Sunday, August 3, 2008

Why Does Maureen Dowd Still Have a Job?

The New York Times has got to fire Maureen Dowd. That bastion of liberal media has time and again pushed women and women's issues off to the side (or rather, to the Fashion and Style section), and that has to change as well. But they have really, really got to fire Maureen Dowd. This is a woman who, as Jesse Taylor of writes, "honestly believes every woman in America has the God-given ability to be as stupid as she is, but are just less jaded". This is a woman who thinks it is a "nutty idea" to discuss some of what has been exposed in the primary season: the sexism of the political pundits, of the fact that the DNC didn't stand up to attacks on Hillary Clinton's voice, her "nut-cracking" ways, and the myriad of other remarks -some of which were made by Dowd herself. Dowd gave those remarks credence when she failed to elucidate how absolutely ridiculous statements like, "We are at war. Is this how she'll talk to Kim Jong-il?" after Clinton teared up on the campaign trail, and instead supported the idea that Clinton's tears were unbecoming a president and claimed there was something "Nixonian" about the whole affair. Really? Nixon? Kristen Schaal managed to say how ridiculous that whole tear-gate was in two sentences on The Daily Show: "Presidents aren't supposed to cry? Well, I suppose those are just freedom drops" as a picture of teary-eyed George W. Bush flashed on the screen.

Maureen Dowd seems impervious to the idea that she herself has managed to create some anger and some resentment in her columns, especially when she quotes from Amy Chozick's Wallstreet Journal article about how Obama is too skinny to win women Clinton supporters, and ignores the fact that Chozick apparently started a Yahoo! message thread in order to do "research" for that article. That is what I call having your fingers on the pulse of the Clinton Nation, because people who respond to questions like "Does anyone out there think Barack Obama is too thin to be president? Anyone having a hard time relating to him and his "no excess body fat?" definitely represent the majority of Clinton's constituents. And Dowd, along with many other Obama supporters and quite a few Clinton supporters, seems to be under the impression that Obama automatically deserves all of the votes with no complaints from the women voters who have felt bashed and bruised and marginalized by the treatment Hillary Clinton was subject to on the campaign trail. And I'm one of those Clinton supporters who would rather we all just fall in line and vote for Obama, because he matches up with Clinton on almost every single issue under the sun and because a McCain presidency would be a bit of a catastrophe regarding such trivial issues like environmental policy, economic policy, foreign policy, and -of course- women's rights. But not for one second do I think it is remotely appropriate to minimize what we've learned from this election cycle: that sexism and racism are and continue to be a large motivating force in American society, that sexism is allowed to reign free through the media outlets purportedly designated as "news-gathering organizations", that something ought to be done about it, and the people who feel burned by it should not be poo-pooed or told to suck it up and get in line.

Obama represents change; that is his line, his platform, and one of the reasons for his shining star. Because of that, it doesn't seem nutty to suggest Obama include the devastating affects of sexism in his rhetoric for change. It may not happen, but it doesn't seem 'nutty'. Nor does it seem nutty to expect to open up the New York Times opinion page and not find a woman comparing Obama to Mr. Darcy in an attempt, so it seems, to "explain" to all of those ungracious women voters who may still be angry, why they should -as Elizabeth Bennett does in regard to Darcy- take Obama to their hearts; to explain why Obama should be more popular with women voters, because he embodies the ever-elusive Romantic hero both in temperament and appearance, instead of focusing on -just reaching here- women as informed voters first and overly emotional fiction readers never.

But of course, that seems to be a pipe dream. And Dowd's seemingly strained understanding of Obama herself -is he really proud and haughty, or is that just an "ill-founded and mistaken premise"- is presented as a conundrum all women face. Plus, I have to say, I'm pretty sure she is presenting a version of Pride and Prejudice I myself have never read -a version where Darcy is almost universally acclaimed for his charisma, his charm, and his ability to ensorcell (™ Aaron Sorkin) crowds, and where only Elizabeth Bennett (in this case, women voters who preferred Clinton) just doesn't get it. And for all of those reasons, Dowd needs to either get a clue and fast, or write about those silly women and their silly emotional impulses elsewhere. And maybe the New York Times can get someone who actually seems to respect women; someone like Anna Quindlen.


Mo MoDo said...

Anna Quindlen WAS the token female op/ed columnist for the Times. Dowd got her job when Anna quit to write novels.

petpluto said...

Yeah, I know. But I want more Anna Quindlen-like. Actually, a couple of them, because the whole "token female" thing has got to end as well.

MediaMaven said...

I increasingly wonder why I even read Maureen Dowd's columns because not only do I not get them, but I just plain don't like them. I think I was a fan of hers when I was younger because she was the only female op-ed columnist the Times had (although I've been reading the paper for a long time, Anna Quindlen predated me) and because she had red hair.

Also, the ombudsman for the Times recently did a piece discussing readers' reactions to her inflammatory statements regarding Hillary Clinton. I was one who thought they were way out of line. Here are the links: (I'd embed them but blogger doesn't allow me to do that in comments)

petpluto said...

Ah, the draw of a redhead! I understand that well.

And thanks for the links!

mikhailbakunin said...

Dowd's op-eds used to have some substance, but now they tend to be pointless and self-indulgent.

Still, Gail Collins is worse. Her columns are ALWAYS nonsensical and meandering. Unlike Dowd, she offers no IDEAS, only cheap political potshots.

It's really a shame that the NYT has only two female contributors and they're both so awful.