The Sexist

Sexist Beatdown: Mad Men, Child Rape, and the Problem With Sex Speculation

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Was Kater Gordon fired following a gay lawnmower pee accident?

Last week, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner fired Emmy-winning writer Kater Gordon. The week before that, Late Night comedian David Letterman admitted to having sexual affairs with women on his staff. The week before that, film director Roman Polanski was finally detained after raping the 13-year-old model he had hired for a Vogue shoot. What do these incidents have in common? If you said "probably nothing," you would be wrong!

Apparently, when three famous Hollywood men make news within a one-month period—whether the news concern rape, sex, or normal managerial decisions—those men are doomed to be nonsensically linked in the public consciousness forevermore! To wit: Linda Hirshman titled her Double X post on the Letterman scandal "Bad Sex: Letterman, Polanski, Ensign, and Edwards." (Sorry, Linda: one of the above ain't sex!) In a post on the Gordon firing, Kate Harding wrote for Broadsheet,"In the wake of the Letterman scandal, [the] question lurks." (The question: Sexy times??) And Gawker's speculation on the Gordon-Weiner dust-up lists a "strictly unprofessional relationship" as its first firing "theory." (Nevermind that that makes absolutely no sense!)

By the Hollywood gossip transitive property, that means that Matthew Weiner probably fired Kater Gordon because . . . child rape, somehow! And because this is Mad Men we're talking about, Gordon's firing MUST be eerily reminiscent of the booze-soaked hyper-sexual office story-line of at least ONE of the television show's beloved characters!

In this week's edition of Sexist Beatdown, Sady of Tiger Beatdown and I implore you to join us as we take a trip down the sexual speculation rabbithole, only to find that: (a) real life ain't Mad Men, and (b) once again, with feeling: RAPE ISN'T SEX.

AMANDA: So, Kater Gordon and Matthew Weiner. Hittin' it?

SADY: um, probably! because she worked for him! and got promoted! and then didn't work for him any longer! those are all solid proofs of Hittin' It, right? i could use them in Hittin' It Court if I wanted to.

AMANDA: Personally, I think that the number one indication that they are Probably Hittin' It is that David letterman had sex with some lady!

SADY: i know, right? IN THE WORKPLACE! I think we must therefore assume that everyone in the workplace is hittin' it, all the time. i feel bad about not caring that much about the letterman thing. i mean: i get that there was a BIG-ASS power difference between letterman and his assistant. there is a big-ass power difference between david letterman and a lot of people. but until we know that there was not sexual harassment or quid pro quo stuff going on there, it's just another story about somebody cheating on somebody to me. and i am familiar with the fact that people cheat on each other. and not that scandalized by it. i do watch "mad men!"

AMANDA: I agree. I don't care about that or Jimmy Kimmel or whatever that is. Whenever those stories come up, everyone scrambles to "ask the questions" about whether the boss abused their power, whether the employee benefited from the relationship, whether there was coercion etc. But I think REALLY people just want to hear more about the details of their romance. ad in the case of Kater Gordon, their imagined made-up romance

SADY: yeah, exactly. you know my favorite thing about all this? is the parallels drawn between letterman and polanski. like: WOW, there are a lot of "SEX" "SCANDALS" going on, what with these two getting up to their morally equivalent no-goodery! but the kater gordon thing is just fundamentally wrong because we have no evidence of it. no evidence of coercion, and no evidence of a talentless young harlot being promoted due to her relationship with The Boss.

AMANDA: Right? I read one comment when the Letterman thing broke that was like, "Roman Polanski should send David Letterman flowers." And I thought, how awkward would you feel being David Letterman receiving flowers from a child rapist because you had consensual sex with a grown woman?

SADY: haha, yeah. and, i mean, i don't know whether the kater gordon/weiner Imaginary Romance and the jimmy kimmel Actual Romance are getting so much play because people are just wanting to hitch onto that sweet "sex" scandal gravy train or what.

AMANDA: people seem almost embarrassed to bring it up. all the critiques i've read have used passive language like, "parallels between weiner and letterman have been raised" in order to raise the issue themselves

SADY: right. but the parallels between weiner and letterman which ACTUALLY EXIST is that two young women worked for them, and were promoted to high-profile positions. and, you know. whatever the lady on Letterman had going for her, talentwise, is a debatable question. but Gordon would seem to be legitimately deserving of promotion.

AMANDA: yeah, and it's extremely insulting to both the boss and the employee when commenters say, "why would anyone promote a woman? fucking, maybe?"

SADY: right, especially when her skill is so demonstrable. "oh, we know you got that emmy for that episode we all liked WITH SEX! and then the episode magically became good and forced us all to write positive reviews of it BECAUSE OF YOUR SEXINESS!" it's refusing to give her any credit at all for her work.

AMANDA: except for that dream sequence in The Fog. Not so great. But my favorite comparison here is when people draw parallels between Weiner and Gordon and plotlines on Mad Men. Like, what if Gordon IS PEGGY OLSON? OR, what if Gordon was Freddy Rumsen, and was fired for pissing herself? ORRRRR what if Gordon was Sal, and was fired for not having gay sex? Spoiler.

SADY: what if she were that dude who got his foot run over with a lawnmower, and was fired because she couldn't play golf any more? DO WE KNOW KATER GORDON HAS FEET? has anyone seen her golfing lately?

AMANDA: hahaha. yeah. the take-away from that is that people just really love the show so much they want it to be REAL. but that's kind of fucked up, considering the source material.

SADY: yeah, exactly. the thought is that since it's about a workplace where people are always cheatin' and drinkin' and smokin' there must ACTUALLY be some chicanery going on, because otherwise the beautiful dream of a sexist, racist office that smells like cigarettes and freddy rumsen's pee will seem all too unattainable.

AMANDA: yeah. i mean, maybe she had sex with the actor who plays Duck. it's possible!

SADY: yeah... but does this mean that the people who wrote "star trek" did it all on a spaceship, too? but, i mean. honestly. the Mysteries of Her Dismissal are one thing... and i get mad when talented women are fired from shows, even when i don't like them, as with the SNL Lady Quota. but i can't help but feel that the people who are weighing in to be all "PROBABLY BECAUSE SHE AND MATTHEW WEINER HAD NAKED TIMES HUH" are, um, not helping. that's the saddest part of this: that, for some reason, we still can't think of women as just part of the workplace. even though the whole point of "mad men" is that we're So Beyond That Now. i still feel bad for not feeling bad about the letterman thing, though!

AMANDA: i personally feel a little bit uncomfortable about my disinterest in that also, because if i were working for a company where my coworkers were fucking my boss, that would be a problem for me. although, maybe you don't know until some crazy dude extorts your boss for 2 million!

SADY: ha, yeah. i mean, i don't think i'd ever feel comfortable fucking someone in a position to fire me. i would not feel like i was that person's equal. and i don't think that it's possible to separate your sexual relationship from your professional relationship to the degree that some people might hope, and that can result in unfair treatment. BUT, there's no reason to think that boss/employee relationships are ALWAYS uncomfortable for the employee involved, or that they're always predatory.

AMANDA: right. it's also probably nobody else's business except for the people involved, which is the main thing.

SADY: exactly. it's not like this is someone in a position of public office, who holds accountability to All of Us. at worst, we might not want to hang out with David Letterman any more. which: good news! David Letterman doesn't want to hang out with any of us anyway! neither does Matthew Weiner! PROBLEM SOLVED.

AMANDA: and that's fine, because DESPITE SUGGESTIONS TO THE CONTRARY, he does not seem half as charming as Don Draper.

SADY: right. he seems like more of a bert cooper to me, in fact! maybe he fired kater gordon because she wouldn't take her shoes off. PROBABLY, RIGHT?

AMANDA: prb. prbbbbbb! haha! i cannot type any longer!

SADY: that or her sterling-esque blackface routine, which i think we can all agree was inappropriate.

Photo by Carin Baer, via AMC.

  • Lauren

    AMAZINGLY PUT.

  • Christina

    Are you serious? So far I love that you are bringing up an issue but the issue here is not what you are writing about. The one thing the media fails to address about sex, rape, and child rape issues is that it's not focusing how a victim is being victimized. In fact a lot of these cases blame victims and sometimes put the spotlight on the perpetrator and totally dismiss the reality of rape culture. "Oh its soo bad you did this but yet we don't care about the victim and what actuallyhappened" is the message I am getting. That is something that I don't like seeing but is an unfortunate and constant reality in the world of the media.

    -Psychology major
    -Media studies minor
    - Pro-advocate for sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, and oppression in general.

  • Linda Hirshman

    Simple proposition:
    Bosses like Letterman promote underqualified female bedmates to highly desirable positions. This is ok by you.
    The next time a woman achieves something in the workplace, people speculate it's because she's Lettermanning the boss.This is terrible, by you.
    Let me know when you've figured out the value of consistency in argument.

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