There was a time, not all that long ago, actually, when women went to the workplace expecting to be sexually harassed.
Male colleagues ogled their breasts and commented on their legs. They were propositioned on a pretty much daily basis and had to learn how to deal with it.
But has anything changed?
Christina Hendricks, who plays the character of Joan - who claws her way from the typing pool to partner - in Mad Men says sexism of the type experienced by her character remains a reality for many women today.
“It still very much exists,” Christina told The Weekly during an interview in Hollywood last week.
“It’s changing but it’s still very present. I’ve been in rooms where sexual innuendos are being made," she said.
“Absolutely I have had to sit there while people are talking about things that have nothing to do with my accomplishments, or my professional achievements... I can absolutely relate to that." “Luckily there are cool guys that don’t want to be part of it. But it is still a reality.”
One of the most famous - and perhaps shocking - scenes in Mad Men was several seasons back, when Joan agrees with a request, direct from her boss, to have sex with a client to get some new business.
It’s a grubby situation. She gets promoted and by the final season, she is wealthy, yet her decision sits like a shadow in her background of her success.
Asked if that were the only way for a woman to succeed in the male-dominated 1960s workplace, Christina said: “I don’t think it was the only way. It was her option, in that specific situation.
“(Prior to having sex with the client) you see how she proves herself, and shows how good she is at her job and is not acknowledged.
“Or she will get a promotion but it’s a title slapped on, and she’s not actually getting more money to take care of her son.
“She was in survival mode. (And) it was based on actual stories, real stories (from the workplace.)
“It was a pivotal moment. She is dealing with the pain of that decision, the disgust of it.
“It made the character more rich.”
Without giving anything away, there is a scene in the first episode of the upcoming final season where Joan – now a partner – is subjected more horrendous sexism during a business meeting, from the men on the opposite side of the table.
“They are jerks,” she says, and that is true: every reference is to her breasts, and Joan is incredibly uncomfortable, but can’t really object.
“But that’s how it feels to be a woman,” she said, adding that she hopes that Joan would today “feel able to be more vocal, and demand more respect. She would probably fire people now.
“That behavior would not be tolerated.”
“She would encourage women to stand up for themselves when confronted with sexism, and to say: ‘I can’t believe as a woman you just said to me. Shame on you.’”
But she agreed with actor Vincent Kartheiser, who plays the character of Pete Campbell, who told The Weekly that “men still say those kinds of things. They just wait for the women to leave the room.”
Christina says she hopes that Mad Men’s commitment to showing the evolution of feminist thinking throughout the 1960s, “has started a lot of conversations, to get people talking about the treatment of (women).”
She added: “If it has helped young women stand up for themselves, then I would be very proud of that.”
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Now To LoveJul 26, 2021