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*Peggy and Joan’s “Power” in “The Summer Man”

September 13, 2010

Joan’s age is not causing her to lose power because she has never had power. No one who calls Joan’s bargaining tool power understands power. At the most, one can say Joan has/had feminine-sexual influence over males who respond to trading sex or the potential to have sex for small short-term inconsequential in the bigger scheme of things benefits. Just for the record, that particular strategy did not die out with the birth of second wave feminism. As far as my observations go, it was still working in the 90’s and well into the new millennium. Because I try to work around mostly women, I am not as privy to it as much as before, however, just a few years ago I did in fact witness a young female student batting her eyes at a male professor and he did in fact react as traditionally expected.

It irks me to no end using the word power to describe the way Joan has handled situations with males and saying how she is losing that power now that it does not work on younger men such as that prick Joey. Joan sums it up when she is in the elevator with Peggy and says something along the lines of regardless of who we (females) are or what we do, men can always just draw a cartoon. She is right. Peggy and Joan are representations of two women coming at it from different angles, that is for sure.

Nevertheless, those two different angles should not be labeled as power. I think it is important to tease this out because labeling such a technique as power is what has defeated the third wave feminist approach. Having sex with men is not powering or empowering, as the boyz will so eagerly trick the girls into believing. If there is/was any advantage (and I am using this word with the lightest possible meaning, because there was no true advantage), it is/was in the pursuit/desire of having sex. Once any sexual act is performed, the tool is useless. Thus, the reason “The Rules” forbids sex before a potential promise. Bethany may think she is stringing Don along by just giving him a blow job in the back seat of a taxi but I got news for her, the second she unbuckles his belt what she desires (to become the next Mrs. Draper) is lost. He is not going to reward that “whorish” act by making her a wife. In addition, you are kidding yourself if you believe Betty behaved the same when she was dating Don. It was ten or so years before and she did get the ring. The proof is how she maneuvered Henry. She did not fuck Henry before marriage. Henry’s mother, Mrs. Francis can say whatever she wants but Henry could not have gotten what he wanted from Betty without marrying her, maybe some other woman, but not Betty. That is the one thing I can say about Betty, she did in fact learn the rules when it came to handling men and as we see it has paid off twice. Of course, I am not arguing that marriage is a prize, I am simply keeping in context with what Betty and the time value as a prize. Evident also by Francine’s warning to Betty. Betty cannot afford to lose Henry. She has three children, no money of her own (although I don’t understand what happened to her father’s house) and no employable skills and/or no desire to adapt to the working world. Hence, the reason she has not found it necessary to mention having sex with anyone else other than Don (not that I am implying that her past sex life is any man’s business, just keeping it in context. If public facts, an ex-husband and three children cannot present her as a virgin, she must appear as a demi-virgin).

I agree with Joan but I am not mad at Peggy. Peggy fired Joey because Peggy wants to be someone. Yes, Peggy wants to be one of the boys. She wants power like the men have power. The thing is what power Peggy ever has/get will always be limited. It will worked the same way Joan’s so called “power” (feminine-sexual influence over males who respond to trading sex and/or the potential to have sex for small short-term inconsequential in the bigger scheme of things benefits) worked when she fired Jane. Roger was through fucking Joan because Joan became off limits (she was engaged or perhaps married by then, I cannot remember now), therefore, he no longer felt an obligation to reward her with “power.” He was busy onto the next new fuck. Weiner wants us to hate Peggy if we love Joan because as Joan says, Peggy has made Joan feel like just another secretary. But what did Roger make Joan feel like or appear as when he un-fired Jane? Why should we hate Peggy more than we do Roger? Peggy does not have the power to take the dagger and twist it further into Joan’s back as Roger did by leaving his wife for Jane and not her.

Peggy may have one small victory over little prick ass whiny baby Joey (Honestly, to think that Harry Crane was trying to have sex with him. Whatever dude!) but that victory will be negated the second Peggy wants to get rid of someone who Don, Lane, Roger, Burt or some other man does not want to get rid of, especially if the complaint Peggy has against said man is sexual in nature.

It is a patriarchy, neither Joan nor Peggy have any power. It is a joke to think otherwise.

*Although I feel like an idiot writing a post about Mad Men mainly because I don’t appreciate Matthew Weiner being at the helm of public discourse and certainly don’t want to contribute to his power and I know that my voice is just one of a million in a sea of voices discussing Mad Men and thus will not be heard I am so compelled. I will readily concede that I am more than willing to lend that position to male fiction authors of the past, such as Trollope, Dickens, and even that ghastly misogynist Flaubert. All I can say in my defense is, it is not the same. It is a new day and the voice should be coming from a different sex. Nevertheless, since I like talking about fiction and no one else seems to want to talk about the works that I explore, if I want to do so, I am forced to discuss what is most popular. Fiction is the only milieu that affords me the sense of detachment that real life does not. If you are not aware by now (I seem to go on about it forever and a day) I suffered through a work place sexual harassment/sexual discrimination grievance, a three-year ordeal that left me with PTSD, something I have inferred but never quite admitted to. I will thus say it now, I have PTSD from work related sexual harassment/sexual discrimination. Maybe I should explore why I never named it as such until now.

  1. September 13, 2010 7:55 pm

    Nevertheless, those two different angles should not be labeled as power. I think it is important to tease this out because labeling such a technique as power is what has defeated the third wave feminist approach. Having sex with men is not powering or empowering, as the boyz will so eagerly trick the girls into believing. If there is/was any advantage (and I am using this word with the lightest possible meaning, because there was no true advantage), it is/was in the pursuit/desire of having sex. Once any sexual act is performed, the tool is broken. Thus, the reason “The Rules” forbids sex before a public promise.

    Just clarifying: heterosexual marriage does confer power and status on het women, or even (in my case) a bisexual woman. That is one reason women want marriage, and why the joke in the movie AIRPLANE (as the plane is crashing: “At least I have a husband!”) is so damn funny.

    After marriage, only ONE man has direct power over you, more or less. Not all of them. When I first got married at age 19 (I’ve been married three times in all), I saw it as choosing to give one man power over me (who didn’t exercise it too often), instead of the whole class of em. And they really do react that way too, when you are married: you are the property of ONE MAN and that means most of the rest of em WILL leave you alone.

    “The Rules” stuff is all bullshit, IMO. I never adhered to any of that crap; I am fat and mean to men (lol), although cute in a Hayley Millsish sort of way (in my youth), and I never experienced a shortage of male attention. In fact, until just a few years ago, it was fairly constant and got on my nerves. I love it NOW that I am basically left alone; only a few interesting older gentleman flirt with me now (who have lived long enough to learn how to behave and talk to women respectfully).

    For some reason, men are also attracted to bitches… the whole “taming of the shrew” thing? Or on some level, have they simply grown tired of Stepford/Playboy Bunny/Penthouse Pet androids? I dunno, but I always attracted men and I was NOT NICE, LOL.

    Notice how they fuss over Joan, the nastier she is. Peggy wasn’t “mean” when she fired him, but as you say, acted like a man, which offended Joan’s sensibilities.

    Addicted to the show. I was the same age as Sally Draper at the same TIME as the show (!) (I was six in 1963 too!) when my mother was busy marrying every other man she met, so I identify with her strongly and I am heavily invested in what happens to Sally!!!! I had forgotten a lot of those emotions, and watching the show brings them all back up for me… it really has been something else. (she was masturbating watching THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.!!!! OMG…LOL)

  2. September 13, 2010 8:19 pm

    Daisy we will just have to quibble over the concept of power. For the record at that point of my quote that you highlighted, I had not included marriage into the power equation. I was referring to Joan’s use of feminine influence over men and Peggy’s use of positional authority as a female lead. Neither do I consider to be power. Peggy’s is perhaps an imprint of power, but it is not by any means unlimited or to be trusted or equal to any male’s in the same position as she. As I stated, all we have to see is Peggy wanting to fire someone that the bigger dogs, Don, Lane, Roger, and/or Burt do not want to fire even if the offense is exual. Actually, Pete and Ken could make a stink and Peggy will be forced to un-fire someone.

    By no means am I advocating “The Rules.” Of course it is horrid. Anyone who comes here and assumes that I believe otherwise is injecting something into my words that I haven’t said. I am speaking in context. Betty is playing by “The Rules.” And if “The Rules” wants to claim credit in order to promote its doctrine it would only have to point at Betty, because Betty has in fact got two husbands by playing by “The Rules.”

    Bethany, at this point, has no husband and she won’t be marrying Don, that’s for sure.

  3. joankelly6000 permalink
    September 13, 2010 9:19 pm

    Thanks for this post, Kitty. You know I love a Mad Men discussion with you!

    Sometimes I think people are mistaking situational, discreet moments of what *feels* like autonomous influence for actual power.

    Plus, Daisy, I don’t mean this to split hairs, I’m trying to get my mind around it as well, but I feel like there is a difference between privilege-conferred and hierarchical power. I feel like hetero married women are privileged *by* the misogynist power structure, not that it actually gives a slice of the power-pie to married women. A patriarchal power structure treats married women better than non-married women in some ways, but in order for that power to be actually shared by the married women themselves, it’d be something like “married women treat themselves better than they treat unmarried women,” which doesn’t make sense.

    Or maybe I’m confusing ideas of personal power with institutional/overarching power myself.

    The way I understand hierarchies is in pretty simple terms, like at a company where people work. For instance, I have more situational influence (I guess it could be called personal power?) in my position than some other people who work here. And I actually have a closer connection to the top of the hierarchy, the bosses, than a lot of other people and sometimes I even influence their decisions, and things that affect other people.

    But I’m never the person who has/had the choice to hire me or fire me, I don’t benefit from how well the whole structure serves those at the top, beyond just the base benefit of “I get to have a job and a salary so long as this particular hierarchy (company) exists.”

    To me it seems like a bunch of women are made to be slaves in the “company” Patriarchy, and a certain number are workers. Definitely, once you are a worker, if you ever get to be one (and by this I mean actual women with middle and upper class jobs/salaries, AND wives, white women, able bodied women, hetero women, etc.), you get certain comforts/privileges that slaves don’t. And you will get differing levels of comfort/privilege in relation to other workers too, depending on all kinds of factors. But none of us is ever going to be made a full partner in that firm, let alone be a sole owner. Also, I mean the term “slave” in pretty literal terms – if there are any privileges accorded to those in sexual slavery over those who are not, or those who are domestic slaves, or who work as slaves in factories, I cannot conceive of them.

    Maybe my analogy isn’t right, I don’t know, but it seems to me like hierarchy is hierarchy – it works in certain ways, and even vastly different ones still share fundamental qualities of operation, otherwise they wouldn’t be hierarchies, they’d be something else.

    About the episode itself, I didn’t understand at first why Joan was mad at Peggy (and by “at first” I mean in the first seconds of realizing Joan didn’t love Peggy for firing Joey, like I loved Peggy for it). But then when she said what she said about how she felt she’d already handled it, and Peggy made her feel like “just another secretary,” I could understand why Joan would feel like that affected her status there. (You use the word “status,” too, Daisy, and I think we’re in agreement on that.)

    If Joan had any actual power, how could Peggy’s firing of Joey affect her status then? Because Peggy firing Joey didn’t affect Don’s status, or Lane’s, or Roger’s, even though Peggy wanted to fire him and took the action to do so, rather than any of them exerting any visible control in that situation. Yet it did affect Joan, exactly as she said.

    If that’s anybody’s idea of “power,” the supposed power Joan has to manipulate men via her womanly wiles, they can fucking keep it as far as I’m concerned. But it’s not lost on me, that there is nothing neutral about trying to sell me, a female person, the idea that this is what power is.

  4. joankelly6000 permalink
    September 13, 2010 11:01 pm

    Also meant to say and then forgot I meant to say it – I feel like trauma from sexual harassment and/or discrimination grievances is way underestimated/under-recognized. I don’t think people realize that the whole thing itself is an ongoing, daily experience. It’s not like “well this person grabbed my ass or I found out a coworker who does my job but for no other reason than his maleness makes a dollar more an hour doing it, and so I complained/filled out some paperwork, and that particular person doesn’t like me anymore but I can’t be fired and I now peacefully await the outcome!”

    It’s wondering every day – who thinks I’m a “snitch,” who hates me now, who distrusts me that didn’t used to, who thinks I’m lying about it/”being too sensitive”/have emotional problems or weakness; it’s FEELING every day a sense of unsafeness and that the place wehre you must spend the majority of your waking hours five days a week is now a place of fear, stress, dread, and in some ways powerlessness, it’s being in a daily, near-constant state of all of that PLUS sometimes also self-doubt and regret and wish I’d just kept my mouth shut because this is even worse, etc.

    Or, that’s how it’s felt to me, don’t mean to tell anyone else their experience. Just saying it’s a daily state of emotional duress, it is traumatic, and sometimes I feel like it gets treated or talked about as if it’s merely some procedural, one-time negative experience.

    I relate to not-wanting to call what you have PTSD though. Or not thinking of it that way at first. I still will have times of feeling like, really, isn’t that a bit much for what I have? It’s not like a roadside bomb went off beside my head. I get that some of that is the way internalized misogyny can make me minimize harms to women (because everything that happened to me, happened to one degree or another because of my femaleness). But I sometimes also think, maybe I just want to minimize it because somehow my brain thinks “if I refuse to acknowledge it as ‘that bad’, maybe I can make it be not-that-bad.”

    • September 14, 2010 1:14 am

      It’s true Joan, every word you say. I remember people laughing at Monica Lewinsky for holding on to that blue dress because she felt like she would be murdered otherwise. Well, I didn’t have sex with my boss and didn’t have a blue dress but I did feel like men wanted me dead. It was not irrational to imagine one of those men killing me because I was causing a problem, especially when many of them vocally aired how it was my fault promotions were on lock down for the entire department until the matter was sorted.

      People (both males and females) will whisper to you about how courageous you are but will not in a million years speak up for you. It is a very confusing time. Because if you are so courageous then why aren’t others speaking up and following suit? How is it that you can be so courageous and others are not? On the other hand, how can you see and suffer as you did and come to the decision years later that you should have done nothing? Did you have to suffer through the process to learn that you shouldn’t have initiated the process? Were you a fool to ever believe anything would have ever been done? Just rhetorical questions however because I believe whether a woman files a grievance or not she meets the same end, —being dismissed, misrepresented, blamed, murdered, raped, and mistreated for being female.

      I worked with a couple of women last week on a community project and one woman was going on and on about how she teaches her children (one boy and one girl) to stand up for what they think is right, to fight. Then I thought about all the times, me, and my family have faced injustices and I just wonder what is the purpose in fighting. Theoretically, I know, yet in my lifetime, I have yet to experience the fruit from fighting. Not to say I have experience the fruit from not fighting.

      It is not as simple as the wind blowing and the sun shining.

    • joankelly6000 permalink
      September 14, 2010 11:00 pm

      ugh, so true Kitty. It was so confusing for me, people “praising” me in whispers while saying not a peep themselves about what was going on. I do understand people keeping quiet – as we’re discussing, I too wished many times that I had just never said a fucking word in retrospect – but it still felt creepy and hard to trust even the people who said they were “on my side.”

      I’m sorry to hear about all of that happening to you. And I remain stunned to this day by the depth of hatred people STILL feel for Monica Lewinsky. And how both sides, Clinton and those who wanted to impeach him, brutalized her for their own agendas. It’s not *just* the people you work with who are hostile to sexual harassment grievances – nobody wants you to fucking be saying it, period.

  5. September 14, 2010 12:42 am

    You misread me, Queen Of Power, I know you don’t approve of “The Rules”–but do you believe they really do “work” on most men? I thought maybe you believed that they did indeed “work” as advertised.

    See, I don’t think they “work” either!

    Joan, I continually confuse status and power, since I think they are inter-related. Power gives you status, status gives you power, you rarely have one without the other. But yeah, I think there is status in het marriage which is heterosexual privilege. I don’t know if it should properly be called “power”.

    • September 14, 2010 1:00 am

      I believe in the 1960’s and before “The Rules” worked to an extent when it came to snagging a husband. Remember Freddie telling Peggy that if she gave her loser boyfriend (I don’t remember his name) a taste for New Year’s they will never be married. Of course, there was some banter between Freddie and Peggy about Freddie being old fashioned, and be that as it may, I believe Freddie was mostly right. If not, why did Peggy initially play the virgin role? To me, the Whore/Madonna dichotomy and playing off that trope is what sums up, “The Rules” in a nutshell.

      Thank you for respecting my status as the Queen of Power. 🙂

    • joankelly6000 permalink
      September 14, 2010 11:13 pm

      Daisy – I absolutely believe that in the “old” days, “The Rules” worked, so to speak, and I believe that even in the present, they “work,” in the sense that they are based on premises which I think still hold – that women are supposed to be straight and supposed to feel more valuable if a man wants to “commit” to them versus just fucking them, and that the less interested a woman is in a man, the more intent the man often becomes on “getting” her. Just because The Rules counsels women to PRETEND disinterest doesn’t mean men don’t still respond that way.

      And just because not all men interact that way with all women (a man has to “want” you at all before he will want you more the less you seem to want him back, for instance), and just because some straight people end up in relationships with each other without doing The Rules’ dance, doesn’t mean it’s changed that much.

      One of the more grotesque ironies about books like The Rules and He’s Just Not That Into You is that they could be short-handed to simply say “don’t mess with men who exert zero effort in pursuing your company, who would put more energy and attention into making their way to McDonalds than into spending any time with you” – their premises really boil down to that, way more than to cutesy sayings or antiquated dating rituals. And the fact that *that* part is at all revelatory to so many straight women – and it is, or those books wouldn’t have been bestsellers – says everything a person need say about the prizes straight women are out there competing for.

  6. September 21, 2010 6:18 pm


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