The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

15 November 2005

Your daily Dowd

Thoughts from Lindsay Beyerstein:

No doubt misogyny influenced some people's assessments. The more interesting question is whether the discussion itself is framed by underlying sexist or misogynist assumptions. Are we treating [Maureen] Dowd unfairly because she expresses herself in a stereotypically feminine way? I would argue that Dowd deserves the criticism she's getting, but that there are a lot of equally frivolous men in the media who are allowed to coast on sexism because the public is irrationally predisposed to see their contributions as serious and important.

Some stereotypically feminine characteristics deserve to be criticized, not because they're associated with women, but because they're intrinsically undesirable. [Dowd-like elision here.] If your life prospects depend on your looks, it's only natural to be preoccupied with your personal appearance. If manipulation is the only tool you've got, every job begins to look like an opportunity for feminine guile.

A variation on the hammer/nail thesis. I'm not persuaded that manipulation is the only tool in a woman's belt, so to speak, but when you know something will work, there's a tendency to use it.

It's true that certain attributes are systematically devalued because they are associated with femininity. However, we shouldn't give women a free pass to behave in ways we wouldn't approve of generally. In an ideal world, David Brooks would be dismissed as frivolous and self-absorbed, too.

What? You mean he hasn't been?

Props to Beyerstein for insisting, quite properly, that double standards suck. But I must say a few words on behalf of frivolity. In general, those who turn up their noses at it have failed to grasp an essential concept: life is not supposed to be serious 24/7. And the context doesn't matter all that much, either: gallows humor isn't always tasteful, but it's funny, and under those circumstances, you need all the funny you can get. I suppose I could fault Maureen Dowd for not conforming to the stereotype of the perennially-unamused industrial-strength feminist or for not fully comprehending the Hundred Years' War on Terror, or David Brooks for, um, not thwapping E. J. Dionne upside the head some afternoon on All Things Considered, but what would be the point? No, they're not answering the Ultimate Questions of Life, the Universe, and Everything, but then they're not supposed to. Life is the journey, not the destination; what I want is a travel guide with a sense of humor. Then again, I'm frivolous and self-absorbed. (Ask anyone.) Does this disqualify me for writing for The New York Times? Probably not. (Lack of Official Credentials and an inability to make up stuff on the fly, on the other hand, probably would.)

I leave for someone with greater psychological insights than I — which presumably wouldn't take much — the explanation for why I've spent so much time on Maureen Dowd this month.

Posted at 11:07 AM to Warn Mode Due


... she's a hot lefty babe. C'mon .. you want her ... BAD (Note to would be attach flamers: Chaz gets this joke :) )

Posted by: Ron at 11:14 AM on 15 November 2005

It's interesting that for all the time you're spending on her, she doesn't seem to be enjoying it as much as you are...

[ducks]

Posted by: McGehee at 12:51 PM on 15 November 2005

I don't give a damn about sexism. In fact, I think I'm in favor of it.

When I hear a woman talk the way this one does, I walk the other way.

Some crazy woman talking Marxism is always best avoided.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas at 12:55 PM on 15 November 2005

[ducks]

Were those the ducks getting the oil bath from Andrea?

Posted by: CGHill at 3:43 PM on 15 November 2005

I have to wonder ... what do you think the odds are of a male author getting a book entitled "Are Women Necessary" published? Zero?

The more I learn, and the more I read about "famous" elite columnists and journalists, the more convinced I am that most of them are far less fabulous than they think they are. MoDowd is at the very top of that list.

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at 9:56 PM on 16 November 2005

If it's not zero, it's awfully close, and they'd have to market it as humor to avoid the wrath of the usual suspects.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:18 AM on 17 November 2005