Last night’s return of Mad Men found Joan and Peggy in a skin-crawlingly sexist shareholder meeting. Three male partners sat across the table from the women as they discussed changing the ad strategy for a pantyhose company—and the men made lewd, sexist innuendos. One of the men insinuated that the high quality of the pantyhose meant a customer could “pull them down over and over.”
Joan and Peggy are not new characters— and their run-ins with workplace harassment are not new either. Virtually every woman on the show faces sexism at least once. Peggy’s pregnancy in season one is played for fat jokes by her womanizing coworkers. And perhaps the hardest storyline for many women to watch was when Joan’s coworkers used her to close a deal, forcing her to make the “choice” to promise sex with a hesitant client…if he signs on the dotted line.
The problem isn’t that we’re unused to sexism. It’s that we expect the men on this show to let up already! But Mad Men airs Sunday nights, and that same story line is still playing out for women across America on Monday morning.
Let’s play the worst guessing game ever: below are five stories of women facing sexual harassment at work. Can you guess how many are Mad Men story lines and how many are from this decade?
- A senior employee commented on a woman’s “luscious lips,” pulled her into his lap, and frequently stripped to his underwear in front of her.
- A female employee found pornographic movies playing on the workplace television.
- A woman’s coworker simulated masturbation and anal intercourse behind her while she worked.
- A group of male coworkers made cartoon drawings of a female employee having sex with an executive, and posted them in the office.
- A male project lead followed a woman into the ladies’ restroom and touched her inappropriately.
Got your guesses?
Here’s the awful truth: only one of those stories is from television. Numbers 1, 2, 3, and 5 are cases detailed in our report detailing the reasons workers need protections from harassment—and two of those incidents happened to the same woman.
Don Draper’s days are over, but the days of sexual harassment at work are far from it. When Mad Men wraps in six more episodes, we’ll have heard the last of these characters. But we can’t stop talking about the ways their stories have continued. Fifty years after Mad Men is supposed to have taken place, it’s time to finally make harassment a thing of the past. That’s why we’re excited about the renewed attention to this issue that the EEOC’s new taskforce on harassment, which includes our own Fatima Goss Graves, promises to bring.
In the meantime? Let’s just hope Joan’s raw response to that awful meeting is only a fantasy…