The XX Factor

Mad Men Goes Old-School Feminist

I’m not as down on this season of Mad Men as Matt , though I agree that Don as well-behaved husband is sadly ho-hum (and therein lies a whole treatise on marriage that I don’t want to read). And Matt, you’re right that the race/gender messaging is more didactic and less surprising than in sparkly Season One. But I’m finding bits of the messaging moving and real. This week’s episode was mostly drifty and even boring (for me, those dream sequences were beyond saving, despite Julia’s valiant effort ). But Peggy’s failed bid to convince Don to pay her what she’s worth made me sit up. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 , which Peggy referred to (a thrill for the lapsed lawyer in me) absolutely should be her weapon. It prevented an employer from paying employees “at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” That’s Peggy, every bit as good as anyone in her posse of fellow male copywriters and doing as much or more work-that is, when they don’t exclude her from their meetings.

But Don didn’t get it. Which goes to show: 1) All that we owe our 1960s sisters for such moments of humiliation, and 2) that anti-discrimination laws don’t work their magic without lawsuits to enforce them. (Matt, that one’s just for you.) So yeah, it was message-y, but I’ll take it. On the Mad Men message boards Peggy’s devoted followers are terrified that she’ll leave Sterling Cooper and the show, but also cheering for her to slam the door behind her if the company won’t appreciate her. Would you go for that plot twist?

Photograph of Peggy Carin Baer © 2009 American Movie Classics Company LLC.