April 5 marked the opener to the final countdown season for Mad Men, one part classic soap opera mixed with more than a few shots chronicling the rather turbulent transition that was the sixties.
Roles were changing and so were attitudes. We saw the explosion of the youth culture following the pretty staid fifties where Donna Reed and Betty Anderson served up pancakes and after school cookies, mopping the floor in a full skirt and heels.
Madison Avenue, like many work environments, was oh so white and male at the start of the decade. Remember the episode when Dawn Chambers was hired?
I grew up at the cusp of the seventies to the soundtrack of Burt Bacharach and the Fifth Dimension. I suspect some of my views of gender roles come from Wives and Lovers, a song that served as a cautionary tale for stay-at-home wives about the vixens in the office.
Hey, little girl, comb your hair, fix your make-up, soon he will open the door,
Don't think because there's a ring on your finger, you needn't try any more.
For wives should always be lovers too,
Run to his arms the moment that he comes home to you.
I'm warning you,
Day after day, there are girls at the office and the men will always be men,
Don't stand him up, with your hair still in curlers, you may not see him again.
In many ways, what Mad Men did best was to chronicle the stories of its female protagonists during shifting times. Joan and Peggy climbed up the winding staircase from office manager and secretary to less supporting roles while Betty, Trudy, and even Megan showed they wore the Capri pants in the family.
The era on the verge of Gloria Steinham and Ms. Magazine showed women could be strong yet sexy, holding on to gender differences while playing in what had been a man's court. A decade later, Diane Von Furstenberg had designed her iconic wrap dress to show that women could bring home the bacon without fearing the power of feminine mystique.
By the time I was in college, women were wearing those silly floppy ties and boxy suits in an attempt to score the corner office. These days, we see so much backlash against equal pay and women in the workplace.
Recapturing that spirit of sixties, Mad Men has shown us that women can be beautiful and sexy while climbing the corporate ladder or running a household without folding to the men who chased after their own needs -- and the latest member of the secretarial pool. Perhaps one of the show's legacies is to remind us not to take for granted all those gains women before us fought so hard to attain.
All the while wearing a wiggle dress like Joan or a trendsetting mini like Megan.
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