To crib a totally sexist line from The West Wing, “those women”. I couldn’t help it. This is the line that ran through my head. I pictured Leo and Barlett and Sam and Josh standing by the door admiring the amazing women they work with. But this is me, in my living room, watching the women of Mad Men, seeing how far they’ve come, all showcased beautifully in “Lost Horizon”.
While Joan ultimately doesn’t follow through on her threats telegraphed in an earlier episode to burn the place to the ground. She is miles away from the woman she was when we met her. She was raised to be looked at, to be admired but not necessarily to be respected. The goal was a husband, that would equal financial security and a happily ever after, or some version of that. Now respect is the thing Joan craves the most, but is mostly left without the tools to really win it in this world, especially at McCann.
It’s not for nothing though, this is independent Joan, the woman who goes to the mat for her job and her share in the company. It’s this woman that threatens to bring the rising tide of feminism and the law to McCann. And it’s this woman who decides at the end of the episode fighting McCann tooth and nail in an emotionally and financial legal battle ultimately isn’t what she wants. It’s a sad bit of resignation when she agrees to take her $0.50 on the dollar buyout, collects her Rolodex and her picture of Kevin and exits McCann.
“I think the second I file a complaint I’ll have the ACLU in my office, and Betty Friedan in the lobby with half the women who marched down Fifth Avenue.”
On the flip side, Peggy is waging her own war with McCann. On the surface, an amusingly passive aggressive feud over her office, but Peggy has figured out, she’s got to take a stand early and often to be taken seriously in this world. Peggy refuses to step foot in the McCann offices until she is granted the recognition she deserves. When Peggy’s office isn’t ready for her on her first day, she refuses to come in until it is. Insult is added to injury when she discovers that what might have been a thoughtful floral arrangement means she was mistaken for a secretary.
Unlike Joan, she’s been spending these 7 years working hard, fighting her way up to copywriter, to copy chief, demanding the respect of her peers and employees. Without the certain set of attributes Joan used to rely on, Peggy honed a different set of skills and with Don as a mentor she quickly grew into her career, treating it almost as religion in many ways we’ve seen advertising usurp her churchgoing throughout the time we’ve known her.
This conflict means watching Peggy roam around the remains SC&P offices attempting to be useful while receiving updates from her secretary. The empty offices carry with it a haunted house feeling, and it’s Roger playing the organ who is doing the haunting.
“You know I need to make men feel at ease!”
“Who told you that?”
While Peggy is holding her ground, she’s finding herself increasingly insecure in her position before finding inspiration in the strangest of places. Following a midday bender with Roger in an empty SC&P, she waltzes right into McCann looking cool as hell with a cigarette lazily hanging out of her mouth, sunglasses on and armed with the dear departed Cooper’s tentacle porn art. Peggy, who has never been successful at putting men at ease, with the help of Roger, has thrown that notion out the window. While her walk was triumphant we’ve all seen what McCann looks like, and the chances of her crashing and burning are high, but she’s not going down without making a splash.
“We can’t get mad at her for being independent. It’s normal.”
Then there’s Betty, who has spent the series combating ennui, trying to find herself and a purpose in the life she’s been thrown into. She has announced that she’s going back to school to get a masters degree in psychology of all things. With eerie similarities to to Joan’s, the life she was raised to lead doesn’t exist anymore, and maybe it was never for her to begin with. Later in the episode she unwittingly states the theme when referring to her daughter, “We can’t get mad at her for being independent”. My how times have changed.
Other ladies who get their say:
Shirley gets a smart, succinct scene where she carefully explains to Roger why she wont be joining him at McCann. She has no time to deal with the sexism and racism that she will surely encounter at McCann and has found herself an alternative.
Meredith has upped her game tremendously this season proving herself competent at her secretarial job, which mostly consists of covering for Don, and revealing her hidden talents as an interior decorator. She’s speaking up and getting it done.
Let’s hear it for the Mad Ladies!