Thursday, August 13, 2009

'Mad Men' Shows 'Slut' Is Relative

Ann Friedman writes about the influence women writers are have on Mad Men's plot relating to the female characters:
And indeed, I love how the show paints an unvarnished picture of '50s gender roles and how the female characters are so three-dimensional. They don't easily map onto the sorts of stereotypes prevalent in TV shows and movies set in all decades. The bookish achiever (Peggy) is also kind of a slut. The slut (Joan) is also kind of a bookish achiever. And the devoted wife (Betty) is primed for a feminist awakening. (I've often wondered if the character was named after Betty Friedan.)
But commenter vwom asks:
What is a "slut" exactly?
I think one of the cool things about Mad Men is it challenges some of the stereotypes we have even today. Peggy, it becomes clear in the second season, is very different from her Catholic family. Even though Peggy doesn't seem to have a particularly active sex life (especially in comparison to other characters on the show), her family views her as a radical slut. Her sister breaks down into tears in a confession when she tells the priest how much she resents her sister who has a lot of freedom but leads what she views as a sinful lifestyle.

This all brings into focus the idea that the term "slut" is relative. When I think back to high school and middle school, I realize that girls that may not have ever had sex were viewed as "slutty" because they were viewed as such. The term has little to do with one's actual sexual activity and more to do with the way we slander women and the idea of women as sexual beings. It's a way to attack women, much like the term "bitch" is. Some women, like Tracy on Jezebel, have been trying in their own way to reclaim the word "slut" in her blogging moniker Slut Machine (although she dropped it when she got engaged).

Looking at Mad Men, their portrayal of the way women's sexuality was viewed in the early 1960s is illustrative of some of the remaining stereotypes today. I can't wait to see how they deal with the publication of the Feminine Mystique this season (and I hope they do!).

1 comment:

samantha said...

very interesting to read ....thanks for giving this kind of blogs,thanks...
Samantha
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