Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book 16 - Mad Women by Jane Maas

OK, so I'm one of the people that really (and I mean really) enjoys watching the AMC series "Mad Men." I am obsessed with that time period for quite a few reasons but mostly because I find any era that immediately precedes and/or involves or causes as drastic a change as the 60'sdid is fascinating to me. Specifically, I really enjoy the historical changes in women's roles that occurred during this time period and so, when I saw that there was a book written by a woman that had actually done what Peggy Olson (who happens to be my favorite character in the series, followed closely by Joanie) did, I really wanted to read it. I also think that the book was written because of the series - was the series accurate? Did people really drink, smoke, have that much sex at the time in the Madison Avenue advertising agencies? During the first part of the book, Jane Maas works for Ogilvy and Mather as a copywriter. Ogilvy was one of the first people to do market research and put tremendous stock in it. And yes, there was a lot of sex. The Pill was widely available, so at the time, American society was in the midst of the sexual revolution. The rule, essentially was, if there were doors and couches in offices, there was probably sex going on. Maas claims not to have engaged in any affairs while at the office, but she spent so much time there, that I am skeptical, although of course, I have no direct proof. Just my gut instincts. What surprised me the most about this book is how conservative Maas seemed to be. This was the era in which second wave feminism was also birthed and she, quite frankly, didn't see the use of it. That shocked me because all around her (and in the firms that she worked for), women would be fired for getting pregnant. Maas herself was the subject of much sexism - when she appeared for a client meeting with a big client, they assumed she was the secretary and gave her a pad and pen to take notes on. She was also sexually harassed so badly, that she began to see a psychiatrist - this co - worker would go so far as to come to her hotel room when they were on trips together, knock on the door and essentially ask to come in to spend the night with her (she got him away by saying she had her period). I would have thought that such an obviously intelligent, tough woman (who had gone to Bucknell among other colleges) would have seen the value in second wave feminism, so I was really shocked. While I found the first person accounts of working in an advertising agency during this period to be absolutely fascinating (that's the historian in me), I didn't really enjoy how the book was written. I felt like Maas rushed through everything and, as a result, you feel not only like you're on a treadmill running very quickly (and getting nowhere) but you're left with very shallow observations. I'm going to leave this one up to you - the subject matter was really interesting but the writing style was mediocre at best.

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