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
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