The usually awesome Amanda Hess teams up with Sady of Tiger Beatdown to discuss the (legitimately offensive) speculations that Kater Gordon was fired from Mad Men because of some sort of sexual relationship with her boss. And Roman Polanski. And David Letterman. And how dumb it is when some people try to draw comparisons between them.
They have some good points — there's no reason to assume Gordon had sex with her boss, and Letterman is obviously not a rapist. People who write about pop culture (myself included, at times) have a tendency to lump things into "trends," and it's good for someone to call us out on it. But Hess and Sady don't do a very good job. First Hess uses a post by Kate Harding as an example of Gordon-bashing — "Kate Harding wrote for Broadsheet,'In the wake of the Letterman scandal, [the] question lurks.' (The question: Sexy times??)" — when that post was actually an argument against making any sexual speculations about the firing. Then she and Sady engage in some back-and-forth blogger-shaming, which starts like this:
AMANDA: So, Kater Gordon and Matthew Weiner. Hittin' it?
SADY: um, probably! because she worked for him! and got promoted! and then didn't work for him any longer! those are all solid proofs of Hittin' It, right? i could use them in Hittin' It Court if I wanted to.
AMANDA: Personally, I think that the number one indication that they are Probably Hittin' It is that David letterman had sex with some lady!
SADY: i know, right? IN THE WORKPLACE! I think we must therefore assume that everyone in the workplace is hittin' it, all the time. i feel bad about not caring that much about the letterman thing. i mean: i get that there was a BIG-ASS power difference between letterman and his assistant. there is a big-ass power difference between david letterman and a lot of people. but until we know that there was not sexual harassment or quid pro quo stuff going on there, it's just another story about somebody cheating on somebody to me. and i am familiar with the fact that people cheat on each other. and not that scandalized by it. i do watch "mad men!"
Hess and Sady's cooler-than-thou routine is pretty insulting, especially since they're doing exactly what they rail against: lumping a whole bunch of different things together. People who think Kater Gordon slept with her boss are the same people who are mad at David Letterman, and also the same people who think he's the same as Roman Polanski. That is, people who are so naive they don't know infidelity exists. Probably they need to watch more TV. Hess continues,
I don't care about that or Jimmy Kimmel or whatever that is. Whenever those stories come up, everyone scrambles to "ask the questions" about whether the boss abused their power, whether the employee benefited from the relationship, whether there was coercion etc. But I think REALLY people just want to hear more about the details of their romance. ad in the case of Kater Gordon, their imagined made-up romance
And Sady later adds,
at worst, we might not want to hang out with David Letterman any more. which: good news! David Letterman doesn't want to hang out with any of us anyway! neither does Matthew Weiner! PROBLEM SOLVED.
So the only reason to get worked up about Letterman sleeping with his employees is salacious curiosity, and a delusional belief that David Letterman should be a good friend to us. Other writers are such losers. According to Hess, they don't even know Mad Men is made up:
the take-away from that is that people just really love the show so much they want it to be REAL. but that's kind of fucked up, considering the source material.
I'll admit, part of the reason this dialogue pissed me off so much is that I was mad about Letterman, and I don't like the implication that I'm a pathetic dork who doesn't understand human behavior and thinks TV is real. I actually don't watch Letterman's show ordinarily, and I don't feel betrayed by his behavior or want him to be my friend. I just don't think it's okay for bosses to sleep with their employees, and what's more, I want to be able to say that without getting treated like the uncool kid on the playground. As I've said before, Letterman is certainly no Polanski — and neither scandal tells us anything at all about Kater Gordon's career. And Hess and Sady are absolutely right to point this out. But in doing so, did they have to imply that any commentary on any of the issues at hand was either creepy fangirlism or naive whining?
Near the end of the dialogue, Hess says, "if i were working for a company where my coworkers were fucking my boss, that would be a problem for me." And Sady responds,
i mean, i don't think i'd ever feel comfortable fucking someone in a position to fire me. i would not feel like i was that person's equal. and i don't think that it's possible to separate your sexual relationship from your professional relationship to the degree that some people might hope, and that can result in unfair treatment. BUT, there's no reason to think that boss/employee relationships are ALWAYS uncomfortable for the employee involved, or that they're always predatory.
A totally fair point. As this exchange reveals, sex in the workplace is complicated, and people have strong feelings about it. So why is it not okay to discuss them?
Sexist Beatdown: Mad Men, Child Rape, And The Problem With Sex Speculation [Washington City Paper: The Sexist]