-Trigger warning about rape and domestic violence. Spoiler warning up to Season 5, Episode 3 of Mad Men-
Joan left her husband, Greg, in Mad Men. She informed him that he is not a good person, and that he wasn’t a good person even before his most recent action and “you know exactly what I’m talking about.”
And as a viewer? Yes, yes we did. We watched, horrified and disgusted while he raped her. And it was, undoubtedly, rape. Even though they were in a relationship. Even though she later married him. Even though she was dressed like she ‘wanted’ to be raped, as a charming fellow put it in season 4. Even though she had a history of sexual promiscuity. Even though she at times used her sexuality to get her way.
We knew it was rape, and it was a very uncomfortable scene. Ever since, I have been wanting her to leave him, wanting her to call him on it. Wanting him to pay for what he did to such a smart, capable, in control woman.
But she made the choices that a lot of people don’t understand. She stayed with him despite the attack, she went on to marry him, and she kept quiet about the details.
Relationships are complicated and personal. In Mad Men, we’re not shown a lot of the relationship between Greg and Joanie, but we are shown a heartbreaking scene before he leaves for war in which she laments that she won’t have someone to talk to. Maybe this is why she moved past the rape. Maybe this is why she married him. He made a mistake, but he was her best friend. Her confidant. The person she could turn to when she couldn’t trust anyone else.
Mad Men is generally a subtle series, so we likely will never know why Joan made the decisions she did, but we can still support her while not supporting her decisions.
Other posts you might enjoy:
(Role)playing the Victim - Every victim deals with their issues in their own way, and acting like there is a right way to act only prevents people’s healing.
Infantilizing Women in the Name of Feminism - When we try to make choices for all women, we’re saying we don’t trust women to decide for themselves.
Jobs and Choices - We have personal reasons for choosing our careers, and sex work shouldn’t be considered the choice for the choiceless.