Everyone in the known universe has watched AMC’s Mad Men, except us. Not sure why. We just never got into it. However, my sister-in-law bought three seasons of it for my husband for his birthday. So, we started disk one last night. It’s kind of interesting, seeing as how I’m in the marketing biz, but what shocked me was something I had long forgotten:
Women were treated as if insignificant. Their opinions didn’t really matter. They wore dresses, had their hair and make-up perfect all the time, and well… just stayed home, took care of the household, and raised the kids.
Now, I’m all for full-time moms raising their kids, don’t get me wrong. Some couples just can’t afford that and it’s completely understandable in this ridiculous world we live in. Two people need to work just to survive in most families and probably why so many stay-at-home moms are trying to make money online, but that’s not the point.
The point is that there were very limited opportunities for women back in the late-50s, early 60s, and I remember growing up with a mother who was like that early on. And then… she wasn’t really. Actually not ever.
My mom was an amazing woman. Everyone loved her because she was just nice. She never spoke badly of anyone, never swore (god forbid) and had a strong faith in the Catholic religion. But… She was born liberated and didn’t need Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan helping her to be, either. I’m not sure where that strength came from, but she was totally independent and that’s one of the qualities that I loved most about her.
She’d say to me, “Don’t depend on your husband to take care of you. Have something for yourself because men die or move on and then, what have you?” I couldn’t argue with the logic, of course. She had countless stories of women who didn’t learn anything for themselves and who were left with no husband and no income. It was totally unacceptable in Mom’s book.
I remember my dad and her arguing about her getting a job when I was about 11 years old, which would have made it around 1963. He was adamant about her not going to work, but she turned around, put her hat on, and got a job. Nobody told Mom what to do. She always said, “Everyone puts their pants on the same way we do — one leg at a time.” Of course, I’m guessing she meant underpants then because it wasn’t until the 70s that she really got into wearing trousers — not even at home.
And she made me wear white gloves and hats when I was a wee kid, which was totally sucky and I hated it. 🙂 ‘Course at that time, there was no getting around wearing hats, either. St. Paul said that a woman’s most vein attribute was her hair, so that’s why Catholic women had to cover it up for so long. Pshaw! What a load of crap that was. Sorry, St. Paul, you were a mad man, totally misguided.
So, I”m watching Mad Men, seeing all the crap that women had to put up with back then, and I’m getting angry. Why did we stand for it for so long? Argh! Makes me nuts. I’m just glad I was born on the post-lib side of the issue. I’d probably have been like Sylvia Plath and Bell Jarred it out a long, long time ago. Luckily, I’m not and I didn’t, and that’s why you’re putting up with me right now.
But you see…
My daughter doesn’t quite get all this. She doesn’t understand how far women have come since the 60s because she wasn’t around then, and I’m guessing most young girls today don’t truly understand how different things were back then. I mean, even when I was coming up in the business world, there were no women managers; I was one of the first in more than one company, and we’re talking into the late 80s.
Is it a better world? Not sure. I think the kids are suffering, and that saddens and scares me. But, the important point is that women NOW have a choice. They can decide to stay home with the kids or to get a job or to do both. That wasn’t an option for our grandmothers. In that respect, things are most definitely better. We can choose to do the things that fulfill us as human beings. If we want to be construction workers or harpists, we can do pretty much what we want to do.
That rocks and why I’ve done so much reinventing over the years. I get to have a life that I create — nobody else, and I get to be responsible for seeing that my life is what I want it to be. I like that a lot, ’cause if I had to do nothing but take care of house and family, I’d go mad. Some women love that, and god bless them for that. That’s great, too!
I’m just not one of them. My mom totally saw to that.