Gail Collins was found to be non-threatening enough, and conventional enough by The Powers that Be to get the post of Op-Ed editor at the NYTimes, and I knew she said this, in defense of the male newspaper establishment's problem with female opinions:
There are probably fewer women, in the great cosmic scheme of things, who feel comfortable writing very straight opinion stuff, and they're less comfortable hearing something on the news and batting something out."
But I thought, well, she can't be as bitchy and as shallow as Maureen Dowd, can she? Could ANYbody?
Well. She's not quite as bitchy as Dowd. But let's just say toddlers would be perfectly safe to wade in her journalistic outpourings.
Her first column, about McCain and Hillary Clinton, was respectable if not exactly exciting. Her next was about how Hillary isn't folksy enough - which goes over some of the same ground as the previous column.
Then she goes after the Edwardses:
“I’d have to think about it,” he said during a press conference later that day. This was actually his second answer, the first being a short, utterly unrelated disquisition on food safety inspections. The Edwards campaign has devoted immense effort to beating back the image of their candidate as The Man With the Expensive Haircut. They don’t want to make August the month for The Man Who Would Take Away America’s Citrus Fruit.
How's that for meta-editorials. She seeks to turn August into Citrus Fruit month for Edwards through this very column. I hadn't read anybody else going on about tangerines - but then I don't read People. So by column three she's shading into Dowd territory.
But in her latest, she reveals she isn't just boring and unoriginal, she's also lazy. It never ceases to amaze me how NYTimes writers make a great living out of doing half the work that poorly-paid or non-paid bloggers do.
In her latest, Collins goes on about the 'fat is contagious' meme, the meme that is perhaps the ultimate source of Dick Cavett's pearl clutching and smelling-salts huffing over the sight of fat people on TV.
Collins starts out like this:
8 p.m. — “Friends.” In a much-anticipated reunion special, the gang has all bought condos in the same strangely affordable Manhattan apartment building. Tension mounts as Phoebe and Rachel notice that Monica is putting on weight. Well aware of the new study showing that obesity travels through friendship networks, they evict her. “The body mass of the many is more important than the survival of the one,” says a saddened Ross. “ Even if she is my sister.” Later, the rest of the group reminisces about good times past with their now-shunned buddy. Nicole Richie guest stars as Chandler’s new love interest
But unlike lazy-ass homework-shirker Collins, Amanda at Pandagon points out that the study actually found that the contagiousness of fat friends DOES NOT APPLY TO WOMEN.
Hoyden About Town asks: Yet another case of “male” being the default for “human”?
I think that's about right. I would maintain that it's because Gail Collins subscribes to this traditional view, that male = human, female = other, that she wouldn't notice the study points out that it's primarily a male-friend phenomenon. And that's why she's had such a successful career playing ball with the Big Boys.
And so Paul Krugman remains the only excellent op-ed columnist at the NYTimes. And Collins is a semi-Smurfette.