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Befuddled wisdom from Maureen Dowd…
[Sally C. Pipes] 12/12/05
question New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd poses on the
cover of her new book, subtitled When Sexes Collide. The subject,
often addressed by the Contrarian, is fascinating. Here is
what the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer says about it on page
nine: "I admit I have no answers. But for decades now
I've loved asking the questions…I am not peddling a theory
or a slogan or a policy. I'm always as baffled as the next
plenty of evidence for her bafflement. A freshman thesis replete
with facile reflections on surgery and fashion, Are Men Necessary?
reads not so much like a book as a transcribed cell-phone call
or extended newspaper column, with lots of one-sentence paragraphs.
Some of these show a decent turn of phrase. Others showcase
a rhetorical superficiality and love of affected form that
eclipses any effort at substantive comment. Consider this exhibit: "Girls
are doing everything girls did prefeminism and postfeminism.
No wonder everybody's bumfuzzled."
is the author, lost in her trademark obsession with the pop
zeitgeist, that she ransacks cinematic mediocrities
such as Spanglish and Maid in Manhattan for wisdom. She muses
about the meaning of Barbie dolls, has some fun with Cosmo sex
advice, and digresses into the "beauty bias" that parents
maintain with good-looking children.
Never so content as
when wading into the stale pools of faded celebrity, Maureen
Dowd finds time to query celebrity “experts” like
Carrie Fisher on the need for men. One gets the feeling that
the author readily includes herself in the pop luminary ranks.
This book’s fondness for the vertical pronoun contains
equally many familiar pronouns – and some breathtaking
observations that negate whatever serious case the author wished
to build. For example, according to Dowd, the modern history
of women, can be summed up in three sentences:
Women demand equality
Girls just want to have fun.
Ladies long to loll about.
Adding to her book’s confusion, Maureen Dowd can't stay
away from politics. Given that her fame rests on her 1990s conflation
of popular celebrity and politics, this sad digression is almost
inevitable. Howard Dean, she says, has had "many outbursts
that, if he were a woman, would certainly be labeled hysteria." She
alludes to "Rummy's hot flashes" and "Cheney's
hormonal mood swings."
one of the nation's most distinguished women, is a favorite
target. "Condi set a new standard for dominatrix
diplomacy…[she] always seems subservient to her president
and vice president, a willing handmaiden and untiring spokeswoman
for their bellicose bidding."
As for her boss, George W. Bush, Dowd explains that he is only
interested in women who wear burkas.
In a nod to her own
career-making epoch, Dowd includes some gems from the Clinton
era. She recalls then-Senator Carol Mosely-Braun’s
comment that the story of Monica Lewinsky could be seen as triumph
of Democratic diversity because, "Not so many years ago,
a woman couldn't be a White House intern." It is comforting
to know that "The Clinton bimbo patrol took over and tried
to persuade the public that a twenty-one-year-old intern was
able to overpower the will of the most powerful man on earth
and vamp her way past Secret Service agents to force him to do
her vixen bidding."
Maureen Dowd steers this scattered narrative toward Hillary
Clinton, whom some say would like to be President of the United
"She finished off what was left of feminism, yet remained
a feminist icon," says Dowd. "She rules over 'Hillaryland,'
a cultlike universe of Ellen Jamesians who are determined to
see their warrior queen take back the White House from the hypermasculine
and domestically Dickensian reign of the Bushies."
For her part, Hillary "has been playing the freshman worker
bee rather than the pushy queen bee." Dowd wonders whether
the senator will ever be genuinely independent of her husband
and revealingly ends the book by asking, "Or are men necessary?"
Most probably so, but is Maureen Dowd necessary? One doubts
whether anyone should spend $25.95 to find out, or $24.95 for
A Time to Run, the new novel by Barbara Boxer, one of California's
two female senators. You've been warned. -one-
2005 Pacific Research Institute