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Is Maureen Dowd Necessary?

I do not much care for Maureen Dowd. I tend to avoid her column, and, when I do skim it, it’s sort of like an 8-year-old sticking her tongue on a 9-volt battery: If it offers any pleasure at all, it’s the perverse pleasure of a reliable irritant.

I should have known better than to read her article in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. I fully expected to be exasperated, and I was not disappointed. But I was surprised by just how boring and insipid the piece was. Just a few sentences in, I found myself thinking, “She is totally going to quote Helen Fisher,” and I was totally right. Helen Fisher is the go-to girl when you want to bolster your sexually Manichean worldview with a little evolutionary psychology. She is also, in my opinion, a poor scholar and possibly a bit of an idiot—in her abysmally stupid The First Sex, she explains that women are valuable networkers and team-builders in the business world because of they’re so wonderfully chatty and delightfully social, for example (I don’t recall if she makes any specific mention of their ability to brew coffee and organize office birthday parties, but I’m sure she would have if she'd thought of it.)

And Dowd’s certainly not saying anything that hasn’t been said a thousand times before. Indeed, the entire article is utterly devoid of new or newly provocative material, unless we feel that Ms. Dowd and her lady friends are so smart and fascinating that oft-repeated truisms about the war between the sexes only become meaningful when they issue forth from their particular mouths. It’s hard to believe even Ms. Dowd’s prodigious gift for puffery could spin this crap into 352 pages.

The decision to run this piece was, I think, either a product of Ms. Dowd being too powerful for the editors of the magazine to refuse, or it was an example of the Times having its head up its ass—and I realize that these are not mutually exclusive. A point-by-point critique of the article seems ridiculous to me—in part because it would be longer than the article itself, and in part because it practically critiques itself. If you’d like to enter into an thoughtful and interesting discussion of Are Men Necessary?, the meaning of manhood, and the plight of the nice guy, you should check out these postings and their related comment threads over at Obsidian Wings.

[THANKS TO TED—A NICE GUY WITH A SMART, INDEPENDENT, AND DEEPLY SARCASTIC WIFE—FOR THE OBSIDIAN WINGS LINK.]

November 1, 2005 | Permalink

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