After weeks of working on her own against Leviathan, Peggy Carter has finally become part of the team at the SSR. She has fought for the respect of her peers, worked to prove her ability and consistently points her coworkers in the direction of the proper baddies time and time again. It seems that finally, her rebellion will gain meaning as Dottie and Dr. Ivchenko attempt to use Howard Stark’s inventions to destroy New York City with Peggy poised to stop them. But, while the perceptions of Peggy Carter have shifted, the Patriarchy will not unravel at the bidding of a single woman. Even as Peggy saves the day once again, we are reminded of the confines within which she operates, and of the value placed on gender biases by the society she lives in.
spoilers ahead, sweetie…
The Power of the Patriarchy
The concept of the patriarchy has been around since Virginia Woolf first expressed desire for a room of her own. Veronica Beechey writes, “the concept of patriarchy has been used to address the question of the real basis of the subordination of women, and to analyse the particular forms which it assumes…At the most general level patriarchy has been used to refer to male domination and to the power relationships by which men dominate women”. In 1940s America, the Patriarchy referred to the systematic degradation and under-appreciation of the contributions of women to society, post-WWII. While women began to work more regularly outside of the home in the 1940s, work was clearly segregated by gender, with domestic fields and routinized, repetitive actions characterized as “acceptable” work for a woman.
While male coworkers and employers accepted women into the workforce, it was with disdain and a distinct lack of respect. Single women like Peggy Carter were expected to quit the workforce once married and married women were discouraged from working and fired if and when they became pregnant. Although Peggy has revealed her strengths to her coworkers at the SSR and earned the respect of her peers, she still dwells in the feminine sphere designated by larger society and therefore cannot escape the cultural limitations that are in play all around her.
The Demobilisation of Peggy Carter
The Post-WWII workforce saw a demobilisation of, not only soldiers coming home from war, but of women transitioning from “men’s work” to gendered jobs and, of course, the position of homemaker. Peggy lives in a time during which women are not allowed equal rights and are repeatedly disregarded in order to maintain the status quo and the power of the patriarchy. For Peggy, this means becoming a mother/martyr/saviour to her male coworkers and never receiving any more credit than a warm round of applause on her first day back in the office. While the sentiment is thoughtful and important, it is quickly overridden by the fact that, when Senator Cooper attributes the foiling of the Leviathan plot to Agent Thompson and not a single coworker attempts to correct him. Sousa is, of course, the exception.
Sousa, who is a victim of the war and societal standards, may be the only person in the SSR who is able to appreciate Peggy Carter for all the facets of her personality and who does not judge her based strictly on gender. Although he does hold some sexualized feelings for Peggy, which most likely shapes the way he interacts with her, Sousa continues to recognize the need for gender equality within the SSR and will remain an ally to Peggy, (hopefully) regardless of her apparent lack of romantic feelings toward him.
Peggy Carter and the MCU
Dr. Ivchenko/Johann Fennoff has been captured and is currently in an SSR prison with Dr. Arnim Zola as a bunkmate. Dottie got away, and Howard Stark finally remembered that he had, indeed, slept with her at some point. Peggy and Angie have moved into one of Howard Stark’s apartments and, now that Angie knows Peggy has a secret identity, I anticipate their relationship becoming more complex. Peggy’s adoration for Captain Steve Rogers comes full circle in this episode, and the final scenes harken back to the very first episode of the season, in which we see Peggy mourning the loss of her friend and love. Jarvis returns Cap’s blood to Peggy because his integrity will not allow him to do otherwise, and she then dumps the fluid into the Brooklyn River. Peggy is allowed a final moment to indulge in legitimate emotion without the judgement of her peers. While she spent much of the episode making her male counterparts look good (which annoyed me to no end) in this scene, Peggy reminds us that the values she shares with Captain America do not call for valor or reward, only that the job get done.
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