Mad Men and Sexual Harassment
Tags: gender, inequality, organizations/occupations/work, sex/sexuality, sexual harassment, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: Cultural Anthropologist, William M. O'Barr (2010), notes of the popular television show, Mad Men, "[It] is a world of heterosexual, white, male privilege." O'Barr further observes that "Gender displays recur. The social structure of the office—men in professional positions, women as their assistants—rings true of pre-Feminist Movement America in the 1960s. Every woman is either a Jackie or a Marilyn and every man wants them both—or at least most of the men. The admen direct the lives of women, not just those in the agency, but those in the entire society. It is a world in which men are dominant and women are subordinate and sexualized." O'Barr draws on a number of clips to make his argument, but one in particular (Season 1, Episode 12, “Nixon Vs Kennedy”) struck me as a useful supplement to a discussion on sexual harassment. The clip features an adman chasing and wrestling a woman to the ground during an office party. Pinning the woman to the floor, he demands to see the color of her panties. The scene is a relatively unambiguous example of sexual harassment, but students might object that the woman who was tackled seems to be participating and even laughing. Here, it might be helpful to note the two women in the clip who were uncomfortably observing the incident and to encourage students to think about sexual harassment as a form of gender discrimination, which creates an unequal work environment for all women. Irrespective of the tackled woman's outward expression, the incident clearly reinforced for everyone the ideas that women in the ad office are first and foremost valued for their capacity to sexually titillate, and they can be made to submit to the demands of their male colleagues.
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