Jewish World Review Nov 14, 2005/ 12 Mar-Cheshvan,
The love song of Maureen Dowd
The Sexual Revolution, abetted by the Pill and feminism, brought
rage to sex; men and women remained opposites while attracting each other.
They learned to overcome hostilities to take advantage of new possibilities.
They worked out some of the kinks through rock and roll. Burning bras was
both angry gesture and sexy signal. Women felt freer, and men felt freer
with them. But that had a downside, too.
In the postfeminist world of today, buttons and bows are back, but
more women have careers, leaving aggressive posture at the office to indulge
laid-back behavior when the sun goes down. Not always an easy
No matter where a woman finds herself on the timeline of gender
politics, the key word, as any social Darwinian could tell you, is
"adaptation." We're not exactly hard-wired for the social changes. So men
and women trapped in transition, looking for a mate to survive among the
fittest, take casualties. The political implications of all this can be
enormous, too, as any pol trying to figure out ways to exploit the gender
gap could tell you.
Maureen Dowd, the tart [cq] of The New York Times op-ed page, reveals herself to be one of the walking wounded in her new book, "Are Men Necessary?" Hers is an Ideology of One. Beneath the wit, the intelligence, the brittle one-liners, the insights, you can hear the voice of a little girl crying in the night. She's a lot like the character Margo Channing in "All About Eve," played by Bette Davis, whom Mo loves to hate and quote.
As photographed for The New York Times Sunday magazine, Ms. Dowd
wears red shoes as a badge of courage, but she's tormented when she looks
around at the terrible aimlessness and arbitrariness of the bodies strewn on
the field of sexual warfare. She draws on pithy allusions from movies and
poetry, which she shoots like scattershot. But it's the peek into her
personal life, from interviews and publicity as well as several choice
anecdotes, that suggests she's really writing a postmodern lament of love.
She could have called her book "The Love Song of Maureen Dowd."
Like T.S. Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock, she can't understand how she got to
this "tedious argument of insidious intent," which boils down to why, at 53,
she's a childless spinster. Instead of asking, "Do I dare?" she asks, "Why
didn't I?" Instead of measuring her life in coffee spoons, she pays it out
in cold column inches. She counts the most sophisticated men and women of
stage, screen and video as her friends, who "come and go/Talking of
Michelangelo." But they can't answer exactly what went wrong with her love
Like so many authors, Ms. Dowd suggests that universal experiences
grow from the acorns of her life and from those she has interviewed. But no
great oaks here. The scientific research that answers the central question
that men will eventually be irrelevant, or at the very least demoted to a
nice but not really necessary second sex, is cleverly engaged but runs
aground deep into the shallows. She's especially retro quoting Norman
Mailer's jape that women have never needed a lot of men to perpetuate the
species: " . . . all women needed were about a hundred semen slaves that
they could milk every day . . . and they could keep the race going. So they
don't need us."
She concludes that she has no conclusions. She has no answers for
women (or men, either), only questions. She asks for no sympathy, but in the
end remains a middle-aged female Prufrock, who could have written: "I am no
prophet and here's no great matter."
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