering what had been traditionally male dominated professions.
Thankfully today that is no longer true.

Bob Ellison said...

Hey, have you ever encountered a situation wherein a woman got a job, or a promotion, or something similar, mostly because she was a woman? not a man? not a white man?

Please, let us be serious. This is what happens in 2014. A black woman, ideally with Latino heritage, gets way above the Asian woman with identical credentials. A Latino man gets way above the white man.

We are practicing racist and gender-based hiring and promotion practices right now, and this idiotic Mad-Men irritation helps it continue.

Grow up.

rhhardin said...

I don't offhand remember anything anybody told me that had any effect.

George Sewell said...

You and Rush share the same birthday? Well, I guess that explains why I follow both of you.

Oso Negro said...

We need a new tag here "confessional Althouse." The fun of Mad Men is the care they have put into recreating the feel of the 1960s. Ann, I worked with the engineers that would have been your peers had you become one. You would have been bored shitless. No personality whatever.

Kirk Parker said...

SOJO,

"(only she knows in her soul what was lost)"

I read her to be saying that she didn't know.

Æthelflæd said...


Ann said, "I still remember that boy's name. He really did push me back. What did I do? What had I said that made that the response? I'm going to have to figure out how not to say things like that?

Instead of: Ha! You're an idiot."

Senior year of high school, 1988, and the senior honors English class is on a bus going to watch a Shakespeare play. Standardized test scores had recently come in and everyone was buzzing about them. I told my best friend my scores, and it was soon common knowledge. :/ I hear this guy several rows behind me on the bus loudly declaring that there was no way I could have scored that, because after all, I was a GIRL. It is funny now, but I was so shocked that anyone thought like that, that I was speechless. I still remember his name, face, and how my cheeks were burning. It is all still very vivid, compared to most of my high school memories, which have faded.

My great, great aunt became one of the first female medical doctors in Texas. It was a Presbyterian family that valued female education. My grandfather was a doctor and grandmother had a master's degree, and yet to hear her brilliant daughter tell it, she was talked out of medical school by the patriarchy at college. My own mother shares the same nurse, secretary, teacher sob story, yet it wasn't true for her mother or great aunts. What happened? Was the sixties a regression? Personally, I expect there was a lack of gumption on their part. My aunt did go on to earn a Ph.D in biology at Ann Arbor. Now she's teaching high school biology at a toney prep school.

I figured out pretty quickly in college that I wanted marriage and kids early. The Older Generation thinks I am a traitor.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

All of you who lived through the time period and are disagreeing with Prof A. need to check your various privileges--she is womansplaining to you what happened then and her feelings are more valid than yours.

Unfortunately Prof you also need to check your privilege, since as a cisgender white woman you can't really complain: imagine what it was like for a gay African-American dwarf with body dysmorphic disorder in the 60's.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

I don't know but I think one of the reasons the emphasis on romance for women then was that with a close relationship the woman could have 'self' expression in the man's activities. The subject also brings up how unmodern the 'ISIS caliphate' which initially was funded by Saudi oil money is.

lb said...

No one is talking about all the men that were pigeonholed into being the support of the family. Think they might have liked to think about doing art, or dance, or staying home with their children? It wasn't a one way street with only women not doing what they wanted. We're past that now - unfortunately only the women feel they can complain about it.

lb said...

oh and I am a woman who worked since 15 - same age as Ann and never was college educated. Make plenty of money - some say I'm at the top of my field. So - think you can achieve if you work hard regardless of sex or other people's perception at the current time.

MathMom said...

I studied art undergrad and felt that I had opted out of any serious career (even though I was valedictorian in high school). I got the idea of going to law school 5 years after I got out of college, getting a very late start to my law career, and I never felt I belonged there, though I graduated first in my class there too. I didn't stick it out at the Wall Street law firm, but chose teaching.

Secretary, nurse, or teacher.


I'm late to the party, but have to get this off my chest. I have been pissed all day about this "poor me, I was born too early to truly blossom" shit.

My German grandma was a servant to a family who starved her and made her sleep with the pigs. She collected eggs every day and was so hungry she would steal one and eat it raw, pushing the shells through the cracks in the hen house floor to keep from being discovered. At some point she met a man and was engaged to be married, when he knocked up another girl and had to marry her. She was devastated. Friends were going to America, and had young children. They asked her to come along and be their nanny. She went through Ellis Island and settled in New York City with the family, until tragically the family was killed when a boat they were on capsized.

Her "career" was put on hold, until friends she had met on the boat coming to America and had emigrated to Nebraska, responded to her distress by inviting her to come to Nebraska and be their nanny, since they now had children. She accepted.

Once there, she was introduced to my grandfather, a German man who had lost his wife and two sons to illness, and was raising a daughter on his own. They eventually married. She believed in birth control. He did not. She bore him twelve children, in a house with only a wood stove to heat it, with an outhouse down the path and chamber pots in the bedrooms, and with a hand-pump in the kitchen for cold water. She might have wanted to be a nurse, a teacher, or a secretary. She might have wanted to study art and theater. She was happy not to be starving.

Of the eight boys, seven wanted to farm, but one, my uncle Vern, wanted to stay in school because he wanted to go into business. My grandfather said an 8th grade education was enough for anyone, and made him quit. My mother was second to last born, and was very young when she witnessed Vern crying with a broken heart because he wasn't allowed to finish high school. He became a successful farmer and businessman anyway.

My mother's four sisters married farmers, but my mother wanted to finish high school and become a nurse. My grandfather said if she did that she would just go away to Nursing School and get pregnant and shame the family. Somehow she convinced him that she would make him proud. She was valedictorian of her high school class of 13, from a one-room school house in rural Nebraska, and became a Registered Nurse.

That accomplishment was kind of miraculous, when you think about it. She got her work ethic in depression-era Nebraska, during the Dust Bowl. Somehow she worked her way through school, managed to become a nurse and was proud of it.

I'm sorry you are disappointed in what might have been. But you have nothing to complain about.

Darleen said...

Legally, sexual harassment is defined as a form of sex discrimination that occurs by imposing significantly different working conditions on the sexes.

Not in California.

http://www.dfeh.ca.gov/Publications_StatLaws_SexHarrass.htm

And since I'm a supervisor within county government, I am required BY LAW to take sex harassment courses every two years and pass a test. So it's not like I'm unfamiliar with either the legal definition or my own responsibilities to follow it.

Sex harassment laws have, in effect, tossed co-workers who would have stepped in, in the past, to correct an offender or a boss who could have fired an offender on the spot, under the bus. Now it is all about the legalese and CYA and reams of documentation.

Law used to just be a floor under accepted morals & ethics in the work place. Now it is a substitute for morals & ethics.

We are a coarser society and less mature society for it.

Leora said...

I am about the same age as Ann (born in 1952) which would be about the age of Don Draper's daughter. My mother graduated from law school in the 40's. In New York, she could only get hired as a clerk, but when my father got work upstate in the Finger Lakes, she started her own practice. She served as village and town attorney and was eventually the first woman president of the county bar association. She was utterly puzzled by the complaints of young woman lawyers of my generation.

I do remember being interviewed at a Wall Street firm and being asked if I could type, while the male applicants answering the same ad were being evaluated to be brokers and analysts. The interviewer did not care for my attitude.

rhhardin said...

And since I'm a supervisor within county government, I am required BY LAW to take sex harassment courses every two years and pass a test. So it's not like I'm unfamiliar with either the legal definition or my own responsibilities to follow it.

My experience is that you can pass the test without taking the course. Just guess the most PC answer.

mikee said...

Comment 135 or so, just to document this: I have dissected squid from athe fish market with my kids, just for fun.

My first born son was told he was an individual, in charge of himself, and that whenever somebody tried to tell him he wasn't allowed to learn something new, or try something different, or to do something the way he wanted, he had to use his best judgement and determine if that was a valid warning or just an autocrat running off at the mouth.

I told my daughter the same thing.

He is going into international business. She is a mechanical engineering student. Both have told me they appreciate being told they were to use their own minds while growing up.

And my daughter, who is 4 years younger than my son, has also told him she appreciates his big brother training, which made her believe she could do anything he could do, just 4 years younger than he did it.

Their mom, my wife, is a pediatrician who looks at them and realizes we did pretty good raising our kids. It was fun.

I plan to dissect squid with my grandkids, too, at an early age.