August 9, 2012

WOMEN: The Agony & the Ecstasy

Remember the phrase that, thanks to tobacco, became iconic to the women's movement? Forget for a moment that it uses the derogatory term "baby" in reference to a grown woman - at the time it was launched, it was appropriate. So I was thinking about that recently, while catching up with old episodes of the TV show Madmen via the Internet. Madmen, in case you haven't heard of it, epitomizes New York's Madison Avenue ad industry in the 60s. Having spent my career in this industry, beginning a decade later, I can vouch for its accuracy. In fact, it's so close to reality that it makes me cringe.

Madmen clearly and accurately depicts the chauvinism of the times. Women are dismissed, disrespected, treated as sexual objects and put down in their homes and the workplace. They are yelled at, pawed over, insulted and ridiculed. It was the same in my experience - I don't remember being sour about it; I kept my nose to the grindstone and did my job. That's just the way it was.

So I was feeling good about how far we've come, in terms of establishing ourselves as independent members of society. There's less pressure to be married and have children, if we choose not to. There's more equal-opportunity employment, even if salaries or promotions don't always reflect it. There are more women in prominent positions, leadership roles, and as successful entrepreneurs. Enrollment by women in certain professions (law, medicine, engineering) has increased significantly. Men are embracing their parenting role, shaking off outdated stereotypes and loosening up their need to be in control. This is all good.

Then I woke up to this image in this morning's Globe & Mail. I guess this is just the universe reminding me that equality, like free speech, has to be all or nothing. Go get 'em, gals!

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