Mad Men, Women and Leadership

My husband David and I decided to catch up on some of the T.V. series that we have missed.  The first on our list was Mad Men. While I was watching this purely for entertainment and cuddle time with my husband, me being me, I found myself examining and analyzing what I saw portrayed on the screen.  Intellectually, I understand what women went through prior to the 80’s.  Seeing it portrayed on screen with all of the complexities of character development through a period of time gives it a more visceral and emotional awareness for me.  I was shaking my head and gasping often at the blatant degradation, sexism and general dismissal of the women characters.

I was born in 1966 and grew up in the 70’s and 80’s.  I was heavily influenced by my mother’s beliefs, expectations, and limitations as well as her hopes and dreams for me.  I was also fortunate to have opportunities as a woman that she and many in her generation did not.

In the 60’s, the setting of Mad Men, the majority of women couldn’t earn enough to support themselves therefore needed to marry in order to be “ok”.  They were taught this by their mothers and society reinforced this through limited job availability.  The men are portrayed as viewing women as property and sexual objects and seem to undervalue their contributions to relationships, work, and the world at large.  Because of this culture, women internalized these same attitudes and “competed” with each other for a man’s attention in order to assure their survival, well being and status in life through marriage.

I believe this created an internal conflict in women:  being naturally drawn to one another with a desire to share themselves, their talents, skills, thoughts, hopes and dreams and mutually supporting one another while simultaneously competing, judging and feeling jealous of one another as they attempted to secure their survival in life.  While women now experience mostly equal opportunities we still run into the competition, judgment, jealousy issue.  Women in their wellness and wholeness are inherently supportive, compassionate, and collaborative.  We feel more full when lifting each other up.

When I consider women in leadership, it is no wonder why competition, judgment and jealousy have infiltrated so many of my experiences and from my conversations with other women leaders, theirs too.  My deep desire and need to communicate; to share higher truths; philosophical ideas; psychological musings has always ignited my exuberant and passionate sharing.  When I was younger I was far less conscious of group dynamics and what drove them.  Though a natural leader and communicator I often felt embarrassed, anxious, hurt and/or frustrated by many of my interchanges in groups of women. I would often leave group situations feeling confused and self-conscious—as if I did something wrong, said too much or simply was “too much”.   I internalized these feelings completely unaware that competition, judgment and jealousy were involved.  I couldn’t imagine anyone being jealous because I have always believed everyone has their own gifts and that they are all equally valuable.  My lack of awareness of this dynamic led me to hide.  I tried to dim my light, to be not “too much” so that I could be accepted.

Fortunately we are moving into the Golden Age, a time of collaboration and the value of each unique individual and their contribution to the whole.  I feel we, as women, are called to heal the deep wounds originally inflicted as a result of the patriarchal society.  It is changing.  We are healing.  Taking a look at how we each still perpetrate the negative effects of this paradigm is necessary for continued growth and healing.   As we women heal this wound, the men will heal it too.

If, when in leadership role or situation, we run into competition, judgment and jealousy we have an opportunity to go into compassion for others and ourselves and to model the new paradigm of collaboration and equality.  When our feelings of inadequacy and fear of not being seen, heard, or valued arise we can consciously choose to heal this by recognizing the higher truth.  There is room for us all.  We each are important and have something to offer and share!

We are in the bourgeoning of living in collaboration and celebration of what every woman and man has to offer—a unique, valued life full of gifts and talents meant to be shared.

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