02 November, 2005

A spooky tale

Maureen Dowd chronicles the extent of the backlash in this week's New York Times Magazine, in a piece titled "What's a Modern Girl to do?" Depressing stuff. It has scary Halloween bits for boys AND girls:
At a party for the Broadway opening of "Sweet Smell of Success," a top New York producer gave me a lecture on the price of female success that was anything but sweet. He confessed that he had wanted to ask me out on a date when he was between marriages but nixed the idea because my job as a Times columnist made me too intimidating. Men, he explained, prefer women who seem malleable and awed. He predicted that I would never find a mate because if there's one thing men fear, it's a woman who uses her critical faculties. Will she be critical of absolutely everything, even his manhood?
Having boomeranged once, will women do it again in a couple of decades? If we flash forward to 2030, will we see all those young women who thought trying to Have It All was a pointless slog, now middle-aged and stranded in suburbia, popping Ativan, struggling with rebellious teenagers, deserted by husbands for younger babes, unable to get back into a work force they never tried to be part of?

It's easy to picture a surreally familiar scene when women realize they bought into a raw deal and old trap. With no power or money or independence, they'll be mere domestic robots, lasering their legs and waxing their floors - or vice versa - and desperately seeking a new Betty Friedan.
Good reading, and it certainly raises my respect for Ms. Dowd (about whom I know next to nothing - a favorable first impression).


i'll try to comment/blog more on this when i have time, but for now, i think i mostly agree with this review  of dowd's book.  

Posted by aram

I've seen this excerpt dissected in all kinds of ways (it's ironic, its antifeminist, its profeminist, it's antiman, etc..) by Lindsay Bearstein, Phoebe Maltz, Matthew Yglesias, etc.. As a rule I can't stand Dowd's columns. Her argyle sweater analysis of Wesley Clark was the straw that broke the camel's back. Her style epitomizes what I hate about the column genre in general. But b/c my dislikes are so pinned around the form and structure of her arguments, I'm willing to give a longer chunk of prose a chance. At this point I just need to read the damn thing. I've only gotten through page 2, and so far Echidne (what a great blog name, thanks Aram!) seems on the money.

But about page 2----this whole check-based soap opera is the kind of thing that makes me wonder if me and mine are a different species than the people in the New York style page. Does anyone really psychoanalyze payment that much? These days I'm frequently more broke than whoever I'm dating, so I don't mind if they often take the check. But when I'm not more broke, I tend to take the check. The goal is everyone contribute as much as they can, really, and also no leaching. It's also just pretty random. There's certainly nothing wrong with breaking it in half. Who really cares? As long no one is blatantly exploiting someone else, is this really what people are left thinking about after a date? The freakin' check? Shouldn't they have hours of scintillating conversation, new ideas and new thoughts bouncing around to consider? What kind of dates are people going out on anyway?

And if sarcasm is really so awful, this is probably the end of my line. My best friend in kindergarten and I went to the Mint and the Botanical Gardens on a Datta-family-field trip. I still remember our conversation in the back of the car, kicking my parents' seats. She told me she felt unsafe flying on Delta airlines because they crashed a lot, and I told her what "sarcastic" meant. 

Posted by Saheli

I am intimidated by Maureen Dowd but not by plenty of other high-powered women. Ms. Dowd's problem is that she is not just critical, but hypercritical. I know women who work as activists and reporters and executives who still manage to have a ready smile, a generosity of spirit, a willingness to accept human frailty, that did not seem present in the few times I shared a room with Ms. Dowd. She gave a commencement speech at Berkeley's journalism school last year. It was enjoyable but was overshadowed by a powerful but still funny and self-deprecating speech by a student who dared to be emotionally vulnerable. Go figure.  

Posted by hedgehog

Perhaps this is unfamiliarity with the subject, but surely when Ms. Dowd says sarcasm is not allowed she's being sarcastic. That is, I didn't read the piece as praising post-feminism, but bemoaning it. She seems to place most of the blame for this on the failures of feminists in misapprehending the desires of women, which I think is daffy, but I definitely didn't read it as approving of, e.g, the evo-psych study by Stephanie Brown.

Also, this  was informative about some of the sociology. 

Posted by saurabh

well, it's hard to say what exactly dowd concludes b/c her style isn't so much to make a clear statement as to make a series of witty points.

however, i'm annoyed by (a) her occasional essentialism (e.g. about how men want subordinate women because "There it is, right in the DNA"), (b) when she puts feminism and anti-feminism on the same page at the end with her journalistic faux balance, (c) how she blames feminism for the fact that anti-feminists are still powerful and more generally (d) her frequent reliance on unevidenced assertion.

i like the section heading "irritating fluff" that your linked article uses to describe dowd's writing. 

Posted by aram

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