The wonderful scene last night on Mad Men with Peggy and Joan laughing together behind closed doors in Joan’s office was very telling. Two women, who choose to navigate the 60’s in different ways, are able to come together and laugh at men. But only behind closed doors, mind you. Both Peggy and Joan put on “good” faces in public when their boss, Don Draper, announced he was marrying his secretary (and becoming even more of a cliche of 1960’s masculinity). We have seen humor sprinkled throughout Mad Men. A few weeks ago, some lower level ad men drew a cartoon making fun of Joan, and this humor was office-wide, out in the open—primarily because it came from men. Interestingly, Peggy was given permission to fire the man who drew the cartoon. But I surmise that kind of clarity happened rarely (it shows that Draper is capable of thinking outside of the box at times).
The kind of humor we saw with Joan and Peggy last night, (paraphrasing) “He thinks he’s the first man to marry his secretary”….” “I learned a long time ago not to get satisfaction out of this job….Yeah, right!” is typical of outsider humor; humor that has to be shared behind closed doors. It is a way for outsider groups to solidfy amongst themselves who they are and what they believe. Peggy and Joan finally came together to laugh at their plight; and while they are very different women, they now realize they share a bond as they try to work their way up and out of the sexist 60’s culture.
This kind of humor shared by women is now, in the 2000’s, more acceptable as mainstream humor. Thankfully. My book is full of it. And I am finding (some) men love to witness what we are laughing at, even if it is at them.