Politics & Policy

Seventeen, Here’s a New Writer For Ya

Maureen Dowd is silly.

I have seen a lot of Maureen Dowd lately on television, and quite frankly I can’t take it anymore.

I watched her with Tim Russert on Saturday–probably a rerun– and with Chris Matthews on Sunday. And I am sure I have missed countless other appearances of Maureen relentlessly promoting her book, Are Men Necessary?, which has been slammed–but delicately–in most reviews I’ve read. Perhaps this delicacy is understandable–I mean, Judith Miller knows what happens when you get on the wrong side of Modo, even if she claims she “likes” you, she “really likes” you.

All criticisms aside, however, I must say that in all her appearances Maureen does stick to her book-promoting talking points–feminism is a flop, and smart girls like her can’t get a date–with a focus that Bill and Hill would certainly admire.

Yet whenever I see Maureen on TV, that wonderful old English phrase “Mutton dressed as lamb” pops into my mind. And, note to her stylist: That little shell she was wearing under her jacket on Chris Matthews was much too tight. It pulled so much it made her look round-shouldered!

We know from that adoring cover story in New York magazine a few weeks back that Maureen favors green cowboy boots, a pink Burberry–and lots of lame. That story also confided that Maureen is just such a “fox,” an assertion that was somewhat belied by the photos, both old and current, accompanying the feature. The truth is that she is now a woman in her 50s who looks like an attractive woman in her 50s. Except for her forehead, which is age 27 and so smooth (I wonder, how come?) that it seems she wouldn’t be able to frown even if Gloria Steinem hit her over the head with a frying pan.

But it isn’t only that this 53-year-old mutton is shopping in the wrong boutiques; what’s really striking is that Maureen acts so lamb-like in these interviews, gamboling and simpering, giggling and flirting and telling everyone she is “such a ditz.” To the New York magazine reporter, she admitted that she is always losing cell phones and laptops–just the kind of behavior a mother would find intolerable in any child older than 16.

The point of her book, she says, is that feminism has failed because men don’t want smart women–and that nowadays women don’t want to achieve but only want to be some man’s stay-at-home trophy wife.

Of course, as Howard Fineman noted somewhat gingerly on Chris Matthews–he obviously didn’t want to get between Maureen and her theory–today in America, both spouses often have to work for economic reasons. And, of course, all statistics show that most educated men marry equally educated women. Nowadays when a woman decides to stay home it is usually because both husband and wife agree that it is the better way to raise the children.

But how would Maureen, unmarried and childless, with a high-paying job and a string of boyfriends that has included a movie star, a top television writer and producer, and a couple of top editors, really know about the financial or family concerns of most women in this country?

In all of her interviews, Maureen, to prove her point about how hard it is to be a smart woman, talks about her girlfriends at the New York Times, who are among the paper’s most prominent critics. There is the one, presumably book reviewer Michiko Kakutani, who wept when she won a Pulitzer, because she thought no one would ever ask her on a date again. I wonder how authors who had slaved for years over their books and had them torn apart by Michi, felt after hearing that little anecdote about Michi’s maturity and good sense?

There’s also television critic Alessandra Stanley, another of Maureen’s chums who, quoting Dorothy Parker, says of herself that she speaks a lot of languages but can’t say “no” in any of them. Gee, I haven’t heard a crack like that since freshman year at Bennington.

And then there is Maureen’s frequently told story about her special relationship with George H. W. Bush. She claims they are like two leads in a Forties’ romantic comedy. He’s the upstairs “patrician gentleman” and she’s the downstairs “Irish maid.” Can you imagine what would happen if David Brooks claimed that he had a special sexy relationship with Condi Rice? Wouldn’t he be hooted at, first of all, by Maureen Dowd?

What I think is really significant is that this mutton chop is the only female op-ed columnist at the New York Times, the one who so cheerfully scratched Judith Miller’s eyes out, and whose power influences other women on the paper. Recently a hard-working and very serious Times reporter, who is both a wife and the mother of a smart daughter, told me that she and her daughter both thought that Maureen’s book was nonsense and that a lot of her other writing is nonsense, too. But, she said, Maureen’s pieces are the most e-mailed–and that has power at the Times today.

Demographers say that since we all live so much longer these days it takes us all longer to grow up. And that certainly seems true. But it is surprising that the most prominent woman at the “paper of record” isn’t satisfied that today 50 is the new 30. She’s getting a lot of attention behaving like it is the new 17.

Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.

Myrna BlythMyrna Blyth is senior vice president and editorial director of AARP Media. She is the former editor-in-chief and publishing director of Ladies’ Home Journal. She was the founding editor and ...


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