Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My response to Smurfette (Maureen Dowd)*

Maureen Dowd's article "What's a Modern Girl To Do?" can be read

My response to various sections...

"I hated the grubby, unisex jeans and no-makeup look and drugs that zoned you out, and I couldn't understand the appeal of dances that didn't involve touching your partner. In the universe of Eros, I longed for style and wit. I loved the Art Deco glamour of 30's movies. I wanted to dance the Continental like Fred and Ginger in white hotel suites; drink martinis like Myrna Loy and William Powell; live the life of a screwball heroine like Katharine Hepburn, wearing a gold lamé gown cut on the bias, cavorting with Cary Grant, strolling along Fifth Avenue with my pet leopard."

Comment: even in her early years Dowd was a ninny. There was plenty of style and wit among those who wore unisex jeans and no-makeup. But if it ain’t upper class and Cary Grant, Dowd can’t discern the style and wit. I guess she thought the Beatles were absolute duds. Goddamn I loathe her prissy snobbery.

"I thought the struggle for egalitarianism was a cinch, so I could leave it to my earnest sisters in black turtlenecks and Birkenstocks."

Comment: Belittling caricature of 60s-70s feminists. And more evidence of ninnitude.

"Despite the best efforts of philosophers, politicians, historians, novelists, screenwriters, linguists, therapists, anthropologists and facilitators, men and women are still in a muddle in the boardroom, the bedroom and the Situation Room."

Comment: yes, because if women can’t achieve complete equality with men in 40 years, after only 40 centuries of absolute patriarchy, then surely feminism has failed.

"it was becoming increasingly apparent that many women would have to brush up on the venerable tricks of the trade: an absurdly charming little laugh, a pert toss of the head, an air of saucy triumph, dewy eyes and a full knowledge of music, drawing, elegant note writing and geography. It would once more be considered captivating to lie on a chaise longue, pass a lacy handkerchief across the eyelids and complain of a case of springtime giddiness. "

Comment: Is this sarcastic hyperbole or not? It’s hard to tell with Dowd.

"Today, women have gone back to hunting their quarry - in person and in cyberspace - with elaborate schemes designed to allow the deluded creatures to think they are the hunters. "Men like hunting, and we shouldn't deprive them of their chance to do their hunting and mating rituals," my 26-year-old friend Julie Bosman, a New York Times reporter, says. "As my mom says, Men don't like to be chased." Or as the Marvelettes sang, "The hunter gets captured by the game."

Dowd supports her point by citing her 26-year-old friend, her mom, and the Marvelettes!

"Helen Fisher, a Rutgers anthropologist, concurs with Julie: "What our grandmothers told us about playing hard to get is true. The whole point of the game is to impress and capture. It's not about honesty. Many men and women, when they're playing the courtship game, deceive so they can win. Novelty, excitement and danger drive up dopamine in the brain. And both sexes brag."

Comment: And now she cites Helen Fisher, an evolutionary psychologist who sometimes claims to be a feminist when she isn’t slamming feminists.

"After Googling and Bikramming to get ready for a first dinner date, a modern girl will end the evening with the Offering, an insincere bid to help pay the check. "They make like they are heading into their bag after a meal, but it is a dodge," Marc Santora, a 30-year-old Metro reporter for The Times, says. "They know you will stop them before a credit card can be drawn. If you don't, they hold it against you.""

Comment: her evidence: one 30 year old guy.

"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?"

Comment: A "top New York producer." So chances are he’s over 50. That hardly tells us what young people who grew up with feminism are thinking.

"He had hit on a primal fear of single successful women: that the aroma of male power is an aphrodisiac for women, but the perfume of female power is a turnoff for men. It took women a few decades to realize that everything they were doing to advance themselves in the boardroom could be sabotaging their chances in the bedroom, that evolution was lagging behind equality."

Comment: more evolutionary psychology bullshit

"The hypothesis," Dr. Stephanie Brown, the lead author of the study, theorized, "is that there are evolutionary pressures on males to take steps to minimize the risk of raising offspring that are not their own." Women, by contrast, did not show a marked difference between their attraction to men who might work above them and their attraction to men who might work below them. "

Comment: yet more evolutionary psychology bullshit

"After I first wrote on this subject, a Times reader named Ray Lewis e-mailed me. While we had assumed that making ourselves more professionally accomplished would make us more fascinating, it turned out, as Lewis put it, that smart women were "draining at times." "

Comment: She cites that world-renowned expert on male-female relationships, “a Times reader named Ray Lewis.”

"Or as Bill Maher more crudely but usefully summed it up to Craig Ferguson on the "Late Late Show" on CBS: "Women get in relationships because they want somebody to talk to. Men want women to shut up."

Comment: Bill Maher is projecting his own misogyny here. So what else is new?

"With men and women, it's always all about control issues, isn't it?" says a guy I know, talking about his bitter divorce."

Comment: yet another stellar source. Anonymous bitter divorce guy.

"Or, as Craig Bierko, a musical comedy star and actor who played one of Carrie's boyfriends on "Sex and the City," told me, "Deep down, beneath the bluster and machismo, men are simply afraid to say that what they're truly looking for in a woman is an intelligent, confident and dependable partner in life whom they can devote themselves to unconditionally until she's 40."

Comment: well of course Bierko is an expert, he played Carrie’s boyfriend.

"A Harvard economics professor, Claudia Goldin, did a study last year that found that 44 percent of women in the Harvard class of 1980 who married within 10 years of graduation kept their birth names, while in the class of '90 it was down to 32 percent. In 1990, 23 percent of college-educated women kept their own names after marriage, while a decade later the number had fallen to 17 percent."
Comment: people who marry are traditionalists. Less traditional people are not getting married at all. So the greater percentage of traditionalists getting married is going to skew the sample.

"The Times recently ran a front-page article about young women attending Ivy League colleges, women who are being groomed to take their places in the professional and political elite, who are planning to reject careers in favor of playing traditional roles, staying home and raising children.
"My mother always told me you can't be the best career woman and the best mother at the same time," the brainy, accomplished Cynthia Liu told Louise Story, explaining why she hoped to be a stay-at-home mom a few years after she goes to law school. "You always have to choose one over the other."

Comment: Katha Pollitt and many many bloggers debunked this article. Which means nothing at all to the ever-gullible Dowd.

"Before (feminism) curdled into a collection of stereotypes,"

Comment: stereotypes which Down disseminates every chance she gets.

"While I never related to the unstyled look of the early feminists and I tangled with boyfriends who did not want me to wear makeup and heels, "

Comment: so Dowd wanted to look “stylish” so badly that she went against the wishes of her boyfriends who wanted her to look unstyled like early feminists. So who is on the side of feminism here?

"It was naïve and misguided for the early feminists to tendentiously... prognosticate a world where men and women dressed alike and worked alike in navy suits..."

Comment: Dowd is painting early feminists as complete freaks.

"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."

Comment: the problem here is that Dowd believes that feminism achieved victories through sheer force of will on the part of feminists. This is wrong. The infrastructural conditions were right for feminism by the 60’s and 70’s – easy birth control, cost-of-living increases requiring 2-income families and jobs for women. Those conditions probably won’t go away any time soon. That isn't to deny that 60s-70s feminists were pioneers and brave and smart. But the idea of equal rights for women had been around a long time - it wasn't lack of IDEAS that prevented feminist gains until the 60s-70s. It was infrastructural conditions.
Dowd is in her 50s, and in spite of the thin veneer of progressive thought she may have acquired as a "modern girl", I suspect that the model of male and female behavior that she uncritically absorbed as a child of the 1950s will always color her attitudes, and make her forever ambivalent about true socio-economic progress for women.
CONCLUSION: Maureen Dowd is a simpering, silly powderpuff. She's incapable of critical self-examination and so instead of looking at her own irritating personality for the answer to her lousy social life, she seeks to project her own failings onto feminism - always the convenient scapegoat for conservatives and the "modern."

* In the original Smurf hive colony there were only male smurfs who embodied various traits - Brainy Smurf, Dopey Smurf, Sleazy Smurf, etc. except the one lone female smurf, Smurfette, who embodied the trait of femininity - and with the most unflattering stereotypes of femininity. She was a whiney, shallow, high-heel wearing creature - in other words, very similar to Dowd.

Katha Pollitt indentified this phenomenon as "The Smurfette Principle" in her book Reasonable Creatures
The NYTimes op-ed section is a male-only enterprise except for the one female who must stand for all female-kind, Maureen Dowd. Obviously Paul Krugman is Brainy Smurfy, with a serious toss-up over who gets to be Dopey Smurf, David Brooks or John Tierney.

To get a good listing of Dowd's various other journalistic crimes and misdemeanors,
check out The Daily Howler (with search for MoDo)