Dowd has no class

Now, I didn’t like Maureen Dowd’s NY Times Magazine article for a number of reasons: Dowd’s assumption (once again) that feminism ended in back in the day, the reliance on dubious studies, and–as Amanda points out–Dowd’s seeming penchant to blame everyone and everything but patriarchal norms.
But what really struck me about What’s a Modern Girl to Do? is the extent of Dowd’s elitism. Determining a social trend based completely on the lives of the upper class isn’t exactly new, but I expected a bit more from an article on feminism. (Silly me.)
(Not to mention, Dowd’s insistence on measuring feminism’s success based on men and how women are faring in the romance department completely nullifies any truth there might be in the article. As I’ve said before, feminism isn’t a fucking dating service.)
Dowd’s reporting on the backlash against feminism and the “confusion between the sexes” relies almost exclusively on women within her social circles. Seriously–the people Dowd cites to make her case seem to be a bunch of her friends and acquaintances. (Mostly reporters, producers and a couple of actors.)
Other sources Dowd uses are just as class-based: the debunked New York Times piece on young women at Yale, a “60 Minutes” report that interviews women who went to Harvard Business School, and Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book that focuses on women who are corporate executives.
Really, is Dowd so egotistical to think that only certain “successful” women determine current gender relations? Perhaps if she expanded her circle of friends–or actually tried to interview the lowly secretaries, assistants, and nannies who are supposedly stealing up all of the men–Dowd would see that the future of feminism goes beyond her backyard.

UPDATE:
Echidne’s excellent take on the article.

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11 Comments

  1. gueuze
    Posted October 31, 2005 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I agree, Jessica. I was especially irritated by the shite “informal poll” on page 5 of the article, about the wedding web site “The Knot.” Dowd doesn’t even mention the fact that the poll doesn’t measure much of anything, since women that belong to that site are not even close to a scientific sample of women about to be married. Nor is the graduating class of Harvard. Classist, indeed! Yet Dowd thinks it’s fine to cite those “studies” as bona fide proof that “nowadays most young brides want to take their husbands’ names and brag on the moniker Mrs., a brand that proclaims you belong to him. T-shirts with “MRS.” emblazoned in sequins or sparkly beads are popular wedding-shower gifts.” Puh-leeze. A tacky trend in some circles means that all women are rushing to take their husbands’ surnames?
    I also take offense at Dowd’s assumption that feminism=conformity. Of course some people will turn anything into a “conform or die” sort of thing, but in my opinion true feminism isn’t about conformity. Nor is feminism about individuality no matter what the cost. We live in a complex world, not one of “either you wear Birkenstocks and no make-up” (as Dowd fallaciously equates with feminism), “OR you’re a Stepford wife drone with no brain.”
    I hate it when the popular culture has to oversimplify everything and make EVERYTHING into a black-or-white dichotomy, with no nuance, no complexity.

  2. C
    Posted October 31, 2005 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Hear hear to everything said. Also, what the hell was with the red fuck me shoes and outfit accompanying the article?

  3. Gwen
    Posted October 31, 2005 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I was already hating this article, and was actually considering not commenting at all b/c MS. Dowd makes me so angry sometimes and my mama always told me that I if i don’t have anything nice to say…well you know. Also, I’m very tired today from a wedding I was in over the weekend. The wedding of a 20-something woman. Who kept her name. And shares the household duties/wedding and honeymoon costs/bills/etc with her partner. [GASP-- WHAT WOULD MAUREEN SAY???]
    However, I couldn’t resist pointing out that the women we love to hate over at IWF *agree* with Dowd’s post. (I’m not linking to their site, though, sorry).
    “You get a sense of what a fine writer [Maureen Dowd]can be in her piece on the failures of feminism–and, no, I’m not saying this because she’s written something with which I agree…”
    Nice.

  4. Posted November 1, 2005 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m really glad to have found comments on her article here. I was looking for them.
    I hope that some of you write letters to the NYT so that your voices are heard by a larger population.
    I may write one myself but I’m in the same demographic as Dowd so my letter would come from a different angle. I’d like her to hear just how wrong her assessment is from the population she characterized so unfairly and inaccurately.

  5. Posted November 1, 2005 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    i always expect to find maureen dowd annoying–indeed, i generally try to avoid her–but what bothered me most about this article was how lazy and stupid it was. it seems that her research was basically confined to a book written–and widely covered–in 2002, quotations from a couple of evolutionary psychologists, and chats with her gal pals. this is presumably true of her book as well. clearly, dowd, her employer, and her publisher all have their heads up their asses.

  6. Posted November 1, 2005 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    i always expect to find maureen dowd annoying–indeed, i generally try to avoid her–but what bothered me most about this article was how lazy and stupid it was. it seems that her research was basically confined to a book written–and widely covered–in 2002, quotations from a couple of evolutionary psychologists, and chats with her gal pals. this is presumably true of her book as well. clearly, dowd, her employer, and her publisher all have their heads up their asses.

  7. Posted November 1, 2005 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    i always expect to find maureen dowd annoying–indeed, i generally try to avoid her–but what bothered me most about this article was how lazy and stupid it was. it seems that her research was basically confined to a book written–and widely covered–in 2002, quotations from a couple of evolutionary psychologists, and chats with her gal pals. this is presumably true of her book as well. clearly, dowd, her employer, and her publisher all have their heads up their asses.

  8. Posted November 1, 2005 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    i always expect to find maureen dowd annoying–indeed, i generally try to avoid her–but what bothered me most about this article was how lazy and stupid it was. it seems that her research was basically confined to a book written–and widely covered–in 2002, quotations from a couple of evolutionary psychologists, and chats with her gal pals. this is presumably true of her book as well. clearly, dowd, her employer, and her publisher all have their heads up their asses.

  9. amitheonlyone
    Posted November 2, 2005 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    As someone who really likes this blog, I am sort of wondering if I am the only one who thinks that Dowd does have something to say. Granted she aims to be more shocking I think, and therefore tends to be more black-and-white than reality is, but of course you can’t forget her origins as someone who is very much indebted to the feminist movement for her power and fame.
    What I found interesting was her observation of the split between the popular culture and advances that women have made economically. Many women, for example, hold professional jobs that they didn’t hold 50 years ago. Yet, in my experience (as one such professional) it is interesting to see these women I know, respect, and think are incredibly intelligent, become extremely distrssed at the idea of not being married and hving children. Some women who do marry take their husband’s last name; some women quit their jobs after marrying, in fact some women I work with tell me that they want to quit their jobs when they marry). Popular culture, I think, plays into this — why are women’s magazines no different than they were 50 years ago? Even amongst powerful women, why are they expected to be beautiful (and yet are scorned if they are “too beautiful”)? Personally (since all politics are personal) I find that many many successful women find the pressure to be beautiful and thin intense. Women I know who hold professional jobs seems also likely to have eating disorders. Why does this cultutral divide still exist? I didn’t read Dowd as blaming women for this phenomenon, nor did I read it as some sort of failure, but as a sign of how feminism is in a confusing place right now, and many women are caught in in between wanting a career and wanting to be respected and wanting to be married and seen as successful there. Are all of these women terrible or stupid or unenlightened? I don’t think so, I think they are reacting to outside pressures.
    With respect to the Harvard study, which is admitted classist, many men in powerful positions (the Supreme Court maybe) attended ivy-league schools. What is interesting about the study is that a gender gap exists there, where one would assume that the women are extremely intelligent and ambitious.
    As I said, I suppose that my views are colored by what I see, which saddens me, that so many intelligent, ambitious women still feel this pressure to date, to be beautiful, to be thin. You see the same women giving a presentation in the boardroom and then reading a magazine article on how to attract men.
    So, I am sort of wondering what the reaction is to this issue.

  10. Ahlana
    Posted November 2, 2005 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Ok, y’all can flame me for this if you want, but I’m a huge feminist and (that being said) I’m still going to take my fiances’ last name. Why you ask? Because my dad was a child/wife abusing asswipe. I enjoy the idea of ditching his tainted last name and removing myself as far from my childhood as possible. I think that it (along with my sister walking me down the isle instead of my father) makes for a big FU to dear ole dad.
    Besides, his last name is WAY cooler than mine.

  11. luhuien
    Posted July 7, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

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