It would be an understatement to say that America is starting to pick up on the decadent portrayal of 1960's big-city realism in Mad Men. Not only are they drooling over the characters and their fab threads, people are actually understanding the deeper plot elements, notably the darker feminist undertones that leaves a few of my friends "depressed" after watching the relentless struggles of the second season.
Of course, ladies, we know it gets better. But like the chauvinist advertising industry of the 60's, I can think of one huge American corporation who has regarded men as loose cannons around smart, capable women for far too long: the US Military.
Luckily, today's New York Times top story sheds some light on the advances of women in the US Military -- and the timing could not be better.
Just to give you a little background, obviously, women are allowed in the military, but they're not allowed to do every job that men can -- elite units such as Navy Seals and Army Rangers are off-limits, and submarines are notorious No-Lady zones. The NYT article describes a few more men-only groups that are opening up for women through a loophole because (surprise!) they're actually capable of being great soldiers. What's the loophole, you may ask? It's simply labeling female troops' association with stricly-men units as "attachments" rather than "assignments", and although women still aren't allowed to do 100% of what the men are doing there (like driving...yeah, that's hurtful), they're actively pushing that glass ceiling.
Asking someone to work as an "attachment" reminds me precisely of that episode of Mad Men where Joan, a secretary, volunteered to read through a set of episodes to avoid ad placements in poor taste. She quickly found that not only did she excel, but she enjoyed it and developed a passion for the task and was excited to help her company. Then one of the douchebag weasel guys casually brushed her hard work and aspirations aside when he brought in yet another douchebag weasel to do Jane's beloved task, cracking jokes that the subject matter sucked anyway.
Luckily, this lesser "attachment" title overseas isn't preventing some women from getting the credit they deserve, like Veronica Alfaro's badassed 'I-effing-belong' quote:
I did everything there. I gunned. I drove. I ran as a truck commander. And underneath it all, I was a medic.
It's also important to note that women aren't banned from these top military units because people think it's too dangerous; rather, it's well-understood that introducing women into a group will throw hormones into a frenzy and the troops won't be able to get their job done due to the shift in group dynamics. (Yeah, really. Kinda related to the thought process behind the Gay Bomb. ) It's about time we have some military leaders who see through that excuse to realize -- boobs or no boobs -- women are getting the job done and men aren't going bonkers with them around.
America's hearts and minds are certainly a-flutter with the slow revolution of the ladies at Sterling Cooper. Could this be the era where we say "Why Not?" to women in the military? And then follow with Why Nots in every other professional department -- men in nursing and teaching, women in math and science, men as daycare workers, women as construction workers? Why Not?
Well I gotta say, thanks, Mad Men, for the inspiration and posterity to our current situation. And thanks, US Military, for admitting that women are helping more than distracting, and for starting to break down the 'sexually wreckless' soldier stereotype that has been perpetuated for too long.Otherwise.....you know....stop the war. Now.