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I found similar questions about a game (closed as off topic), a play (7 upvotes) and a movie (9 upvotes) so I am unsure if this is an acceptable question for this SE.

In the Mad Men series, which takes place in the '60 in the USA, woman are generally portrayed as uneducated people only capable of doing simple jobs, cooking and taking care of their husbands. Is this in accordance to the situation in that time and place?

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I misread "Mad Max" and I thought LOL. – o0'. May 27 '15 at 12:39
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I'm going to answer in terms of the paid labour dimensions of gender. There are other elements of the gendered presentation in Mad Men such as gender and sexual identity, reproduction or unpaid labour.

Feminisation is the change from a male dominated or mixed gender workforce to a female dominated workforce. Proletarianisation is the degradation of: "old" professions; "old" trades; "traditional" labour; or, new work with a high degree of worker control: to management controlled execution of duties as standardised labour (its a bit more complex, but...).

Proletarianisation and feminisation go hand in hand. The women we see working for pay on Mad Men are primarily secretaries. As Margery Davies shows in A Woman's Place is at the typewriter [http://muse.jhu.edu/books/9781439905821?auth=0], secretarial duties were once performed by autonomous men with generalised duties. Davies finds in the late 19th century that the combination of employer's views of women as "docile" and "cheap" combined with scientific management which "deskilled" (Harry Braverman) the duties performed resulted in a rapid feminisation of the workplace.

Much like Engels shows that "women as homemaker" is historically contingent, and can change rapidly within a generation as pay changes gendered status, so too does Davies show that secretarial duties' gender position is contingent on the organisation of the workplace.

As far as secretarial duties requiring uneducated labour, IIRC secretarial schools were widespread, and most secretaries were expert business machine operators from tabulators, collators, type writers, telephones, etc.; and the social construction of required duties ranged from trivial to broad ranging. In comparison to equivalent male occupations, skilled machine operation was considered from unskilled through to trade. I would suggest that judged against a male hierarchy of skill, the women portrayed in Mad Men working secretarial work are between unskilled and trade skilled, with one exception of a generalised autonomous worker who occupies a managerial role. Whether we ought to criticise the presence of a unique skill scale for female office work which degraded highly skilled or trade machine operators to "unskilled" work in financial and social respect terms is a political or moral question; but, the presence of different skill hierarchies in farm, industrial or office work all of which were gendered ought to raise the question of whether skill hierarchies actually existed or whether they were cover for a gendered or industry based division of labour.

The film depiction has an accuracy as to the broad mentality and sentiment of a white New York set of private capital owners, executives and professionals interacting with a pool of office labour. However, this needs to be read in the context of the Olson and Holloway characters who show this system of work arrangements' flexibility and adaptability in the face of extreme merit and tenacious power; and, so, reading these characters in this way problematises the general gendered order of the office space.

Its no substitute for labour history or gender history, but it is a good starting point for the vibe.

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Is that a Yes or a No to the question then? I understand every single word, phrase, and grammatical construction in your essay, yet have no idea what you have really attempted to say in regards to OP's actual question. – Pieter Geerkens Jan 12 '14 at 22:10
Depends on the quality of the viewer's reading. It isn't a straight forward or unproblematic text. – Samuel Russell Jan 12 '14 at 22:16

Growing up in the '60's, in towns of 20,000 to 40,000 people, I can attest that Baby Boomers had a freedom that kids today would never dream could exist. We walked to school every day, returned home for lunch, and wandered off for hours at a time on weekends and warm summer days. However, that freedom was closely guarded and protected by the ever-present eyes of someone's mother from every second house on every suburban street.

Yes, women were generally less educated than men and consequently restricted to professions and jobs requiring less education. Once married, unless she had a college education and the support of her husband to do otherwise, a women's primary job became the care and nurture of her husband and children.

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It sounds like liberation of women enslaved their children... – Michael Jan 13 '14 at 4:16
@Michael: Succinct; but roughly correct I think. – Pieter Geerkens Jan 13 '14 at 23:23

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