Just like we wouldn’t be a feminist blog without Sex and the City references, we also would not be a feminist blog without Mad Men reviews.
Hooked on the exposed sexism, classism, racism, anti-Semitism (and name any other form of discrimination prevalent in the 1960’s), I just bought the first season and I’m devouring it like restaurant critic inhales her first course, simultaneously criticizing every single bite. And my Jewish feminist tongue just got a taste of the intersection of anti-Semitism and sexism.
In the episode “Babylon,” a Haifa tourism agency wants to hire protagonist Don Draper to publicize Israel as a cosmopolitan nation in a time when Israel is only known for grotesque wars that make detached headlines for ad executives to read and discard. That and the exotic women.
The scene I’m focusing on begins with an ad man holding up a photograph of an Israeli woman in uniform, sneering, “Ooh, kill me, you busty Jewess.”
Then, Don Draper follows by lamenting the difficulties of promoting Israel, “We have a quasi-communist state that’s filled with Jews and women with guns.”
And the scene ends with his co-worker holding up a poster of a half-naked woman with “The biggest thing this place has going for it is the people; they’re good-looking. These Jews don’t look like the Jews here. Have you been to the diamond district?”
And now I sit here, realizing how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. In the time of Mad Men, when Israel was just getting started and when Israeli women had the dual role of providing fodder for sexual fantasies of exoticism for American men cooped up in advertisement agencies and also fighting for their country in a way so revolutionary that they were objectified for it, Jewish women faced sexism that is incredibly similar to what we face now. We actually need shows like Mad Men to expose that sexism because such a show mainstreams and breaks down objectification of Jewish women. It’s a freaking ad agency! A bunch of white men are trying to figure out how to sell – literally – Jewish women so that they can make a fiscal profit. It really does not get any simpler, sexist, or anti-Semitic than that. And now it’s time for us to see what still needs to be done.