Whether or not it was a “feminist show,” Mad Men broke ground by spending so much of its time zooming in on the experiences of women, specifically experiences related to misogyny. From office hostility to restrictive roles in suburbia to power dynamics on dates and in marriages, the show left no stone of sexism unturned. As a result, recaps, essays, and water-cooler discussions about the show became an entryway to talking about all kind of gender-related issues. For a large group of writers — one that included but was not limited to TV critics — Mad Men helped fuel discussions on sex, rape culture, harassment, internalized sexism, race, class, reproductive rights, sex work and more.
As the show draws to a close, we asked some of our favorite feminist writers to name a moment or plot arc from Mad Men that resonated with their experience or understanding of gender relationships and roles — whether it was a positive development, like a character finding affirmation, or a disappointment that felt incredibly real. Find their answers below.
For the record, my own most treasured moments all involved Peggy feeling free and powerful enough to cut loose, whether she was rollerskating, making out with her (soon-to-be) Jewish boyfriend at a hippie gathering in a loft, carrying Burt Cooper’s provocative art through the halls of McCann,or, of course, smoking some marijuana.