Mad Men – Women and drinking

Women and Drinking

An oft-repeated line in Mad Men goes like this:

Don Draper: Let me ask you something, what do woman want?
Roger Sterling: Who cares?

Sexist yes, but a sign of the times. Yet the times are a changin’ for women (and the Dons and Rogers of the world) and you can see it in the character’s habits. Women who smoked and drank were not new, but middle class suburban house wives who did so openly, as a sign of sophistication, of women’s progression, was. Women have always worked, but they were beginning to break out of the traditional subservient roles of catering to their male bosses. Of course, as Peggy finds out, she still has to prove she is one of the boys to gain acceptance into their rarified world. Anyone remember the “You’ve come along way, baby” smoking ad? Marketing smoking and drinking to women as the choice of the empowered and emancipated – free – is a lucrative business, but at the cost of smoking-related deaths and alcohol-related chronic disease.

Mad Men – Did they really drink like that?


They drink like mad, they smoke like mad and they chase women like mad. Is it any wonder Mad Men is so addictive? Whether or not they really did carry on like that back then is a topic much discussed in media. Some say it’s not possible to drink like these characters and still function, while others in the advertising business remember these days  and see them as wonderfully accurate. The era was before my time, but I once had a conversation with a friend who was raised in Don Mills, Canada’s first planned community. Her mom was a suburban housewife, a role depicted as somewhat oppressive in Mad Men, and when her businessman father returned home from the office, her mom had the cocktails ready. Today this lifestyle seems like a cliché, but it really was another time, before we knew that smoking kills, and that drinking beyond the low risk drinking guidelines can harm our health.