Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Linda Hirshman responds to Dowd
(and your blogstress)

From the redoubtable Linda Hirshman, who usually blogs at TPM Cafe, which is today plagued with some technical ailment, comes this response to today's Maureen Dowd column, "An Imperfect Feminist Test," and your blogstress's assertion that, in it, Dowd makes a valid point or two:

Whaddaya know? This morning, as a thought experiment, Maureen Dowd contemplated a woman making a successful run for President. She’d like that, she says. She even hopes the "male reporters" in the media would behave if it ever happened. Presumably she includes herself in that group.

Dowd’s candidate would have an easier time than the real female candidate running, because Dowd’s candidate is not a real person, but one of those women on the internet pornography sites. Maureen’s candidate has no brain, no record, no history, no family, no past statements, no existence except in her overheated imagination.

The internet porn candidate would be perfect, because, having no brain she couldn't be too smart, no record, so she could not have once voted in a way that some critic disagrees with, having no history, people would not simply be able to push a button on their computer to come up with witch lines about her, having no family, she would not remind them of their own sexual "unappetizing compromises, arrangements and dependencies" having no past statements, she would not have talked too much, and having no existence except as a hypothetical, she would never actually win. Anything.

But we could spend forever waiting for her, because we’re not sexist bigots. It's just that no flesh and blood woman could ever satisfy our need for the perfect female. Meanwhile, for women? Good thing we have the internet.

--Linda Hirshman

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Maureen Dowd: good today, mean tomorrow

If there is another American writer as maddening as Maureen Dowd, your blogstress has yet to find her. While your cybertrix is hip to her own inner sexist, she winces when Dowd reveals her own, as she so often does when writing of Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

Your Webwench has, by turns, both defended and derided Dowd, who holds court twice a week on the op-ed page of the New York Times. Today Dowd offers quite a good essay on her piece of NYT real estate about why Hillary Clinton's candidacy offers a less-than-perfect feminist test case for a female presidential contender (because of Bill, of course).

But Dowd being Dowd, she can't help lay a few mines in her narrative landscape, as she does when she repeats, acknowledging its offensiveness, a heinous joke from a Penn Jillette routine:

In a webcast, prestidigitator Penn Jillette talks about a joke he has begun telling in his show. He thinks the thunderous reaction it gets from audiences shows that Hillary no longer has a shot.

The joke goes: “Obama is just creaming Hillary. You know, all these primaries, you know. And Hillary says it’s not fair, because they’re being held in February, and February is Black History Month. And unfortunately for Hillary, there’s no White Bitch Month.”
Of course, March is Women's History Month, which in Jillette's book probably amounts to the same thing as White Bitch Month. So, perhaps Texas (March 4 primary) really does belong to Clinton.

Another zinger is a reference to Barack Obama as being perceived as a "glib golden boy." Note to an Irish-Am sister: not good for a white girl to resort to boy-talk when speaking of an African-American man.

An irony in Dowd's essay, "A Flawed Feminist Test," is the apparent lack of irony with which she states this:
Many women I talk to, even those who aren’t particularly fond of Hillary, feel empathy for her, knowing that any woman in a world dominated by men has to walk a tightrope between femininity and masculinity, strength and vulnerability.

They see double standards they hate...
Yet Dowd herself has shown a notable lack of empathy toward Hillary Clinton, writing in a column titled, "Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?"
At her victory party, Hillary was like the heroine of a Lifetime movie, a woman in peril who manages to triumph. Saying that her heart was full, she sounded the feminist anthem: "I found my own voice."

So here's what makes me really nuts: So many men despise Dowd, not just for her power and brains, but for those things in combination with her beauty, which just unnerves so many of them. And so, I find myself defending her against irrational attacks by envious men. And then she goes and says something sexist herself, and quite unhelpful to the feminist cause. It happens every time. Too often, rather than exercising her intellectual might in a manner becoming to her, she resorts, for cheap power, to her inner mean girl.

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