Some critics have accused AMC's "Mad Men" of being "bad for women," charging that the drama set in the early '60s advertising-world not only "depicts rampant sexism," but always "sides with the [sexist] men." Not from my point of view, says historian Stephanie Coontz in The Washington Post, arguing that "Mad Men" is actually TV's "most feminist" show given its unflinchingly and meticulously accurate portrayal of the "rampant chauvinism" of the early '60s. Those who criticize the show's depiction of women as "passive victims of male bullying and harrassment" should know that, at the time, "most states still had 'head and master' laws that gave husbands final say over family decisions." In short, says Coontz, "'Mad Men's' writers are not sexist. The time period was." Here, an excerpt:
To the extent that postwar women were controlling mothers or sought solace in shopping sprees and meaningless infidelities, this was a product of the perfect-homemaker mystique so accurately diagnosed by Friedan [in The Feminine Mystique] — not an invention of "Mad Men's" creators and writers. When Betty Draper plops her children in front of the TV or slaps her daughter, it isn't part of a writer's effort to demonize her. It is an accurate reflection of 1960s parenting. Surveys show that mothers in 1965 spent less time interacting with their children than today's mothers, despite the fact that very few worked outside the home.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- What political elites don't understand about Scotland's push for independence
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why gay people of color are still losing
- In defense of family dinner
- Do you need to be crazy to be the best?
- Is 'feminism' just another word for 'liberalism'?
Subscribe to the Week