Monday, April 6, 2015

"Mad Men" Beauty Musings: Envy, Similarity, and "Modesty"

There’s much to say about Mad Men in general, and about last night’s last-season kickoff, and about the relationship between Joan and Peggy, and even about their conversation in the elevator (burn it down, Joan!). But what’s most relevant in this particular wheelhouse is one exchange that comes between Peggy and Joan after a business meeting in which a group of male colleagues make lewd jokes at the expense of Joan, specifically at the expense of her generous bustline: 

Peggy: Should we get lunch?
Joan: I want to burn this place down.
Peggy: I know, they were awful, but at least we got a yes. Would you have rather had a friendly no?
Joan: I don’t expect you to understand.
Peggy: [With demonstrated doubt] Joan, you’ve never experienced that before?
Joan: Have you, Peggy?
Peggy: I don’t know—you can’t have it both ways. You can’t dress the way you do and expect—
Joan: How do I dress?
Peggy: Look, they didn’t take me seriously either.
Joan: So what you’re saying is, I don’t dress the way you do because I don’t look like you. And that’s very, very true.
Peggy: You know what? You’re filthy rich. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

(That last line, of course, is more cutting than Peggy could know, given how Joan became partner.)

A few things:

1) I don’t like to focus on the jealousy/competition aspect of beauty, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, and we see it here on both sides. The thing is, research shows that we tend to feel competitive with people who are similar to us, not people who are different. It’s fun enough for fans to construct the Mad Men ladies as opposites—are you a Peggy or a Joan? a Betty or a Megan? a riding lawnmower or a rifle?—but they’re not. In particular, Peggy and Joan have far more similarities than differences. They’re both hard workers, they’re both whip-smart, they’re both vulnerable, they both have their secrets, and the personality summation that Peggy’s date delivers to her over dinner could well apply to Joan, if not as consistently: “Johnny said you were the kind of girl who doesn’t put up with things. ... He said you were funny, and that you were fearless.”

There might be some cattiness, pain, or simple retaliation behind Joan’s cutting remark; none of us are above that. But I’d like to think that there’s more to her comment than that: Underneath the snipe is an acknowledgement that part of the difference in the ways they’ve each handled their careers stems from genetic fate (or rather, from the ways women were treated because of their bodies). Joan is saying, If you looked like me you’d dress like me—and if I looked like you I might well have your wardrobe too. She’s taking what Peggy posits as a duality and makes it clear that it’s anything but. And Peggy, in a different way, does the same, by pointing out that the men didn’t take either of them seriously, even though the crude comments at the meeting were aimed almost entirely at Joan. The women are clawing at each other on the surface, but the way in which they do it says that they know full well they’re in the same position.

2) One of my viewing companions last night, a busty lady herself, pointed out that when you’re built like Joan, it can be hard to wear anything that will safely ensure nobody will accuse you of dressing provocatively. Peggy can accuse Joan of dressing sexily even when, as in this scene, she’s wearing a tailored blouse that shows no cleavage because Joan’s build proves how judgmental the idea of “modesty” is. Joan’s body puts her in a position of being accused of immodesty no matter what she wears, so why not wear what she looks good in? Peggy, on the other hand, with her slighter, more “modest” build, is put in the position of keeping the meeting as on track as she can—a task Joan herself is fully capable of but is barred from doing so because of her body. 

It reminded me of Phoebe Maltz Bovy’s assertion in a guest post here that “style and build have a way of getting mixed up, as though a woman chooses to have ‘curves’ on account of preferring to look sexy, or somehow magically scraps them if her preferred look is understated chic.” (To wit: this photo series of Debrahlee Lorenzana—who was fired from Citibank because she dressed too sexily—wearing various office outfits of hers. Like, you know, a turtleneck and slacks.) It’s tempting to say that the moral here is that Joan can’t win. But as Maltz Bovy points out, the construct actually serves as a reminder of just how ridiculous beauty standards are. Burn the place down already, Joan.

3) What to say about Joan’s clothes-shopping binge toward the episode’s end? Instead of shrinking herself down after that awful meeting, she goes out and spends loads of money on fabulous new clothes. It’s a consumerist balm to being treated as a product for consumption, and I’d be misled to applaud this particular move as a you-go-girl proof of Joan’s resilience. But it’s interesting that we see Joan assert her buying power while wearing what is undoubtedly a provocative dress—it’s her way of saying that she has no intention of taking Peggy’s tack to the workplace (which, as we’ve seen, would be a loser’s proposition for her anyway). 

But there’s also something sadly hollow about it, magnified by her refusal to admit that she once worked there as a shopgirl. It reminds me of the first time I went shopping as “retail therapy”: I was 19 years old and had somehow landed a part-time concierge gig at a mid-level hotel, working the VIP lounge. A client there had actually pulled a move straight out of a bad movie: He put his hand on mine and gave me his room number, the implication being that I should pay him a visit once my shift ended. Part of me was thrilled by this—this happened to people in bad movies!—but I was also nauseated by it. It was my second job ever besides babysitting, and I was proud of the fact that I’d gotten it, and I knew I’d been assigned the VIP lounge because I had an accommodating nature. But it was also the first time I’d felt the flipside of what others might assume of me because of that accommodating nature—until then it had just earned me accolades as a “good girl.”

Anyway, the next day I felt possessed to buy a dress. It was a specific desire: I wanted to buy not just clothes, but a dress, and I uncharacteristically skipped the sales rack and perused the new offerings with intent. It wasn’t until years later that I identified the impulse: I didn’t just want a dress, I wanted to spend money on myself. I wanted to spend something relatively intangible to get something tangible in return; I wanted proof of my power, and since I’d just felt my meager power slip in a professionalized context, it made sense that I wanted that proof in the form of something that context rewarded me with. 

We know that Joan is a bit of a clothes horse (she did, after all, go to retail when she had to get a new job), which I wasn’t when I wandered into the mall Gap in 1995 the morning after a being the target of a sleazy episode. But just as my desire for a new dress had nothing to do with why I bought it, that’s not why we saw Joan buying up the store: It’s her clutch at power, rendered in a language she can speak without breaking a sweat. We’ve seen Joan work and grow and prosper in a variety of ways, but going back to this lesson—looking your best will get you the best—is always going to be a place of comfort for her. The irony is that it’s a lesson that, for Joan, also leaves scratches long and deep.


  1. I don't watch Mad Men (keep meaning to start but haven't gotten to it yet!) so I don't have anything to say about it, but I wanted to say hi and how happy I am to see a post from you! I was just wondering how you were!! :D

    1. My hunch is you'd like the show! (If you ever give it a go, don't judge either way until you've gotten through a few episodes—NOTHING happens at the beginning.)

      And thank you for the welcome! I'm hoping to creep back in with at least weekly blogging.

  2. Eagerly awaited the premiere of the end of "Mad Men". Was not disappointed. Loved your take on Joan. You were so right on in your comments!

  3. Basically the beginning of my comment will be a copy of MM Curator's comment: haven't watched Mad Men (keep postponing it) & very, very happy to see you writing here. Hope this long silence means that your book is to be expected soon. :)

    In regards to bodies (similarities, differences and related judgement and envy) I can only offer a slight off-topic. Recently, I participated in a body-confidence related event in which I was truly touched to finally see and experience different kinds and ages of beautiful. The most wonderful part was that I felt no judgement or envy, at all. This was a very freeing experience, and I can't remember (maybe only in childhood) another time when I had felt so comfortable being in my own skin, and so comfortable with others being how they are as well. Of course, I know that this feeling was orchestrated through activities and environment, but still. Now I know that such high level of acceptance (for myself and others) and simultaneous non-existent envy/judgement is possible, and I do not want to let this state of mind (or feeling) go. I wholeheartedly want women to stop competing - with each other or with an imaginary perfect version of themselves. There IS a power in being at peace with your body and bodies of others. I honestly cannot say where I was going with all this. Maybe I just wanted to share my experience and say that it is possible to not feel judgmental and envious, no matter how similar or different our bodies may be.

    1. Hi! And thank you! Like I told MM Curator, if you do give "Mad Men" a go wait it out a few episodes...VERY slow-moving up-front. And I'm finishing up the (hopefully) last revisions of the book now, yay! finally!

      What a great experience you had! There really is something powerful about seeing women of all ages in a situation where bodies are to be accepted. The first time I went to an all-woman spa, where nudity was de rigueur, I was enchanted by the nonchalance of older women around their "imperfect" bodies. Inspiring—and just as inspiring was dropping any expectation of "competing." I think we're getting closer there as a culture, but we'll see.

      (Hey, when you have a sec could you shoot me an email at at I just want your permission to quote something you said in comments here a ways back.)

    2. Done! Sent an email few minutes ago.

      About the competing part. I sincerely hope we really are moving closer towards acceptance. That would be amazing. Although I have had enough exerience of being naked around other people (male and female, friends, for the most part) from time to time (for example, in Finnish-type saunas and spontaneous swimming in summer), I must admit that I wasn't able to shake off some kind of tension and maybe even shame during those times of nakedness. I just acted confident and encouraged the shy ones in hopes that good old "fake it till you make it" will work for me as well. But it never did. At least not 100%. This body-confidence event changed something in me, and I am at peace right now. Hope this feeling holds till summer so I could ty it out - will I really feel as different few months from now as I feel now, just 2 weeks after this event. Will see.

  4. "But just as my desire for a new dress had nothing to do with why I bought it, that’s not why we saw Joan buying up the store: It’s her clutch at power, rendered in a language she can speak without breaking a sweat."

    Didn't think of that, AND forgot she'd ever been a shopgirl.

    I only recently saw a blogger boasting that her leggy build is (gist quote) "basically the classy version of being busty." I didn't ACTUALLY punch a hole in the nearest wall, but the temptation was strong. The myths and assumptions live on!
    It's so nice to have you back!

    1. !!! Oh wow, that is so shortsighted (or maybe just gross)—as if once you're larger than a C cup, sorry, lady, klass is beyond you! (Of course, the word "classy" is troublesome in its own right...)

      Are you a "Game of Thrones" fan? This piece on Sansa Stark is somewhat related to what we're talking about here:

      (And thank you! Goal is to blog weekly to get back into it, now that I'm almost done with the [hopefully] final revisions of the book.)

    2. Maybe I'm missing something (no link), but I don't take the blogger as endorsing the idea that it's not classy to be busty but, rather, making the completely valid point that being leggy **is regarded** in an entirely different way--as "classy" and youthful rather than overtly sexual. Busty=too much flesh.

    3. Virginia, I certainly hope that reading of the idea of "leggy is the classy busty" is accurate—we as a culture do regard legginess more in that way as compared with bustiness. Particularly when amounts of flesh come into play—easier to maintain "classiness" with a shorter skirt than with a lower neckline?

      Now I'm wondering if that shifts along with fashion, both sartorially and in regards to women's bodies—I remember a friend's mother saying that her future parents-in-law were horrified at the short length of her 1960s miniskirt when they first met.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. I take "leggy" and "busty" to refer to build, not what clothes reveal. Leggy doesn't mean a short skirt; it means the kinds of long, toned legs that look good in a short skirt but that might, in fact, be wearing trousers (as many classically "leggy" models in the 1970s were shown doing). One reason leggy stays "classy" is that toned legs that connote discipline, not out-of-control flesh. Since our modern version of corsetry is exercise, breasts remain out of control, subject only to the constraints of external garments, not the more socially sanctioned willpower.

    6. I take "leggy" and "busty" to refer to build, not what clothes reveal. Leggy doesn't mean a short skirt; it means the kinds of long, toned legs that look good in a short skirt but that might, in fact, be wearing trousers (as many classically "leggy" models in the 1970s were shown doing). One reason leggy stays "classy" is that toned legs that connote discipline, not out-of-control flesh. Since our modern version of corsetry is exercise, breasts remain out of control, subject only to the constraints of external garments, not the more socially sanctioned willpower.

  5. This info is much more valuable than assuming revenue expertise according to previous market come across .
    play game jogos de friv online and play game jogos friv | jogos do friv

  6. 3 Reasons Why Buy Your Cookware Sets Online

    Cooking is part Art Nike Free 3.0 V2 while part Science. The cookware you use Nike Kobe Shoes determines the quality of your cooking experience. The various varieties of cook wares available are pressure cooker online, induction cookware sets, frying pans, tea maker and many such more. To create magic with the best dishes, employing the right cookware is a must. You can differentiate between a good quality and worse. A good quality cookware has a coating which can give you the best results while cooking and even makes the utensil resistant to scratches. These cook wares come with convenient handles that are comfortable to Nike Kobe Shoes hold and extensively Women Air Max Thea Print heat resistant. The handles are sturdy enough to ensure that they continue to function well even after prolonged use in the kitchen.

    The cooking pan range offers Nike Anthony 10 you the best value and best price online. You might even enjoy free shipping in India for the entire range of induction cookware, frying pans and most other kitchen ware you intend to buy. A number of other cook wares you can easily find online include best mixer grinders in India, juice extractors, induction cook top and almost anything else you may want. Induction cookers ensure a significantly quicker and energy efficient form of cooking. They can be used for multiple purposes like frying, boiling, etc.

    Induction cookers spare you the hassle of getting cooking gas on a monthly basis. With better heat consistency while cooking, your dishes will be cooked much WMNS Nike Dunk Heels evenly than ever before. You must Nike Shox shop online for induction cookware to get the best prices possible.

    Cooking pans are widely used on a daily basis in almost every Indian kitchen. With having a flat base, they are Nike Free Dynamo used to fry or cook vegetables and so on. Different types of frying pans are available today including non stick frying pans and electric frying pans in the online market. Stainless steel and aluminum frying pans call for very little upholding and are ideal for the kitchen in many ways.

    It is a well known fact how tiring the word shopping sounds. Especially when it is meant for household appliances and has to be done Nike Free 3.0 V3 in a hurry under some deadline? Well, thanks to online world of shopping. You dont have to fret at the mere mention of going shopping for kitchen wares or other stuff necessary for your house and kitchen.

    If you have just returned from work you can still freshen up and take all the time you want. Then later, when at peace you start your laptop to shop for all the beautiful brands and the lovely stuff put together under one umbrella just for your Sneaker Online convenience! Isnt that soothing? So, go get your cookware online without furthermore depletion of time.

  7. You have a real ability for writing unique content. I like how you think and the way you represent your views in this article. I agree with your way of thinking. Thank you for sharing.
    unblocked games| unblocked games at school| unblocked games| friv4school| friv 4 school| call of duty| top tetris games| friv games| frivgames| barbie games| barbiegames| monster high games| kizi2| kizi 2

  8. The problems outlined in this paper result from the fact that their may be a wish to share data but only if it allows you to take back the data. Private, custom data licenses do just that.
    frozen games | gry yoob | frozen games | friv 4

  9. You have a real ability for writing unique content. I like how you think and the way you represent your views in this article. I agree with your way of thinking. Thank you for sharing.
    unblocked games| unblocked games at school| unblocked games| friv4school| friv for school| tetris unblocked| friv games| frivgames| barbie games| barbiegames| monster high games| kizi2| kizi 2

  10. Thank you, Bill. It's on days such as these that the very sweetness of friendship acts like a natural and refreshing condiment subduing the other flavors and feelings I was experiencing.
    wow your site is amazing, keep share with us. very nice interior, i love all. thanks for share :)
    k7x | juegos de yoob | jogos mafa | ozov | jogos mafa | friv for school | friv4school

  11. Thank you for sharing

    Initiatives to make genetic and medical data publicly available could improve diagnostics — but they lose value if they do not share with other projects.

    Jogos Do Frozen | jogos frozen | jogos de frozen | firv

  12. Really great and interesting share. I think many of the countries are not giving the equal value or power to response to women's. So these type articles are really helpful to open our society eyes. Hope some cheap writing service also help you to get more idea about the topic.

  13. Fast Easy Sun Jar

    The entire solar unit is self contained and Jordan Spizike can be used without further disassembly.

    The most important part of making the Fast Easy Sun Jar is finding the right solar lights. This clean design by Westinghouse was on sale for much of the summer. I found them at Orchard Supply Hardware for $2 each, but even at the regular price of $4, they the most economical solar lights available.

    You will also need a jar with a glass lid. The tiny SLOM jar from Ikea is only Jordan 5 $2.99. You may pay a little more for a jar from a kitchen store, a little less if you can find one at a thrift store.

    Finally, you need glass frosting Jordan 7 spray, adhesive (I chose a clear silicone adhesive), a utility knife and some painter or masking tape. I was wondering about Nike Air Max 2010 Mens the lights are made for freeze thaw cycles I think, but they are vented. If you put it in an air tight jar Air Max 90 wouldn it cause condensation? Then add the heat of the sun, pressure build up is ok? I am just asking I will still will make one cause they look nice, so I will Nike Air Max 2011 Leather Mens find out I guess, was hoping if someone might have tried it out or not. A transistor, resistor, and capacitor create an oscillator that drives a small coil; the output of the coil is around 4V which is used to power the LED. They do it this way (rather than have multiple solar cells and two or more rechargeable batteries) because it's more compact (and probably much cheaper, too). Most white and blue LEDs will operate happily at around 3.5 to 4.0 volts; red, green, and most yellow LEDs typically operate at a lower voltage so you would probably need a slightly higher resistance to use one of those colors. The easiest thing to do would be measure the voltage on the existing LED, then find a replacement with a color you like with the same rating.

    I'm guessing here, but there's probably a voltage doubler to boost the 1.2v from the battery to something higher to drive the LED. Measuring a working unit would help tell you that.

    You might be able to get some leeway if there is a resistor in series with the LED, but I don't know about this specific circuit or the one you might have. If you can measure that total voltage drop, and the current flowing when the LED is lit, you'll have a better idea what you might plug into the circuit.

  14. This article seems to be overlooking the fact that information is a saleable commodity and altruism comes a poor second to commerce, especially in the health field. Genetic research may be a totally fascinating pursuit for those involved but will it truly provide any realistic benefits?

    ozov | yoob friv | yoob | yoob | juegos loola

  15. Your unique views on this topic are stimulating and interesting. You've completed a great job of expressing your view.

  16. I am happy to find this post very useful for me, as it contains lot of information.

  17. thank you so much for the information you present very useful, thank for share
    facebook movil and facebook movil gratis and apply facebook iniciar sesion celular

  18. This is an amazing charming space. Beautifully done. I had the opportunity to intern with Liz and she is absolutely incredible! I love all of her work!
    yoob | yoob 3 | 2oon games | yoob games |

  19. This is a great web site. Good sparkling user interface and very informative blogs. I will be coming back in a bit, thanks for the great article. I have found it enormously useful..
    happy wheels| happywheels| happy wheels hacked| happy wheels demo| happy wheels| happywheels| happy wheels hacked| happy wheels demo
    tetris| tetris games| tetris unblocked| unblocked tetris| monster high games| monsterhighgames| monster high| monsterhigh

  20. Prioritizing the day to day tasks is the primary step of an efficient time management skill and ultimate success in the life. So, it is a good habit to leave a few minutes to plan your tasks properly. When you practice to prioritize your tasks, ensure that you have accomplished the most significant task at first and allotted enough time for each task. You might not be successful if you try something to do at the last minute. Even though there are some online custom essay supports to help you in the last moment, better to schedule your task as per priority and execute those accordingly.

  21. This is an amazing charming space. Beautifully done. I had the opportunity to intern with Liz and she is absolutely incredible! I love all of her work!
    k7x |
    Yoob friv |
    firv |
    loola games

  22. Thanks for sharig with us! we have the best latest collection of latest online tricks and hacking tricks on thundertricks
    also if you want to buy yureka plus at amazon falsh sale then check it out:-
    Trick to buy Yureka Plus

  23. thank you very much sir....wonderful.
    Thank you sir...wish your friends using these all messsages shayari and images on this 2nd August.
    Friendship Day 2015 Messages
    Friendship Day 2015 Sms
    Friendship Day 2015 Images
    Friendship Day 2015 Wallpaper
    Friendship Day 2015 Shayari
    Thank you sir for this information i like this post....Wish brother using these stuff.
    Rakshabandhan 2015 Greeting Cards
    Rakshabandhan 2015 Messages
    Rakshabandhan 2015 Images
    wonderful sir....nice blog ..check here 15 august stuff.
    15 August Sms Messages
    15 August Status

  24. Nice and informative thanks to share with us.
    Answer Key
    Admit Card

  25. In your blog I was happy to see your article, better than last time, and have made great progress, I am very pleased. I am looking forward to your article will become better and better.
    agario skin
    sniper games
    fun games
    zombie games

  26. My heart is filled with love and happiness because my husband is back to me after a divorce with the help of a genuine spell caster .My name is Becky Miller , I live in California,USA. I'm happily married to a lovely and caring husband ,with three kids. A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my husband .so terrible that he took the case to court for a divorce.he said that he never wanted to stay with me again,and that he didn't love me anymore.So he packed out of the house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get him back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and he confirmed it that he has made his decision,and he never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my husband .So i explained every thing to him,so he told me that the only way i can get my husband back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for him too.So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow his advice. Then he gave me the email address of the spell caster whom he visited.{}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address he gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my husband back the next day.What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my husband who didn't call me for the past seven 9 months,gave me a call to inform me that he was coming back.So Amazing!! So that was how he came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and he apologized for his mistake,and for the pain he caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster. So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website { } if you have any problem contact Dr Brave ,{ }, thanks you Dr Brave, i will always be testifying about your good work, and for any questions call me on +1(575) 779-6197.

  27. A great possibility for me and it was a superb knowledge to view this site. Very difficult to uncover these beneficial web page or web site. I have many devices and achieving proper picture of these worked well and energy continues to be seeing about this weblog. Often my own intend to make my personal site as well as my own enjoyment is growing due to this page. I we do hope you may well be more effective.
    happy wheels| cool math games| 8 ball pool| sudoku| yoob| friv| monster high
    tetris| shooting games| barbie games| friv4school|