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Smart Women, Mad Men and Feminism’s Unsung Childfree Heroes

Posted by Guest Blogger at 29th September, 2010

by Donna Bogatin, Woodhull Alumna and founder of SuiteWomen.com

This millennium’s “buried, unspoken” problem stifling full, unfettered expression of womanhood has a name:  Pronatalism, or societal presumption of motherhood.

Today’s American woman benefits from legacy physical entitlements valiantly won by pioneering women over the course of the last century: The right to vote, the right to contraception and abortion, the right to education and athletics and the right to work without fear of sexual harassment. Will the new millennium woman mark her own unique liberation and proclaim women once and for all emotionally freed from the heretofore inexorably gender pre-determined roles of procreator and care giver?

AMC’s fictional women of the 1960’s-based television series MAD MEN bring to life the era’s
“problem” which Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” critiqued in 1963–a foreordained
female ennui:

“The suburban housewife–she was the dream image of the young American women and
the envy, it was said, of women all over the world. The American housewife–freed by
science and labor-saving appliances from the drudgery, the dangers of childbirth and the
illnesses of her grandmother. She was healthy, beautiful, educated, concerned only about
her husband, her children, her home. She had found true feminine fulfillment. As a
housewife and mother, she was respected as a full and equal partner to man in his world.
She was free to choose automobiles, clothes, appliances, supermarkets; she had
everything that women ever dreamed of…They gloried in their role as women, and wrote
proudly on the census blank. “Occupation: housewife.”

Circa 2010 and once behind-the-scenes Betty Francis/Draper housewives of the Mad Men era are now center stage politically desirable “soccer moms,” business men cads now harass bombshell Joan Harris office manager’s of the world at their own peril and copywriter advancement is now readily accessible to women via college degree, no Peggy Olson secretarial pool detour required.

But where does the most professionally accomplished person in all of the Mad Men universe
–male or female–stand, both in the show and from a contemporary perspective?

Dr. Faye Miller debuted in season four seemingly out-of-nowhere. The “scientific” market-
research discipline her PhD represents and her own personal self-discipline appear at-odds with the Madison Avenue seat-of-the-pants old boy’s club of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
Attractive, determined and perhaps before her time, the latest Don Draper love interest may be the only Mad Men character that could be cast believably in a show set in 2010; She is single, childfree, highly educated and financially self-sufficient.

Hired to unravel the emotional needs of others in order to exploit them on behalf of mass
consumer products, Dr, Miller presents in complete control of her own. Confident in her
professional expertise and in-charge of her marital status, the only Mad Men PhD is nevertheless reduced to tears when her apparent sole emotional achilles heel becomes exposed: She is not a mother.

Although willfully without children, Faye still feels socially compelled to affirm to Don that she does not view herself a “failure.”

Fifty real world years later, the fourth woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice in its entire
220 year history is disparaged by socially dominant media The New York Times and The
Washington Post because the magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, and its 11th
Dean, is viewed as a politically undesirable representation of womanhood: Ms. Elena Kagan is
not a mother.

Donna Bogatin is the founder of Suite Women™, a woman-led collective aimed at growing the ranks of women entrepreneurs and C-level executives. Ms. Bogatin holds an M.B.A, a M.A. and a B.A. from New York University.

About Guest Blogger

A Guest has written 35 articles on this blog.

This person has submitted an article to us for posting. If you are interested in being a guest or more permanent blogger for The Woodhull Institute please email us at WoodhullBlog@gmail.com! Community members and Alumnae only please.

Category : Careers / Community Member Projects and Updates / Living / Women

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