Peggy’s portion of “Far Away Places” is Mad Men at its feminist best: a representation of sexism that encourages viewers to reject sexist attitudes.
This episode situates viewers in Peggy’s shoes, represents her as competent and powerful, and then slaps sexism smack across her face. We are meant to be angry on her behalf. We are meant to be on her side. She is the protagonist.
Here’s what happens:
After the bean buffoons reject THEIR OWN IDEA, Peggy goes Don Draper on their asses. She is eloquent and forceful and flippant and refuses to back down.
We’ve seen this arrogant, irreverent approach time and time again with Don, and had this been Don’s presentation, there is no doubt that the old white bean men would have capitulated. But this is not Don, this is Peggy, and she is utterly shut down — and in an explicitly gendered way (emphasis mine):
“Can you believe this girl?” and “Miss, you’re lucky that I have a daughter or I wouldn’t be so understanding.” (What does that even mean?)
As Matt Weiner puts it: “Peggy has this moment where she tries to be Don and fails, and then goes on Peggy’s version of Don’s day: sexually irresponsible, and drunk, and working.”
Peggy may fail at embodying Don the Creative Director, but she succeeds at embodying Don the Abrupt Leaver of Work, Don the Substance User, Don the Impulsive Sex Haver, Don the Abrupt Returner to Work.
And here’s what’s awesome: at no point during Peggy’s post-presentation escapades does the show portray her as stupid, weak, or pathetic.
I particularly liked the moment when the episode cut from Peggy giving a hand job
She doesn’t linger in the bathroom, gazing soulfully into the mirror and reflecting on her shameful shame at having engaged in a sex act with a stranger. She washes her hands and heads back to work.
Progressive representations of sexism and a sex positive approach to woman’s sexual encounters: these moments are the reason I watch Mad Men.