I’ve been watching, and loving Marvel’s “Agent Carter” this week. Beyond the character of Peggy, the spot on costuming and set design, and the intrigue, I’m really impressed by the writers allowing the men in Peggy’s office to be, well, just complete bastards. Oh sure there’s ONE who treats her with some semblance of respect but in general it’s cringe-worthy watching her interact with her co-workers. Actually, more than just cringe-worthy, it’s a little frightening. They would probably treat a secretary better because she’s not doing their job, but the fact that Peggy is doing the same job engenders hatred (sure it’s probably hatred brought on by jealousy and insecurity but who am I to psychoanalyze a tv character? Oh wait, former english major, yeah, I’ll go ahead and keep on keeping on). Her boss in particular just seethes and is so believable I half expect his character to be the shadowy figure that drags her into an alley on her walk home and attempts rape. Now you know why I find it a little frightening.
We still have that in the workplace, I’m not arguing that, but that kind of accepted misogyny is a bit rarer now. When Mad Men first hit the airwaves it was shocking, mostly because people had forgotten just how bad things were in the good ole’ days. Doctors giving private information to the husband instead of the wife, rampant sexual harassment, wives not having the financial power they needed to be equal – all of this shit was normal.
What we see as normal and acceptable changes. I’ve also been watching “Murder She Wrote” (because I’m old and go to bed at 7:30). Just yesterday I was watching an episode and one character has the line, “Like they say, just lay back and try to enjoy it.” I almost spit out my wine. (Don’t worry, that would never happen). What. The. Hell. And this was in the 80’s.
It’s easy to despair about how far we have to go in terms of equality so don’t forget to take a look back from time to time. In 1968, the year I was born, Virginia Slims debuted its new ad campaign featuring the slogan “You’ve come a long way baby.” It reminded women that at one time it was against the law for them to smoke in public and my, how far they’d come. (Sorry you can’t have an Equal Rights Amendment, but here’s the chance at getting cancer! Don’t say we never gave ya nothin’!) It was manipulative, it was shallow and it was freakin’ brilliant. And, although the creator of said campaign is probably roasting in hell, it was correct because we have come a long way.