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    • Disney Explains That The Reason Poor Working People Are Poor Is Executives
      One of the most extraordinary threads I’ve read recently is Abigail Disney doing the math on how Disney corporation could raise the income of its bottom tier workers. I’m sure the math is complicated. And no one is complaining about pay at the middle and upper levels of the company. So let’s say you just […]
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“She’s doing it the way she wants to do it”: Abramson vs Mad Men

Peggy Olson questions herself

Woot!  Talk about timely.  Matt Weiner batted one out of the park last night with Mad Men.  He encapsulated in one episode what many woman go through in the working world every day.  Quick summary: Peggy Olson is the creative for an ad for Burger Chef.  Through a series of unfortunate events, Don, her former boss, now works for her.  Pete, the sales guy, says that when it comes time to give the presentation to the client, he thinks Don should give the presentation, not Peggy.  That’s because Don is the voice of authority, Peggy brings the emotion.  She’s the woman and therefore the Mom voice.

Fans who have followed this show since the beginning must have snorted their G&T through their noses at that statement.  Peggy deliberately rejected motherhood because she “wanted other things”.  But it’s not the motherhood/emotional part of Pete’s stupid assessment that’s important.  It’s that Peggy is NOT the voice of authority, even though she’s capable, bright and in charge of the strategy.

This is what Jill Abramson and other powerful women have been facing.  No matter what their title says, they are ultimately not the voices of authority.  Some dude is.  In Abramson’s case, it was her publisher.  Sulzberger has recently come out saying that it wasn’t gender that forced Abramson out but her management style.  Well, of course!  She was probably just crazy enough to believe that when it came to management decisions, she would get the final say because she was the executive editor.  Instead, I’m guessing that every decision she made was questioned.  If everything was going well, it was because she had talented people working for her.  If a decision went wrong, it was a zillion times worse because she was the agent who made it happen.

Hey, Pinch or Punch, or whatever your silly nickname is, we have seen this play before.  Her authority is only relevant when it turns out wrong.  If everything is going right, she doesn’t get any credit at all.  How many times have I been to presentations where a guy talks and he’s given praise and helpful suggestions.  He even gets to finish.  But when a woman gets up to talk, it’s perfectly Ok to talk over her, force her to explicitly detail every decision and calculation, and then point out the flaws bit by bit until the end can’t come too quickly, if she’s allowed to finish at all.  I’ve even seen male underlings do the dirty work of tearing into a female rival’s work with the ferocity of a Rottweiler while the rest of us sat in stunned silence.  It’s rude, vicious and serves to strip a woman of all authority.  She can’t help but question herself.  What crime did she commit to merit such a public dressing down?  There’s no reason for it except competition.  And they do it because it works.

So, yeah, it’s very simple to make every management failure to look like the biggest mistake in the world if you train enough eyes on it, don’t hold back on the disrespectful criticism and don’t stop the nasty criticism once it starts.  Men are allowed to make mistake after mistake.  Their mistakes don’t count unless the company or top brass is embarrassed, like Howell Raines embarrassed the NYTimes by hiring and promoting Jayson Blair.  But a woman is NEVER allowed to make mistakes because her authority is already so shaky that anything that goes wrong doesn’t look like a learning experience but a catastrophic failure.   That’s a perfect way to inhibit creativity.  Just drop a house on someone the minute they take a risk and get it wrong.

But back to Peggy and Don.  Don was her mentor.  Yes, yes, this is fiction.  But in last night’s episode, he turns up at her office and gives her, not the answer to ad, but something far more important.  He helped her believe in herself and her instincts again.  He gave her the support she needed.  In the last scene, she has the confidence to go on and do it her way.

Now, it’s just a TV show, fergawdssakes, but come on, guys, we’re fricking half the population and it’s the twenty first century already.  Mentor your female colleagues and when the challenges to her authority start flying (and they will), stand up for them.  Is that so much to ask?  Otherwise, you might end up with this guy:

Obama Arrives In New York

 

Instead of this woman (who everyone now seems to want desperately):

 

Yeah, that went well.

*********************************************************

Speaking of Hillary, now that Tim Geithner is out with his book featuring himself as the savior of the global financial system while the rest of us, you know, suffer in the name of shareholder value, let’s look back to the time when one of the presidential candidates proposed saving the homeowners (as authors Atif Mian and Amir Sufi assert was a missed opportunity):

 

So there you have it, folks.  We saved the banks but doomed the economy and many unemployed peoples’ careers due to what may turn out to be an insufficient number of Penis Years.

Now, I realize that there are going to be some bloggers on the left that will roll their eyes and laugh and insist that it was a lot more complicated than that.   I will not deny that many of them were victims of a stellar campaign that convinced them to vote against their own best interests and that campaign should be a textbook case of a social psychology experiment in situational influence that we should all study.  But when it comes right down to it, penis years had a lot to do with it.  We are condemned to suffer by a bunch of dicks.

 

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Mad Men: Don Draper meets the Button Moulder (as do we all)

IBM computer- 1969

We’re heading into the final innings of Mad Men.  This season is the first of two parts of the finale.  I’m still convinced that Matt Weiner is using Henrik Ibsen’s plays as the foundation of the series.  (plus there was a dead giveaway in season one when either Joan or Peggy mentions Ibsen in passing) You can read more about that connection in one of my earlier posts on Mad Men.

Matt Weiner is a genius.  There are so many levels of Mad Men.  You choose your comfort zone.  Are you only interested in who that sexy cad, Don Draper, is bedding now?  Is your most memorable moment the one where a Guy walks into an ad agency only to lose a foot to a secretary on a riding lawn mower or the one where Miss Blankenship dies at her desk and has to be carried away carefully to avoid the attention of the attendees in a high level meeting going on in the nearby glass walled conference room?  Maybe you’re following the feminist track with Peggy, Joan and Betty.  But at the heart of the series are at least three well known plays by Ibsen: A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler and, most significantly, Peer Gynt, played by Don Draper himself.

I have a few revisions to make to my previous post.  It’s now clear that the role of Solveig from the play Peer Gynt will now be played by Peggy.  This happened definitively several seasons ago in the episode The Suitcase when Don’s friend in California, Anna Draper, dies from cancer and appears to Don as a ghost, suitcase in hand.  At that moment, he has his head in Peggy’s lap after Peggy has stayed up with him all night and has now seen the good, the bad and the ugly of Don Draper’s character.  No one else in the series understands Don Draper as well as Peggy does. His name is unimportant.  She knows his true identity. And to top it all off, Matt frequently shows her in the same shot with a picture that resembles a rising sun in the creative department’s lounge (ex-lounge, but we’ll get to that in a minute).  The symbolism is undeniable and unsubtle.  It also eliminates Betty Draper as Solveig.  Betty is the rich farmer’s daughter who Peer abducts but later finds boring.

Playing the role of Eilert Lovborg, the man who squandered his brilliance on orgies and substance abuse, is Roger Sterling.  He still has a chance to redeem himself.  Betty Draper Francis is reprising her role as Hedda Gabler.  She married a boring but nice guy and seems to be struggling with narcissistic personality disorder.  But enough of that.  Let’s move on to Peer.

Last night, Don met the button moulder in the form of a computer technician who’s installing an IBM computer with an extended lease in what used to be the creative department’s work area/lounge.  In Peer Gynt, the character of the button moulder plays a sort of servant of Death.  It’s his job to melt down the souls of those who are about to die.  The button moulder doesn’t melt the notorious or the saintly.  He melts the ordinary into a great mass.  A person who has never done anything notable or outstanding just gets get added to the melting pot and gets subsumed, forgotten over time, becomes so indistinct as to become nonexistent.  What better metaphor in the modern era for the button moulder than a computer?  I mean, have you tried to get through an HR filter these days?  Even the most accomplished person has a hard time.  To stand out in 2014, you need to be a criminal on Wall Street or Edward Snowden.

So this is how the creative dies, not with a bang but a keystroke.

 

Don Draper is Peer Gynt: Discuss

Let’s go a little Mad (Men) tonight:

Mad Men season 3 starts tonight at 10PM EST on AMC.  Last season left us with some sucker punching cliff hangers.

Its all Friedans fault

It's all Friedan's fault

Will Betty Draper figure out the Feminine Mystique before or after the birth of her third, not-really-planned-or-welcome baby?

Will Peggy write the real book on Sex and the Single Girl?

Helen Gurley Brown did Sex and the City in 1962

Helen Gurley Brown did Sex and the City in 1962?

Can Don go a whole season without cheating on his wife (and will it still be fun to watch if he does?)?

Will Pete become history’s first Angry White Male?

Will Roger figure out that to his hot, young fiance, the sexiest thing in his pants is his wallet?

Will Joan finally realize that she’s the bedrock person at the agency?

It’s 1963 and Camelot is about to end with a bang.

Mix a martini and loosen your garter belts.  The times they are a-changin’ on Mad Men.