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Dowd on . . . Something

Man oh man is Lindsay Beyerstein mad about Maureen Dowd's book excerpt. Amanda, too. I'm not sure Dowd was really trying to say what they think she was saying. Indeed, it's rarely clear to me what Dowd is trying to say, and giving her greater length to expound her ideas doesn't seem to have alleviated that. What I will say is this: The news that the feminist movement has not, in 1.5 generations' time, succeeded in achieving everything one might have hoped is not really that big a surprise when you think about it. Consider how the civil rights movement must have looked in 1905 -- so full of bright promise just 40 years ago, now wracked on the inevitable shoals of racial realities. And yet today Rosa Parks has a state funeral.

October 31, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

I actually agree with some of Lindsay's commenters-- it seemed to me more like MoDo was criticizing women for playing along with this crap. It certainly jibes with my own experiences (except for the fabulously high-powered career part, anyway), in that there are plenty of men who just prefer placid, accommodating women, the kind who are smart enough for social events, but not too challenging one-on-one. I'm still not sure whether I should give kudos for his honesty to the one man I knew who admitted it (and a fine New England liberal type he was, too) or curse him for making me so consciously aware of it. Guess it doesn't matter, because at that point I just chose to continue to be challenging & to avoid faint-hearted men... it did shrink the dating pool considerably, but ultimately saved me a lot of angst & resentment.

Posted by: latts | Oct 31, 2005 11:26:46 AM

man, I can never figure out what Dowd's point is.

maybe it's "I'm glib!" whee!

Posted by: ted | Oct 31, 2005 11:55:08 AM

there are plenty of men who just prefer placid, accommodating women, the kind who are smart enough for social events, but not too challenging one-on-one

What do you mean by "too challenging"? To pick a nit, everyone who's "too" anything is undesirable -- it's a tautology. More relevantly, "challenging" carries, to me at least, a sort of confrontational air that really has nothing to do with why I would want to be in a romantic relationship. Not because of my belief in male superiority, but because I'm not interested in having a partner deliberately approach our romance as a political action.

Lindsay's point is that men who don't like successful, fully actualized (what an awful term) women shouldn't be let off the hook, and she's right. But that doesn't mean that some of the tactics and arguments used by feminists for asserting their rightful social equality aren't occasionally off-putting for men, slaves to social convention and our own egos such as we are. As with most fights over people's innate but impolitic preferences, it boils down to the advocates being too defeatist (Dowd) or too impatient (Beyerstein).

Give it time. Fight the law, fight corporate policy, fight institutional sexism. But don't fight people's personal preferences -- you're just going to piss them off.

Posted by: tom | Oct 31, 2005 12:32:57 PM

But don't fight people's personal preferences -- you're just going to piss them off.

I don't; better to just let them meander on to a more peaceful existence with a Mrs. Them who takes care of the social minutiae & childrearing decisions and follows on the big stuff like religion & politics (yes that's an overgeneralization, but a pretty observable standard in many marriages). I was merely surprised when an earnest, bright liberal told me that I was what he thought he wanted, while a good friend was simply easier to be around (which she was, and his misfortune was that her pleasing demeanor did not indicate any particular interest in him... but I digress). For the record, I'm actually pretty easy to live with once the ground rules have been negotiated & established, but it is true that what some have considered mere flirtatious sparks are in fact a core element of my character.

In any case, I'm spouting too much today; this was not meant to be a confession so much as a rare moment of agreement with Dowd on a social/cultural issue. The point she was making was that being an opinionated woman, never mind a professionally or financially superior one, is more often a detriment than an asset in the dating world. And I concur, although younger men tend to be a bit more adaptable.

Posted by: latts | Oct 31, 2005 12:57:50 PM

Feminism has been remarkably successful. 57% of people in college are women. That is a pretty amazing change since the fifties.

This also means that the problems Dowd is talking about will only get worse. It is going to be hard for some of these college educated women to find men more succesful than themselves.

I don't really see people's preferences in marriage partners being all that mutable. It is a really bad idea to marry someone you are not actually attracted to.

Posted by: Joe O | Oct 31, 2005 2:41:19 PM

this is neither here nor there, but is Dowd married/partnered? Seems like it would be relevant to this topic, actually.

Posted by: Saheli | Oct 31, 2005 3:01:53 PM

Ms. Dow(n)d typifies what all of us neanderthal types despise in today's woman.

She's a jerk.

She's miserable, hateful, obnoxious, argumentative, obsessed, manic-depressive, and possesses a large vocabulary that she uses as a broadsword intead of as a scalpel. Mostly she is so completely wrapped up in her own feelings and sense of victimhood to even have a clue that anyone else has any feelings.

She's the kind of woman who'd swoon over any attention from unfaithful dogs like Bill Clinton or Brad Pitt (who fake the whole "sensitive thing" while treating women worse than any redneck).

However, if some perfectly harmless geek who would be a faithful, decent dude who'd kiss her butt at every opportunity just to be with a women looked at her wrong she'd have him strung up in a second for sexual harrassment.

I shudder when I imagine being around her. No one wants to "be challanged" at home. Life is too hard for spending your resting moments engaged in mental judo with a cerebral rottweiler that has been weaned on a diet prescribed by NOW and the ACLU.

A man doesn't mind being subtley engaged in conversation but few enjoy wrestling with a beast over a mouthful of fresh meat. That is what being around Dowd would be like!! A pitbull. Maureen the PitDowd. Who'd want to spend time around that!!!

It's not about her being intelligent, but every intelligent and educated woman I have met in recent years has had the same attitude: She's now in charge because men are the problem and she is going to explain in great detail to every man she meets why he is crap. If he is cute and he agrees with her on his crappiness, everyone will get along fine. Otherwise his life is about to take a turn for the worse.

Guess what? We have rights and egos, too. We have the right not to have to expose our fragile egos to being mishandled by the likes of the PitDowd. Life is too short to waste our time that way.

Posted by: wayne | Oct 31, 2005 4:23:06 PM

I remember reading somewhere that she is indeed available for the right, left modern man, but I am not 100% sure.

Posted by: Nonna | Oct 31, 2005 4:28:32 PM

Wow Wayne, poor you. We will all write to Ms. Dowd to send you some home-baked cookies and ask the rest of us not be such heartless bitches. Had no idea that you guys were suffering so!

Posted by: Nonna | Oct 31, 2005 4:41:07 PM

I was listening the the radio in the car the other day and an ad came on for a Halloween party for teens (18 & older I assume) called 'The Pimp and Ho Ball'.

I kid you not!

This sort of thing does make me wonder. I think Dowd is on to something. I think the version of freedom dished up to young women today is stank.

Posted by: camille roy | Oct 31, 2005 5:08:07 PM

Well, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only person who can't make heads or tails of what Ms. Dowd's point is in this essay.

I'd just like to note a couple contradictions I find particularly hard to get my head around. The first is the "intimidating" one. Dowd claims men avoid her and other smart women because they're too "intimidating." But this comes only paragraphs after an extended discussion of the rules, the need for women to play hard to get to keep men interested, to appear uninterested themselves, and to seem too busy and important to care that much. But wouldn't this rule-sy approach make a woman seem **more** intimidating?

Slap me stupid--after all, I'm just a girl anyway, so what do I know--but I've never understood the notion that the way to attract people was by acting aloof and too cool. I mean, we're not in middle school anymore so the "the coolest people are also always the nastiest" principle really should no longer applly. No one likes to get their heartstrings sliced open, and basic human protective interests make most people, at least those without grotesquely bloated egos, more willing to approach someone who seems at least a bit open to being approached: accessible, friendly, genuinely interested in other people and the world beyond themselves (not in an "I NEED A MAAAAAAAAAN" way, as some of my friends do tend to be, but just interested in life). These are all qualities, I'll point out, that make one's own life much more enjoyable anyway, regardless of whether or not they attract a mate (although they should attract some interesting people).

I'm also amused by the juxtaposition of a sociologist's claim that "honesty doesn't matter" in courtship being followed by an extended discussion of how young women today are more committed to making marriages last--honey, "forever" is a looooong time to pretend to be something you're not--why do you think so many marriages end in divorce.

And I love the fact that Dowd claims her female friends are all clamoring to borrow her "how to catch a man" book--since clearly it's worked so well for her.
****

There is something, though, that I think is worth taking away from Dowd's comments--I feel like images of womanhood are becoming more polarized--Increasingly girls and young women today are given an "either or" notion of what their options are:
--Either you can have a career or be a good mother
--Either you can be chaste, practice abstinence, hue to the commands of the religious right, or you can be a slut who sees no consequence in sex beyond momentary physical pleasure and the ability to manipulate men
--Either you can be a "Rules" girl or a clingy, needy woman who scares away all men who come near her
--Either you can be an angry, man-hating harridan ranting about how women are victimized, or you can accept things like a good little stepford wife and say how hopelessly passe feminism is.
(Let me point out that I don't think any of these "choices" are real, but I do think that culture presents them as the options that are available).

So many girls are presented a picture, or an array of pictures as options, of what it means to be a woman today that leaves no room for an adult, satisfied, evolving, happy woman. Maureen Dowd, Lindsay Beyerstein, Amanda Marcotte--we should all be angry about this.

Unfortunately, by just rehashing the littany of crappy choices, Dowd does nothing to support the case for better ones.

Posted by: flippantangel | Oct 31, 2005 6:56:27 PM

Calvin is dismayed because he "lost" his previous comment in cyberspace and has to start over. But, Calvin believes that, oft times, things happen for a reason. Perhaps, it was because he wrote a piece of crap or tried to communicate something that didn't come across very well. In any event, Calvin is left somewhat confused. Should he even attempt a response? Afterall, in the cat world, things are pretty well prescribed. This excerpt would not appear in "Cat World."

Should Calvin, as a cat, and a male one at that, even think about entering the fray? Calvin believes that he has some insights, but like some males, is reluctant to share them at the risk of being stereotyped. Calvin has observed that women like to verbalize their feelings as an emotional catharsis and as a means of processing. More often than not, men, trying to be sensitive and helpful, jump into the musings with answers to the perceived problem(s). That is not what women want. They want to be listened to. Most of the time they are not asking for you to solve their perceived problem. Most of the time they already have the solution and it's better than whatever the male can offer.

Is it that men are wired differently? Do they merely like to interrupt women? Or, do they feel that help is being asked for and wanting to do the right thing, do their male thing? Perhaps, it is merely listener fatigue? Calvin does not pretend to have the answer but does think that a variety of answers are possible depending upon the situation and the people involved.

Having read the exerpt only once and not having given it much thought, Calvin, nonetheless, is reminded of the Chaos Theory of management. Perhaps, Ms. Dowd is pointing out the many directions that women are pulled in on a daily basis. Not to mention the various roles and layers that abound in the environment. A difficult, if not, CHAOTIC environment. How does one make sense of it?

Calvin's simple theory is that in order to live a mentally healthy life, one has to be able to predict the future. Most humans (and cats) don't want to really be out of the box. We need to know where the edges are to maintain our sanity.

However, for all of the efforts made to stay inside the lines, there is far too much going on that does not fit neatly into the box. Or, if at one time it does, at another, it doesn't. Thus, the search for Prince Charming and living happily ever after. Neatly proscribed roles. Or, perhaps for the life of the Cleavers or Ozzie and Harriet? All very nice fairy tales of ideal behaviors and lives that exist only in myth.

Calvin has observed that women are quintessential optimists. Or, is it that the story of Prince Charming has been inscribed indelibly in the brain. In any event, women continue to seek out males for relationships and procreation in a family environment, preferably in a castle. Women are doomed to a life of seeking the ideal man because that is perceived to be the cultural, if not biological, imperative.

Thus the confusion of which Ms. Dowd has written. Here is the ideal to be achieved, but there is no road map guiding one down the primrose path to the promised land. Women should not battle each other over weapons and tactics. One is not superior or inferior to another. Ms. Dowd seems to be saying that there is, for women, chaos out there. Chaos and no road map or fixed plan of battle. It's as if Rummy was referring to the so-called battle of the sexes when he said that he had to go to war with the army he had. He did, but then the game changed.

Calvin thinks this should strike a chord someplace.

Posted by: calvinthecat | Oct 31, 2005 10:00:32 PM

You know Calvin, considering that I was Hobbes for Halloween (or more like Hobbes' oversexed little sister) your Calvin is a Cat schtick is very distracting.

Posted by: Saheli | Nov 1, 2005 12:38:05 AM

Dowd's article certainly makes fascinating reading for its intended audience: unfortunately, its intended audience seems to consist specifically of a spoilt, privileged, university-educated, never married, childfree, highly paid, enormously visibly successful, attractively salon-assisted flame-haired, pop culture junkie and fiftysomething female Washington-based NY Times op-ed writer looking for a boyfriend in or around November, 2005.

And there is nothing substantive in her article that couldn't be blown out of the water next week if she suddenly hooked up with a great chap. (Headline: Patience Is Still A Feminist Virtue And A Girl's Best Friend!)

I couldn't agree more with flippantangel's brilliant grumpiness about the bewildering contradictions in Dowd's piece.

As for Dowd's complaint that she has somehow been "hoaxed" by feminism: frankly, it would make the original suffragettes choke on their force feeding tubes.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder | Nov 1, 2005 3:43:22 PM

How can you complain that marriage is like a concentration camp and then whine that nobody wants to marry you in the same article?

Posted by: badteeth | Nov 1, 2005 8:55:16 PM

God, could you imagine reading a whole book of this stuff.

"The news that the feminist movement has not, in 1.5 generations' time, succeeded in achieving everything one might have hoped is not really that big a surprise when you think about it. Consider how the civil rights movement must have looked in 1905 -- so full of bright promise just 40 years ago, now wracked on the inevitable shoals of racial realities. "

It seems to me that the feminist and civil rights movements achieved exactly what they should have. Women have the option to pursue a career exclusively or not at all. Or somewhere in between. But they don't have the option to subvert reality and say that being a national known columnist doesn't require a lot of time. Or that having a relationship with a man or having a baby doesn't also require a lot of time.

And you know, men may look for lower status women because women are looking for higher status men. Dowd's complaint isn't that some turd hasn't wanted to marry her, it's that some super successful New York lawyer hasn't wanted to marry her. Women treat lower class men differently than they treat higher class men. Other than being lower class, that's not the man's fault.

Posted by: Chad | Nov 2, 2005 8:37:20 AM

Or that having a relationship with a man or having a baby doesn't also require a lot of time.

Yet lots of men still get to live in a world where they're not expected to devote a lot of time to having a relationship with a woman, or to their children (yes, yes, there are certain physical aspects related to how babies typically enter the world that require more time, physical commitment and sacrifice from women than men, but the biological/physical arguments for this, at least those not reached by torturous games with Evolutionary psychology, end a lot sooner than 18 years out).

THAT is what at least some of the frustration is about.

Posted by: flippantangel | Nov 2, 2005 10:12:13 AM

Flippantangel,
You've kinda lost me on your last comment - and I'm trying to follow your thoughts...
I assumed Chad was, first, saying Dowd was idiotically ignoring the reality of her own position; that she's used her all time and energy to achieve spectacular career success on her own terms, and she hasn't devoted anything like the same effort to establishing a great relationship, let alone doing the kids bit. Hence, her "anti-feminist" whining about it being cold at the top is all a bit much.
Possibly I'm being thick here?

Posted by: Jody Tresidder | Nov 2, 2005 10:32:53 AM

Jody,

Sorry for being confusing. What I meant was that I think women are still expected to sacrifice a lot more for the sake of and put a lot more into a relationship than men are. How often do you hear people talking about men still being single because they aren't willing to put as much energy into their relationships with women as they are their careers? No, women are expected to suck it up and settle for less. Perhaps it's our own (women's) fault for settling for less from men... BUT, Women who demand as much attention and support from men they're involved with as men routinely assume they'll get from women are seen as needy and clingy (like Kate Hudson trying to scare of what's his name in "How to Lose a Guy in 10 days") and men avoid them. It's a Catch-22: if we're obviously putting a lot of energy in, then guys freak out and disappear, but if we're alone when we don't want to be it's our fault for not trying hard enough.

Does that make more sense? If you disagree, I'd love to hear your counters or advice on how to personally balance this.

btw, is this You've kinda lost me on your last comment - and I'm trying to follow your thoughts some kind of insult I'm too dense myself to understand?

Posted by: flippantangel | Nov 2, 2005 1:52:14 PM

flippantangel,
Agree entirely with you: it's just you were compacting your thoughts for brevity first time round - and I was being a bit dim...
And, no, the "kinda lost me..etc" certainly wasn't a coded insult!
I was genuinely aiming - a little clumsily, in retrospect - for a chummily enquiring tone.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder | Nov 2, 2005 2:26:44 PM

Near as I can tell from reading Maureen's article, her main objection to feminism is that it takes all the fun out of buying things, whether a woman is spending her own money or her escort's.

Speaking of the latter, I have been a little surprised that no one has weighed in with a comparison to another recently published work on male/female social mores also written by someone with a New York Times connection: Neil Strauss' The Game. Never paying for a woman is axiomatic for the (self-proclaimed) Pick-Up Artists the book profiles. They take this stance for two reasons. One is that to get women into bed, a guy has to be different from all other guys. Since most or all guys pay, don't pay. The second and more relevant reason here is that paying is a classic "shit test." What's a shit test? It's defined as "a ... demand ... made by a woman intended to gauge whether a man is strong enough to be a worthy boyfriend or sexual partner ..." Taking the demand at face value - paying, in this case - is to flunk the shit test. A guy brands himself as run-of-the-mill, unimaginative, manipulable, unable to extricate himself from a woman's querelousness, etc. What's funny about this is that Maureen - the big, fat, highly paid and much-feted cultural observer and social philospher - makes the ferrety pick up guys look very intelligent because she has several informants saying in plain English, basically, "yeah, it's a shit test." This seems to have escaped the media and political powerhouses Maureen and her friends go to bed with while some horny junior college guys with their shirts untucked and their baseball caps on backwards seem to have figured it out no problem.

Posted by: NickTheMod | Nov 6, 2005 3:07:31 PM

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