Thursday, May 10, 2012

Peggy Olson or Betty Draper?

I am very picky about the TV I watch.  And I don't mean that it has to be narrated by someone named Attenborough (but you can't ever go wrong with Sir David).  I mean it has to make me think about it even when I'm not watching it.  One of those shows is Mad Men - whether it is chuckling about a clever Roger Sterling-ism or frankly just thinking about Roger Sterling at all - I think about that dysfunctional ad agency even when I am not watching. Yes, I know ladies, Don Draper is handsome, but Roger Sterling is sexy - I will tackle that monumental difference another day.

I  find myself thinking about Peggy more than any other. I don't think there is another character whose arc I have loved watching more than that of Ms. Peggy Olson. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce's cautiously ambitious copywriter never disappoints.  She has allowed me a front row seat to the construction of this career path I tread on so carelessly.  I have watched each of her missteps and tumbles, each of her triumphs and sacrifices like a mini history of the working woman that could be titled "Wanna know whose shoulders you are standing on, Ms. 401K?"

I had such a lack of appreciation for the working women in their 50s and 60s I encountered when I entered the workplace in the mid 90s.  They must have chuckled to themselves and thought "dear you don't know how good you have it and, by the way, you're welcome."  I didn't pay much attention to them.  I had very little appreciation for what they had seen, the battles they knowingly or perhaps unwittingly fought for me so I could flippantly ask myself  "gee, what do I want be when I grow up?"

The single most important thing for the advancement of women has been our proliferation into the workforce. I would even go so far to say that without working women there would have been no Roe v. Wade. Working has enabled women to define their place in this man's world - the bitter potion needed to transform ourselves into the fighting machines we need to be to achieve everything else from this day forward.

There has been much talk lately about stay at home moms and working moms - and oh wait all moms are working moms.  Sure.  Have it your way.  All moms are working moms.  But can we please stop already with "it's the hardest job in the world?"  It's not. Seal Team 6 - that job is hard - see the difference? Here is another hard truth - some moms have one job, moms that work outside the home have two.  I am a work-outside-of-the-home-mom or whatever phraseology I am supposed to use so I don't hurt someone's feelings.  And to be honest I am not working so "all women can have the right to choose to stay at home."  I'm not - stay at home moms make me scratch my head in bewilderment. In the non-car-elevator-having real world the majority of women have no choice - they must work to ensure the security and stability of their families.  Those moms that get to "not work outside the home" - good for you, thank your hard-working partners - often.  But please do not compare your one job to my two, or, for some woman, three. Or even more. We live in different worlds.

If it weren't for all the Peggy Olsons women could aspire to be nothing more than a Betty Draper, I mean Betty Francis. And that's not much of a life worth having...if you ask me. So thank you Ms. Olson. Where we would be without all of you I just can't imagine...


  1. Excellent post. I'm not a mom, but I think the notion of calling motherhood a "job" is ludicrous. There are MANY things in life we do that are challenging and thankless, but that doesn't mean they're classified as "jobs."

    Going to college, doing volunteer work, taking care of your elderly parents, coaching your kid's team...these are all hard, but if you don't get paid to do it, it's not really a job. Moreover, as you point out, what about all the folks who raise kids AND work at a job? What about men? I never hear anyone say "fatherhood is a job."

    It'll be interesting to see if Peggy Olson ever becomes a parent (by choice). If she does, I suspect she'll still want to keep her job — as Joan does.

  2. Very good points, Christy. But what really burns me is that these women who only have the one job of "Mom" (glad you can do that!) do not support the women who have made many of the things they enjoy possible. Sign your health rights away fine, but leave mine alone.

    1. Agreed! Women, like any other demographic really aren't a homogeneous blob of voters. We all (kids or not) live very different lives. But one thing does bind us and that is how our access to birth control or at the very least control of some sort over when we do or do not have children seals our fate.