Analyzing gender relations within “Mad Men”

How is the character of Betty Draper influenced by the patriarchal structures and gender roles of the 1960s?

Essay, 2014

10 Pages, Grade: 1,7



Table of contents

1. Introduction ... 2

2. Second-Wave Feminism and the concept of Patriarchy ... 2

3. Betty Draper within patriarchal structures ... 5

4. Conclusion ... 8

Works Cited ... 9

1. Introduction

In the following research paper I will focus on the American TV serial “Mad Men” (AMC, 2007-now). In the course of our class we discussed several aspects of the award-winning show and I was most fascinated by the sexual politics and the dynamics of the female-male relationships of the characters. Therefore, the focus of my work will be on the gender relations within “Mad Men” and more precisely on the character of Betty Draper.

It is my aim to analyze the character of Betty within the patriarchal structures she finds herself in (chapter 3) and this analysis will be the main part of this paper. Prior to Betty’s analysis, chapter 2 serves to clarify the concepts of Second-Wave Feminism and Patriarchy since they provide the historical background and theoretical framework. The last part of the paper will be the conclusion, followed by a list of the cited works.

I hope that this term paper contributes to answering the question of how the character of Betty Draper is influenced by the patriarchal structures and gender roles of the 1960s. Finally, it is to be said that I will exclusively focus on Season 1 of “Mad Men” and that given the 6-7 page maximum a more in-depth analysis would be possible.

2. Second-Wave Feminism and the concept of Patriarchy

The concept of second-Wave feminism provides the theoretical framework of this research paper. The first season of “Mad Men” is set in 1960 and therefore on the verge of Second-Wave feminism since that particular period of feminist activity first began in the early 1960s in the Unites States. It is pivotal to take the specific time frame into account when analyzing the gender relations in “Mad Men” since “it is also necessary to understand feminist identities as the product of specific historical contexts” (Hollows 2).

As previously mentioned, the 1960s and 1970s were a crucial time in the Women’s Liberation Movement and this period is referred to as second-wave feminism. Feminism in general describes “a form of politics which aims to intervene, and transform, the unequal power relations between men and women” (Hollows 3). Feminists during these times fought for equality and freedom, some of the key issues being equal pay, equal access to education and job opportunities, economic and legal independence, sexual freedom, sexual violence against women and the access to free contraception and the right to abortion (Hollows 3-4). In 1966, activist Betty Friedan founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) which “fought for legal reform in order to give women the same rights and opportunities as men” (Hollows 4).

By the late 1960s, the Women’s Liberation Movement came to see patriarchy as the root of unequal gender relations and “the cornerstone of all women’s oppression” (Hollows 5). In conclusion, feminist activists demanded an overthrow of the patriarchal system. Patriarchy refers to a societal system where “every avenue of power within the society … is entirely in male hands” (Millet 25), e.g. the military, industry, technology, political office. Cranny-Francis et al. argue that a patriarchal system is “a social system in which maleness and masculinity confer a privileged position of power and authority” (14) and in which “women are, by definition, excluded from positions of power and authority” (15). Ultimately, this leads to a society “whereby that half of the populace which is female is controlled by that half which is male” (Millet 25). This sociological concept is also described as male hegemony: male hegemony “refers to the widespread domination of men in the social, economic and cultural spheres” (Cranny-Francis et al. 16).

Excerpt out of 10 pages


Analyzing gender relations within “Mad Men”
How is the character of Betty Draper influenced by the patriarchal structures and gender roles of the 1960s?
Humboldt-University of Berlin  (Department of English and American Studies)
American TV Serials: The Wire, Mad Men, Homeland
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ISBN (Book)
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analyzing, men”, betty, draper
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Anonymous, 2014, Analyzing gender relations within “Mad Men”, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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