8 Life-Affirming Quotes From Mad Men‘s Joan Holloway


1. “These men. Constantly building them up, and for what? Dinner and jewelry? Who cares?”

This rings of so much truth, and it’s almost mind-blowing to me how many of Joan’s quotes from a television show based primarily in the 1960s still can resonate so strongly with women today. I never understood how girls I know, girls I love and respect, put up with men who treat them so horribly. And it’s not just putting up with them, it’s putting their guy’s needs before their own. Boosting their ego, making sure that their own level of success and badass-ery in no way overshadows their boyfriend’s. And for what? A nice meal? A text message? A cocktail? A diamond ring? Not worth it. Joan knew this, and that’s why she told her man-child husband Greg to GTFO. Be with someone who builds a platform for you both to stand on. Don’t wave to them from the ground.

2. “Men don’t take the time to end things. They ignore you until you insist on a declaration of hate.”

Has anyone in the history of the world described the “slow fade” as vividly as Joan Harris-Holloway? Never. If you have never experienced the slow fade, then you are a liar, because everybody has had this happen to them, or has faded someone else out of their life. The “slow fade,” for those feigning ignorance, is a process by which you gradually begin to ignore someone you are dating until the line of communication goes dead, so you don’t actually have to break up with them. The slow fade is a shitty thing to do in any situation. It’s the cowardly way out. Most people do this to avoid confrontation — they don’t want to explain why they want to end it, so they just choose not to. And that makes people crazy. And angry. And mean. And thus, mutual hate is born.

Her character, while certainly not perfect, has a near perfect understanding of what makes the men of Sterling Cooper (Draper Pryce) tick, and what drives them to do what they do. The men Joan know the best operate from a place deep within them filled with arrogance, a smidge of cowardice, a lot of ignorance, and sometimes, malice.

3. “I’m not a solution to your problems. I’m another problem.”

Game recognizes game, and no one has more game than Joan Holloway-Harris. While I believe Roger Sterling loves/loved Joan in his own way, more often than not he uses her, I think to make him feel younger, more alive. Joan knew that it is the actual worst thing when someone uses you to fill some vague void in his or her life. Usually, people will try to make you their solution when they are fresh off of a break-up. They act like you’re what they wanted all along, but in reality, they need a rebound, a quick fix to make them feel like they’re not alone. Never let yourself be someone else’s temporary solution. Be something complex. Have needs. But, most of all, be something substantial.

4. “This is why I don’t allow crying in the break room. It erodes morale. There’s a place to do that — like your apartment.”

I am of the firm belief that everyone needs a good, healthy cry once in a while, but for the love of god, please sob in private. Public crying is uncomfortable, and I’m sorry, but I never know what to do when someone bursts into tears in front of me. And ladies, please note — it’s not fair, but once you cry in the office, you will ALWAYS be the girl who cried at the office. Take it from another #girlboss, Kelly Cutrone, and if you have to cry, go outside.

5. “That’s life. One minute you’re on top of the world, the next minute some secretary’s running you over with a lawn mower.”

This isn’t just my favorite quote of Joan’s, it’s my favorite quote from Mad Men in the history of the show. Joan says this to Don at the hospital while they are waiting for Guy, a British rep from the agency’s managing firm who was slated to take over as Head of Accounts at Sterling Cooper before Lois the Secretary ran his foot over with Ken Cosgrove’s John Deere at the office anniversary party. God bless this show.

This quote is the best because from such a specific situation, Joan manages to capture a fatal human flaw so perfectly. Cockiness. When you let yourself get too comfortable, and you begin to think you’re invincible, more often than not, that’s the exact moment where things will fall apart. With this hilarious bit of Joan wisdom, I am always reminded to keep a level head, that anyone is replaceable, and that you should always value where you’re at, because it’s probably better than in a hospital bed with tire marks on your foot. Also, she made Don laugh, which was the greatest.

6. “They can’t stand it. They’ll drag you into the garbage out there. They just want you to be as miserable as they are. I say let them have it.”

You know, it’s really true. Misery does love company. And when some people see a smart, successful, sexy, sassy, confident woman, sometimes they want nothing more than to tear you down. An example: When I lost nearly 70 pounds over the course of a short year or so, I expected people to just simply be happy for me. This was foolish. Because a small group, mostly random acquaintances, began to treat me with something I can only describe as poorly concealed disdain. Like, “she thinks she’s so great now” or “big effing deal.” I was hurt. But then I realized some people will always be more comfortable if you are miserable. If you stay in your own box and never try to improve, you’ll never have an opportunity to overshadow them. If these are the types of people who call themselves your friends, then who needs them? Let them have it. If they are so concerned that you will dull their shine, never let them share your light.

7. “You want to be taken seriously? Stop dressing like a little girl.”

One thing you can say about Joan: Girl. Has. Style. When Peggy Olson started at Sterling Cooper, she wore a never-ending parade of schoolgirl jumpers, and (so help me god) pigtails. Joan took it upon herself to put an end to this immediately. While it should be said that what you wear should have no effect on the perception of you as a person, the cold truth is that in the workplace, it absolutely does. If you want to be treated like an adult, dress like one. If you want to be respected, demand it with the way you carry yourself. One of the great things about Joan’s workplace style is that it’s never vulgar or inappropriate for an office. She dresses sexy, sure. But that’s who Joan is. And although her good looks are a huge asset for her, she doesn’t simply rely on them. She carries herself with the gait of a woman who takes zero shit, and she doesn’t. That office would fall apart without her, and she presents herself as such.

8. “Joanie, I don’t want to have a fight right now.” – Joan’s husband, Greg

“Then stop talking.” – Joan

LOL, this was incredible. Greg was really the worst, and no match for the formidable Joan. Here, Joan taught me: If all else fails, Shut. It. Down. There’s no use arguing with stupid people.

Honorable Mentions:

“It’s a very brave person that does something anonymously.” 

“Sometimes when people get what they want they realize how limited their goals were.”

“Your sandwich is making me sad.”

“One day you’ll lose someone who’s important to you. You’ll see. It’s very painful.”

featured image – Mad Men