Let’s face it, we all like a lot of things that are actually sort of inappropriate. Take, for instance, things like Papa John’s Tuscan Six Cheese Pizza, Family Guy and unprotected casual sex.  We laugh a jokes that are racist, bigoted or otherwise just in poor taste and then feel guilty about it afterward (if you’re like me, you also make a vow not to repeat the joke in order to make up for thinking it was funny for a second).

The “Mad Men” I’m talking about here is of course the AMC Emmy Nominated series about a 1960s advertising agency (this is not a “why do women always go for the bad guy” diatribe).  If you’ve ever watched it or read a review of it or even heard of it, you probably know my conflict here: overt sexism. The series is rife with it; secretaries (that’s what they were called back then!) are sexually harassed, sexuality is used as a weapon by both men and women, and cheating, beating and berating your wife is seen as a milestone in every relationship.

The excuse? That’s the point. Part of the draw of the show, I think, is to see how times they are a changin’ since 1960s Manhattan.  No longer do secretaries administrative assistants worry about what their boss thinks about what they are wearing or who in the office is the most advantageous to sleep with.  No longer do our male co-workers ogle us from the other side of a one-way mirror.  We do not have nicknames like hun and we don’t feel forced to cover for indiscretions in our boss’ personal life.  I don’t keep a fifth of whiskey in my drawer because I know that’s what Mr. Draper prefers.  Best of all, my administrative colleagues and I don’t face a glass ceiling and have just as much opportunity as our male equivalents.

What’s unfortunate here, is that to a large extent, none of that is actually true.  I am not Post-Fem enough to think that that these things don’t happen, at least to some extent, on a regular basis.  While none of my male (or female for that matter) co-workers have ever gone so far as to make me feel uncomfortable in the office, there is still a lot of this happening in offices all around the country. The thought of that glass ceiling pressing down on us is not only very real, it’s stifling, and very much exists.

A large percentage of this may be due to the actual nature of the job. It is the role of the executive assistant to do for the executive what he or she doesn’t have the time to do or learn how to do for themselves. By that very description, we aren’t meant to move on, but to stay forever to make them feel better about their day and handle the stuff only we know how to handle. Like reminding them to eat or go home for instance.

These details of the job haven’t changed, and to some extent, neither has the environment.  Watching something like Mad Men on TV reminds us that on the one hand, things have changed for the better and thanks to things like the Lilly Ledbetter Act, it’s being addressed by the right people.  On the other hand, standing at the photocopier, pencil behind ear, bosses coffee in hand, I sometimes feel very close to my sisters from the 60s.

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