Forget Mad Men, It's Time for Mad Women

American society is systematically encouraging women to give up financial control.

Now that I have your attention, let me share the evidence…

Exhibit A:  The Princess Problem – you are what you get

USA Today Contributor Laura Vanderkam recently wrote a must-read Op-Ed entitled “The Princess Problem.” The crux of Laura’s argument is that there is a big disconnect between the reality of many women’s financial lives (being the breadwinner) and what they are brought up to expect (getting the glass slipper).  Here are my favorite excerpts:

  • Some moms worry that princesses make girls obsessed with beauty. But I think the problem is that the popular princesses lack what psychologists call an ‘internal locus of control.’  This is the belief that you are responsible for making your way in the world.
  • In one study of negotiations, 85% of men had an internal locus of control. They determined their worth and said it was their responsibility to ensure their companies paid up. Only 17% of women felt that way. More than 80% of women felt that their worth was determined by what their companies chose to pay them, just as Cinderella is chosen by her prince.

Exhibit B:  50% of Americans think women should be FORCED to take their husbands’ last names:

Per, a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association indicated that roughly 70% of Americans think a woman should take her husband’s last name upon marriage and a whopping 50% think women should be legally mandated to do so.  If your blood is boiling… wait, there’s more. goes on to report that when pressed for a reason why women should change their last names respondents said, “Women should lose their own identity when they marry and become a part of the man and his family.” Against this kind of backdrop is it any wonder that Secretary of State Clinton was more than a little miffed at being asked for her husband’s view on foreign policy matters?

Exhibit C:  Paula Abdul says “bye-bye” to being paid significantly less (over 50% less!!) than American Idol co-hosts Ryan Seacrest and  Simon Cowell… and not many eyebrows are raised


Leaving aside the larger issue of how much anyone should be paid for hosting a reality TV show, I was blown away to learn how much less Paula Abdul was reportedly making relative to her male co-stars.  Apparently, Paula was pulling in roughly $3.5 million a year as compared to Ryan’s $10 million, and Simon’s $30 million plus.  These are unconfirmed numbers, but even if they are off by half, the pay disparity is still staggering.

So what’s the point of these three seemingly disparate examples?  The future of our society.

As Judith Warner said recently in the NYT, “Women’s issues are being framed by this administration in terms of realpolitik: U.S. security depends on women’s empowerment. Global economic growth depends on women’s participation.”  Judith’s wonderful piece is a call-to-action to stop the trivialization of all things Hillary Clinton.  I’d argue that the rallying cry should be extended to all women.  Whether by design or by default – our society continues to encourage women to give up financial control and condone pay inequality.  As Season Three of the hit series Mad Men takes to the airwaves, perhaps it’s time for some Mad Women to take to the streets.

7 Replies to “Forget Mad Men, It's Time for Mad Women”

  1. Great post. I hadn’t read about how Paula Abdul was being paid 50% less than Simon and Ryan. If women decided to boycott the program until she got equal pay they would be in trouble.
    Also love the title of this post…a friend of mine and I were discussing how we like “Mad Men” but it makes a a bit sick to our stomachs to see how women were treated in the 60’s and sometimes we need to turn it off because we simply can’t watch it.

    1. Thanks Leanne – I am blown away at how little (serious) discussion there has been in the national media about the pay disparity between Paula Abdul & her male co-hosts. Your point about what would happen to the show if women were to boycott until she got equal pay is dead on. With regards to the portrayal of women in Mad Men, once again so with you. Here’s an excellent article I came across on Twitter (RT/via @nataliemacneil @melissaonline)
      Mad Men: Why Gen Y Women Need To Tune In.

  2. Blood does boil! What’s worse is to see this sort of thing here, in the US! In Asian & Mid-Eastern countries, it is the norm that women are sublimated to their husband and his family. I have felt sad on hearing a friend’s mother tell us that she has no standing in her own natal home, nor has much status in her husband’s family.
    Coming from a matrilineal background, I can’t tell you how much pleasure I take in saying I am from my mother’s clan and so are my children! The more patrilineal a society is, the more the women suffer.

    1. Madhu – I’m so with you. Thanks for sharing your perspective. You might enjoy reading Nicholas Kristoff’s & Sheryl WuDunn’s new book Half the Sky. They discuss this vital issue with much more elegance than I ever could, and back it up with amazing real life stories.

  3. Interesting article. On the Paula Abdul point, I think it would be a stronger point of comparison if you compare her salary to that of Randy Jackson. Simon and Ryan are bigger stars that Paula and are worth more because they’re more entertaining. Paula and Randy are a closer comparison in terms of their worth to the show, so IMHO those are the two salaries to compare.
    (I have no idea who makes more, or even if Randy’s salary is public knowledge.)

    1. Excellent point. So far I’ve not been able to scrounge up anything on Randy’s salary (if anyone else does… do let me know!). For now, perhaps the best way to phrase this is that clearly Paula plays a less role than Simon & Ryon but should her income really have been over 50% less? Maybe yes, maybe no… but it sure is a thought-provoking question to ponder.

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