Thursday, July 22, 2010

I was Betty Draper

"...too lazy or stupid or unlucky to be the president of the United States"?

I read an article on Salon today called I was Betty Draper and I wanted to share it and a couple of thoughts with the adulthood world.

The author talks about how girls of her (and my) generation were taught to grow up to be Peggy Olson, not Betty Draper but she identifies more with Betty. In case you don't watch Mad Men, (how can you not watch Mad Men?) Peggy Olson's character is a secretary turned copywriter, the first woman in her office to do it in a long time. She is seen as a successful go getter who is going to make it in a man's world. Betty Draper, is a stay at home wife and mother. And she is unhappy.

The author's assertion is so interesting to me: she says we were pushed more in the direction of, "brain surgeon, judge, astronaut"... anything we wanted (or maybe anything our mother's wanted us to be) and definitely not in the direction of a housewife, which is for someone, "too lazy or stupid or unlucky to be the president of the United States".

I totally agree.

Read the article and let me know what you think. Discuss in the comments.


[photo via Mad Men and WhatWouldMarilynDo]


  1. I graduated from college, but I truly find my calling as a full-time wife and mother. This contradicts everything I was taught in my early years. It use to be an honorable pursuit to run the home while the hubby goes to work, but nowadays it feels like people hear me say the words 'unemployed' when I tell them I'm a stay-at-home-mom. The truth is... despite that I'm not on pay-roll, I play an important role in the well-being of my family unit, and I admire/ acknowledge the power and beauty of housewife legacy. Go Betsy Draper!!

  2. Nicole - I think if what you're doing is right for you, it's the right thing to do, maybe we should have had that crammed down our throats instead of "girl power!!"" whatever that means. Thanks for your insight.


  3. My mom looked after us and always worked a fulltime job, we weren't rich enough to manage otherwise - which also meant we didn't have daycare, but somehow we managed. That said, my mom has a lot of respect for her older sisters, and her own mom, who were stay at home mom’s. However, my grandmother had 13 children and a farm to co-manage, and my older aunts are in the same boat (Fun Fact: I have 49 first cousins on that side of the family, not counting their spouses), so a little different than a stay-at-home parent of two-point-five kids in today’s world who does great helicopter impersonations and schedules play dates.

    My most senior aunt recently visited, and while discussing my own job-hunting woes, recounted her own years of job experience: She worked as a secretary for a small marketing agency for five years, before being let go because she was pregnant – and that was normal. She attempted to look for work a year after having her first child, but most people were aghast that a mother, who wasn’t a nurse or a teacher, would bother even trying to work while raising a family. So she stopped, and eventually had seven more kids.

    With all that said, I believe using Betty Draper isn’t an apt comparison for housewives in today’s world, and the Solon blog writer comes to that same conclusion herself at the end of her piece. The writer at least has the possibility to change her situation in life, whereas Betty is bound by a script set in a 1960’s society.

  4. The most wonderful thing about feminism is that it gave us choices. People forget that, they think it was to give us careers, but it wasn't, it was choices. I choose to commit my life to the love and care of others, human or animal, and I don't draw (much of) a literal salary for it, but I don't care because I am compensated in spades with love and respect from those I care for. I remember this every time someone asks me what I want to do with my life and then laughs when I tell them, like it was a quaint joke. I'm happy, and if those people ask the ones I care for how funny and quaint it is, well, we'll see what kind of answer they get.

  5. When I read this, a couple of thoughts come to mind. First, yes of course as a member of this generation, I too feel that we have been raised to be anything BUT a housewife or stay at home mom. And to be honest, this has never troubled me greatly. I'm sure partially because I have been conditioned to feel this way, but I cannot imagine ever making the decision to stay at home and care for my future children. Of course, I should also note that I under no circumstances could imagine myself being a doctor or an astronaut. That said, it is important to remember that this a choice that we all have today. I can understand why so many mothers make the decision to stay at home with their children. I can't even imagine how difficult it would be when your maternity leave runs out and you're left grappling with the decision of who to trust with the care of your new born baby. And does this ever get easier? Only those who have experienced it could say.

    I do find it interesting that lately so many women are making the decision to stay out of the work force and raise their children full time. At USD, where I am employed, we are experiencing this a lot. Several of my coworkers who are in their late twenties and thirties are deciding, rather suddenly, after giving birth to their first child, to resign from their position and stay at home. Now this could be do to a number of things other than simply a desire to care for their baby full time. I think the article touches on the fact that as women, many of us our finding that our careers are not as satisfying as we had hoped. Not only were we raised to believe that we could be anything that we wanted to be, but we were also led to believe that having a career (regardless of what it was) would be a wonderfully satisfying experience. It seems only natural that when faced with returning to a career that doesn't make us happy, we as women might choose to focus 100% of our time on our children, if we do in fact find more fulfillment from that.

    Lastly I'm just going to say that as someone who studies history, this discussion immediately makes me think of all the work that historians have done to demonstrate the monetary worth of housework. As history has moved to include previously ignored groups, such as women, historians have provided ways to value the contribution of women in history. Through their research we are reminded that although women are often in less public roles, working within the home and family, their impact and contribution to society is still important and significant. Perhaps we need a study to demonstrate the impact of stay at home moms and housewives today. That might remind us that the women who make a decision to stay at home are still contributing to society and living their lives to their own fulfillment. We should be thankful that we have so many choices out there today.

  6. Well first of all, we love Mad Men! Second, agreed, women should do what they feel is best for them, and having the choice to make that decision is something it seems Betty Draper didn't have, which is why she's unhappy. Also her husband was lying and cheating on her all the time, that had something to do with it too... but he's so damn handsome how can we resist?! But seriously, a world where women have the option to do whatever they want to do is crucial, alongside appreciating and saluting moms because it's a damn hard job. The Bench salutes all moms who stay at home, all moms who work and all women in general for just being who they are - onward and upward ladies!

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  8. Thank you everyone for your great comments. I'm really inspired by this conversation. Keep contributing!

    I want to add a little something: Toni, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said feminism isn't about getting a career, it's about choices, and people forget that. Despite what woman physically can and cannot do, I see serious value judgements in society about choosing career or staying home. We've changed the general attitude from "It's selfish that she wants a big career" to "she is crazy for giving up here career" and both bring women down. We have the choice, now we need the open mindedness.

    Interestingly, as a military wife, I think I get stereotyped the opposite way than what we are talking about here. It's weird that I haven't quit my job and had babies yet for some people. We have a ways to go my friends.


  9. Very interesting topic!

    When I was reading through this post I was thinking less about it being a female thing and more about it being a money thing. My boyfriend and I talk all the time about what we want to do when we're ready to start a family. It's pretty much been decided that if/when we have kids he will stay home with them. I respect and praise stay-at-home moms/housewives and would love to be able to do that but at the end of the day it's just not for me. My boyfriend is far more maternal than I will ever be. But beyond that it comes down to the fact that he has a career that he could do from home and I don't. At the end of the day, financially speaking, I will have to work.

    Maybe it's a NYC thing but I feel like these days getting to be a stay-at-home mom (or dad) and housewife(husband) is a privilege reserved for the affluent. Back in the day when a woman was expected to stay at home to raise the kids, families lived simpler. Then in the 70's through to today consumerism and a "more is more" lifestyle was shoved down everyones throats as The Ideal and in many households two wages were necessary to "keep up with the Jones'" so to speak. I feel like more and more recently a lot of the younger generation is finally starting to realize the damages this causes on an individual level and on a global level and is starting to revert back to living more simply. Unfortunately with how the economy is now most families rely on two salaries just to get by. Or who stays home is based less on choice and more on who is even able to get a job.

    I am glad we live in an age where women have a choice but we still have a far way to go to where choosing a family/career is a choice that comes without judgement or financial caveats.