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Elisabeth Moss: men aren't asked if they can have it all

As Peggy Olson, the meek, earnest, infuriatingly moral secretary who transformed into a boss ad agency copy writer and fledgling feminist in the 1960s set Mad Men, Elisabeth Moss has inspired modern working women everywhere

"TV has many ambitious women, but Peggy stands out among them for navigating a working world—with glass ceilings, boys’ clubs, and take-me-seriously work clothes—that feels, despite its period detail, remarkably contemporary."
Her character even inspired a new term that perfectly described how women are still marginalised in the work office, to wit, "are you Peggy Olsoning me?"
Started by musician Neko Case in an argument about how her work was considered by critics to be good "for a woman", the term sums up how women too often accept crumbs of praise, or should be happy with backhanded compliments because they are a woman.
Because despite most work places no longer allowing men to drink whiskey while lying on their couches being geniuses like Don Draper while the women get the coffee, it still remains difficult for women to break through the boys club. We might be 'leaning in', but as the Financial Review pointed out earlier this month, we’ll probably get paid less than our male colleagues. And like Peggy and Sheryl Sandberg and any other woman who’s refused to play nicely, we’ll probably get called bossy for the trouble.
Oh and then most certainly women will be asked that trick question of we 'have it all.'
Elisabeth Moss has spoken about her views on the 'have it all' question in an interview for the New York Times about the new play she is starring in on Broadway, The Heidi Chronicles.
Elisabeth Moss. Image: Getty
In the play Moss plays a woman who, like Peggy, has much success in her career but in her personal life, well, not so much.
The Pulitzer prize winning play satirises feminism from the 1960s to the 19802 and the have it all question, but rather than it feel dated as Moss points out in the article, it remains of our time. Because, she says,
"we don’t talk about whether or not men can have it all. Because they can."
For Moss this has been realised in the kinds of roles she is offered,
"I’ve never been the cheerleader. I’ve never been the girlfriend," she says.
However, as the article notes, this has been a win for audiences because the characters Moss plays are complex, infuriating, layered and interesting. Just like Peggy Olson.
Mad Men returns for the second half of its final season in April. Images of the cast and a typically cryptic teaser trailer have been released.
The cast of Mad Men
Peggy wears red. Her hair cut is great. She's working things out.
Sworn to secrecy, Moss can only say this of Peggy’s fate in the final season,
"I actually really, really like it and really was very surprised by it."
Mull on that as you will.
Meanwhile, here is Peggy owning the dance floor.

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