ome 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
- Who are the real gay marriage bigots?
- Sorry Belle Knox, porn still oppresses women
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- 10 things you need to know today: March 8, 2014
- Watch The Daily Show mock Fox News' confused man-crush on Vladimir Putin
- Religious liberty should be a liberal value, too
- Why is American internet so slow?
- The best movies to watch in theaters this month
- Why states should stop limiting the alcohol content in your beer
Subscribe to the Week