Lots of talk about Mad Men and the treatment of women during the ice-clinking, smoky bar, burning the midnight oil, hat-wearing era. I love the show, and I love the fact that such sexism seems absolutely impossible to the many of teens in my life. They simply can’t believe it was really like that “back then.” But you needn’t travel back to the 1960s to experience such brash disrespect and injustices directed at many, in fact, most, women. Some subtle, most not. Back then, in fact, wasn’t so very long ago. Seems everybody’s got a story.
When my clever, self-proclaimed feminist male boss interviewed for my replacement during maternity leave in 1992, he hired a capable, experienced advertising writer from ‘the city,’ aka New York. (The Only City if you live anywhere on the East Coast. Sorry Boston, Philly, and DC. But really, you gonna argue?)
Women Getting the Shaft: Circa 1990s
1. This real writer also happens to be drop dead beautiful, which did not go unnoticed during her interview process. ‘You are really so gorgeous, it wouldn’t hurt a girl like you to put your photo on your resume.’ He at least read her clips.
2. During the same pregnancy, I was to travel to an ob/gyn conference to help hawk medical textbooks. My ob was attending the same conference and I had medical permission to attend. The sales director, however, thought differently. “You have a baby to think about now. You need to be home, focusing on that.”
3. And finally, from the same employer: I wrote copy regarding a gynecology text, highlighting thorough breast exams. The editor threw it back at me, saying ‘take the boob copy out; don’t you know your anatomy?’ Not sure when his last pap smear was, but at mine, there was a breast exam.
The fact that I was actually writing, and not fetching coffee, does show we had evolved somewhat (although I did do so for my first 3 jobs in the city). I presume it’s a process, but need it take so long?
More, more, more. Too many more.
- There’s also my friend Kym, the baseball mom, who majored in engineering even though the high school counselor and college advisor told her it was a male profession (mid-80s).
- And my sister, the horse trainer, who drives a huge duelly truck, and is ridiculed for being too good lookin’ to be driving a truck (2008).
- Another sister (2007), who is an athletic director and constantly asked by coaches and parents to speak to the AD.
- Editors offered to walk me home (1989), making the hair on the back-of-my-neck send out aptly received warning shots about the skeeveballs.
- Creative director who said at initial meeting (1997). ‘Not what I expected. You have a pretty good ass for having 3 kids.’
- Writer friend interviewed for staff position (2009) and was asked how old her kids were (illegal, but prevalent). When she answered, the interview ended when the resume was handed back across the desk and she was told, ‘You’re not ready. Go home.’
And then there’s today. Where people look at this 46-year-old mom, and add a little ageism (this is old?) and family-ism to the mix making it a real feat to reenter the workforce that’s come so far. And if you think there’s no discrimination against hiring people with a family, you haven’t been on an interview yet.
How ’bout you? Did you – or do you – experience any Mad Men-like sexism? How has it changed? Please, please tell me it has changed.