Sorry for so much Mad Men, but as my blogging stint approaches its end, I wanted to complete my little triad on the women of Mad Men - and I'm a little worried lately about Joan.
I'm worried because the last time we saw her she was no longer wearing that hairpiece and her walk was more tentative than usual. I'm worried because she married that frat boy douchebag which everybody says is so 60s of her except, I don't know about you, I seem to know a lot of otherwise redeemable women who married fratboy douchebag. (Some of them even had humanities degrees!) Most of all, I'm worried because Mad Men has tucked her away into some kind of "lost causes" sock drawer in terms of both screen time and character development.
Now, let me be clear: I have a difficult relationship with Joan, and more particularly with the way the show holds her up for us to fetishize. She's sooooo curvy! Look at her red hair! She wiggles so elegantly! I hate that the show uses her to do a lot of ass shots that, uprooted and placed in the context of a Gossip Girl or a Desperate Housewives, we would simply call gratuitous and let it be a day. I hate that Mad Men gets a pass on them because Christina Hendricks is gorgeous. I mean, she is gorgeous, but even though she is not a stick figure and there is value in having a woman like that be extremely sexual on the small screen, it still saddens me that she gets pigeonholed as the "bombshell" who is there for contrast with "plain" Peggy. The show, in other words, more or less leers at her, all the time and unapologetically - much like Roger does!
It's hard to be a consumer of media these days and not encounter the work of author and multi-media journalist Farai Chideya. She founded the online journal Pop + Politics in 1995 (practically a lifetime ago in online years); authored three nonfiction books that chronicle some of the most pressing social justice issues of our time; appeared as a political analyst on CNN and other media outlets; and hosted NPR's "News and Notes," a daily program about African-American issues that ended too soon in a rash of budget cuts by the organization.
Now Chideya has published her first novel, Kiss the Sky, which is the story of Sophie Maria Clara Lee, a "book-smart black girl from blue-collar Baltimore" who graduates Harvard, achieves rock stardom, and then struggles with love, the music business, family, alcohol, and her own stubborn melancholy.
Page Turner talked with Chideya about her journey to publishing a novel, the autobiographical connections between herself and Sophie, feminism and personal accountability, her decision to talk more openly about her depression, and a crucial question for the next generation of feminists.
It’s a natural, normal part of life. But people hesitate to talk openly about their needs, their desires, and their concerns because they are so fearful of what others might think. But we all have urges, and we all have questions, and the more we can talk about them, the happier and more fulfilled we all will be. It should be a joyful, tender, and esteem-building part of life, not a source of confusion or shame. Yet it’s hard to get a handle on it, because although there’s a lot of information out there, much of it is judgmental, misinformed, or quite simply false.
When i was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, it didn’t matter that my parents were some of the earliest feminist leaders on the East Coast, that I grew up watching their activism from up close, or that I saw them live (not just profess) equality between the sexes. It didn’t matter that I was a girl hooked on Ms. magazine from the very first year it was out, that I regularly flipped through my mom’s copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves, or that I ravenously collected Wonder Woman comic books.