25.1.11

An ode to Peggy Olsen

I finally got round to watching the season finale of Mad Men Series Three, which I'd been told is solid gold television, and I wasn't disappointed. Aside from a truly earth-shattering shift in the dynamic of the series, we finally saw our beloved heroine, Peggy, getting some form of reward for her relentless hard work, and her having the cajones to demand it.

Peggy is my role model in more ways that one - she's a woman in a man's world, but more importantly she's a person who never quite fit in anywhere but has so much more to give than she's given credit for, and works tirelessly to prove herself and demand that she be rewarded for her efforts. That she be made equal.

But that's where Peggy and I disagree. She does something totally radical in demanding equality in the workplace, having earned respect from her peers for her ability. She is the 60s definition of feminism.

But today feminism took an ugly turn, once again, with the suspension (and sacking) of two high-profile sports commentators, who have been in and out of controversy for their sexist attitudes and remarks, after they were caught on camera openly belittling the ability of a female football official. The most high profile woman in football, Karen Brady, waded in on the debate (allowing tabloids to publish the most alluring pictures of her they could find) and every tabloid under the sun determined to prove the truth in the comments made by the duo about whether the official, Sian Massey, was attractive or not by publishing numerous photos of her in bikinis and miniskirts.

Massey has managed to keep diplomatically silent so far, but the Twitterverse has been shouting for her, hounding Sky to sack the presenters, sending abusive messages to the presenters themselves, and generally lamenting how their sacking would be written off as militant feminism, political correctness gone mad and yet another example of how women can't fight their own battles.

Because, well...isn't that what this is?

I don't condole the behaviour of the presenters, as it would appear that this isn't the first time that their crassness has caused upset, and that firing them based on sexual harrassment seems well within the boundaries of reason. But when a woman who can quite clearly do her job is then given a legal backing (and someone else's P45) in order to prove it, who really wins? It's no wonder Massey is keeping quiet.

I'm unsure if this is what the first feminists meant when they talked about equality. I'm unsure if this will make the situation worse, or better. I'm unsure if when a woman sexually harrasses a man, she'll get fired. Men and women are as equal as they'll ever be right now (though I wonder if a woman would get fired for making sexist comments towards a man) but there seems to be this desperate need to make them 'the same' as each other. And I know full well that men and women will never be the same, and that trying to make them be so is like bashing your head against a brick wall.

Men and women were not created equal, as Peggy knew when she broke down the boundaries and made herself an equal to the men in the office. When Samantha Jones started to behave like a man in Sex and the City, easy sex and having a killer career being enough for her, she was hounded. Now women are trying to become the superior race. We can have it all - job, money, sex, family, security, validation, and we can do it without a man to help, approve or validate, but always with a man as the one to beat. Sian Massey's silence speaks volumes. If she can get on with being a person, as opposed to a woman, doing a job, then why can't the rest of us?

Is the final frontier of feminism to forget to be a woman at all? Or is it time to come full circle...

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