Two Perspectives on Women in the Workplace

Both these cartoons display gender discrimination in the workplace and how being female can change the attitudes of employers and superiors. The cartoon from a 1958 Playboy (vol. 5, no. 10) illustrates a man sexually harassing an unamused woman with one of his fantasies. It is possible that this cartoon is critical of the man. However, both the time period and the nature of Playboy as a magazine push the idea that this cartoon is supposed to be amusing or arousing for the viewer. Unwanted sexual advances at work were only made legally actionable in 1964 under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and this was due to lawyers and advocates convincing the American judiciary that harassment was gender discrimination in the first place (MacKinnon and Siegal, 8).

On the other hand, the cartoon from The New Woman’s Survival Sourcebook is certainly critical of the man in how he treats the woman. Rather than being humorous, the cartoon intends to express the difficulty in finding work as a woman and how employers will use convoluted reasoning to avoid hiring women. As described by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique, “fewer and fewer women were entering professional work” in the 1950s to the 1970s because there was a large societal push to keep women in the home (Friedan, 46). Aided by Friedan, the Second-Wave Feminist movement in the 70s would work to challenge this push and combat sex discrimination in the workplace (Maclean, 24). Cartoons like the one from The New Woman’s Survival Sourcebook were drawn during this movement to call our attention to the inability of many men to take working women seriously. This criticism reframes the cartoon from Playboy. From a feminist viewpoint, it is the man who is now seen as unprofessional and incompetent.


MacKinnon, Catharine A., and Reva B. Siegel. Directions in Sexual Harassment Law.          Yale University Press, 2004.

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. Norton, 1963.

Nancy MacLean, The American Women’s Movement, 1945-2000, Bedford/St. Martin’s,        2009

Playboy, vol. 5, no. 10, HMH Publishing Co., 1958.

Grimstad, Kirsten., and Susan. Rennie. The New Woman’s Survival Sourcebook                  Edited by Kirsten Grimstad, and Susan Rennie. 1st ed., Knopf, 1975.