Mad Men: Working Girls

Over the years, viewers have watched the very different trajectories of the lives of Joan and Peggy. Each has navigated the choppy waters of the cultural sea change in the 1960s of women in the workplace—in which "jobs" can now be "careers"—with their own methods that are as diverse as their results.

With all of Peggy's success in the past few seasons and the personal problems of the SCDP crew keeping everyone so busy, that little problem of sexism in the workplace in the '60s was momentarily abandoned until this week's episode reminded us that we're still a ways off from the second wave of feminism. Titled "The Other Woman," the all-male creative team at SCDP (Peggy was purposely not allowed on the account because of the established boys' club rules of the car industry) was trying desperately to play on the concept that a Jaguar is like a mistress — the beautiful, impractical car you cheat on your Buick of a wife with. The idea that actually won them the account was even more sexist, making connections between a desirable woman and a "thing" that can be owned, which is ultimately at the center of every man's fantasy, according to them.

Showing his duplicity yet again, Don had no trouble using this notion to make money for his company, selling the shit out of such reverie to Jaguar, but was opposed to it when put into practice. He was the only one of the partners at SCDP who was wholly against paying Joan to sleep with one of the Jaguar execs in order to land them the account. Pete, of course, campaigned as hard as he could to convince Joan and the others to do it. Bert didn't like it, but didn't talk anyone out of it and Roger seemed disturbed but showed what he really thought of Joan: No matter how much she tried to be a Jackie (and she did try!) she would always be a Marilyn. She's sex on heels. And while it's "dirty," it was worth using what he valued most about her to land an account. Lane, looking out for his own interests (embezzling that money is really going to bite him in the ass) tried to convince Joan that he was looking out for her best interest by giving her the idea to demand a voting partnership in the company. She accepted. And Joan literally became the office whore that she had only been rumored to be, prior to this.

People can say that women can use sex for power and that there's nothing wrong with it. And maybe there isn't. The choice was definitely Joan's and she knew she could say no, but when it came down to actually doing the deed, she had tears in her eyes. Now she owns a part of the company, but it seems like she had to sell a lot more of herself than just a piece of ass. You know, technically "mistress" is defined as being a female with authority, a position of power. But practically, it means something very different, as we learned through the freelancers at SCDP. It's something you have fun with, but doesn't have very much value. It'll be interesting to see if Don, who was the only one to respect Joan enough to not want her to prostitute herself on their behalf, will lose all that respect for her now.

On the other hand, though, would Joan — or any woman at that company — ever have been given a partnership if she hadn't done that?

Peggy, sick of being under valued at her job, did something about it. She officially left SCDP for a better offer. Her leaving was emotional, but ultimately, a business decision. It was different from the one that Joan had made. Peggy, instead, was made to feel valuable for her work as a person than for her "work" as a woman. The result is that she left that office smiling, with her head held high.