Jessi Lee Gaylord's Reviews > Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the '60s and Beyond

Mad Women by Jane Maas
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Apr 24, 2012

Read in April, 2012

Mad Women: What the fuck do you mean “sexual harassment” didn’t exist yet?

I was counting down the days until the new season of Mad Men with my panties in a bunch, when I picked up the book Mad Women by Jane Maas. Maas was both a copywriter and a creative director at Ogilvy & Mather in the penis-slinging hustle of the New York advertising world in the 1960s. The book articulates the agony of ecstasy of a career woman in the misogynistic though mesmerizing world of advertising, but readers, with a penis or without a penis, will like the wit and insight the book gives about advertising’s history and evolution, its campaign philosophies, bad habits, artful departure, its sex, drinking and genius.

All that Drinking, Smoking, Sex? Really?
Yes, yes and yes, says Jane Maas. In one chapter, she gives birth and holds the newborn with one hand, while she smokes with the other, in the hospital bed. She says Mad Men fans always ask if they really drank as they do on the show. “Most people drank most of the time,” she says. “It was the custom then to drink before eating, during eating, and after eating. Then everyone came back to their offices at about two o’clock and went to work. Those lucky enough to be finished by five and able to leave went to a bar and started right in again.”

What the fuck do you mean “sexual harassment” didn’t exist yet?
Maas relates one experience with a creative director (described as Draper-esque and good at his job) who harassed her for weeks. She couldn’t tell anyone because this was “before sexual harassment existed.” The thought of facing a workplace before sexual harassment became a noun is terrible, as in terrible-terrible.

We had our sexual harassment training at work and everyone was grumbling about the lame videos showing “Chad” telling “Shelley” she has a “great body” and bullying her to go out until she starts crying in the HR office (Maas says there was no such thing as HR in the 60s). Chad had this autistic look on his face the entire time; I think it was supposed to confuse people about whether he was being a borderline rapist without knowing it somehow or he was just a downright sociopath. Dudes at offices the world over get that stupid look on their faces whenever they unwittingly or wittingly make women uncomfortable. Idiots. Of course, women are also idiots about the exact same topic.

Sometimes it turns out that Shelley is wrong about Chad. Like the time this IT guy was fixing my computer and he was like “wow, your mouth moves really fast” and his voice seemed to be coming straight out of Barry White’s lips with cheesy porn music playing in the background. Gaylord that I am, I stormed off into the bathroom instead of confronting him, but at the sexual harassment premier, I turned around and glared at him for about four seconds too long. Last week he was at my desk fixing something and he’s like, “wow, your mouse always moves around so fast. Doesn’t it drive you crazy? You should like totally get a mouse pad from the mailroom.” Sometimes, the difference between mouth and mouse makes all the difference in the world. But I guarantee somewhere in the world there is a Chad harassing a Shelley right now. I can’t imagine how terrible it must’ve been for the Shelleys in the 60s.
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