Which Mad Men Character Is a Better Female Role Model: Peggy Olson or Joan Holloway?

04/10/2013 11:25 am ET | Updated Jun 08, 2013

This question originally appeared on Quora.
Answer by Liz Mullen, Sports reporter, horseplayer SBJLizMullen

Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway of "Mad Men" are two of the best, and most complicated heroines ever created and portrayed in television and/or film.

Both of them are incredibly strong role models for women, because both use their extraordinary talents and gifts to get ahead in business at a time when women were essentially, for all purposes, excluded from business. It just so happens that Peggy's gifts are an incredible intellect and creative genius. Joan's gifts are her sex bomb looks and street smarts. Both know how to play office politics. Despite the fact that Peggy appears to be much smarter than Joan, she has at times sought advice and learned from Joan.

This is the first scene when Peggy is hired and Joan is showing her the "ropes."

Some say:.."Joan also conducted a long-term affair with a married man, which is also not exactly role model behavior..."

Umm, yeah. Don't know if you have noticed, but virtually every man and woman on "Mad Men," especially those with power, conducted some sort of extra-marital affair, including the protagonist of the show, Don Draper. Everybody was having extra-marital affairs with everybody on that show, so to say Joan was not a role model for that reason seems to be a double standard, if not downright sexist, in my opinion.

I think that it is undeniable, for the time in which they were working, both Peggy and Joan were each powerhouses in their own right. If those two characters were real people and were born 20 years later, each could be a captain of industry.

If I had to choose, I would, however choose Peggy Olson as the better role model. The reason is her power is not dependent on her looks. As Joan Holloway ages, she is likely to have less power and less success, mainly because much of her power emanates from her looks and her sexuality.

Peggy comes from blue collar family and made the leap from secretary to copywriter on sheer talent. Despite her lack of education, she is a better copywriter than Ivy-League educated colleagues. She is also the female counterpart of agency creative genius Don Draper, who also had great success, despite humble beginnings.

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