This week at The Atlantic's website, I have a piece about sexism in the advertising business in the 1960s. Excerpted from a much longer memoir I'm writing about my parents—both Mad Men-era agency creative types—the piece shows a less sociopathic, more empathetic side of the sexism of the era.
In a memo announcing my mother's departure from the agency where they worked—she was leaving to get engaged to him—my father praised her as one of what he called the "Vangard of Versatile Ladies":
There was a time not so long ago in this business that, with a few exceptions, women writers were regarded as extravagances, as somewhat expendable specialists who were brought in to write recipes for homemaker ads, give cleaning tips, or otherwise write giggly girltalk. And no one took them very seriously.
I think they might have gone along that way for a long time, if some smart ladies hadn’t come into the business and proved to it that, in spite of their sex, they could be every bit as imaginative, versatile, and thus valuable, as their male counterparts.
Impossibly sexist. Yet, it was 50 years ago. And it was, after all, a declaration of equality.
Speechwriter, how is it now? Like Faulkner's past: Is sexism dead? Is it even past? Let's talk. —DM