Monday, November 21, 2005

Girls Who Do Scathing

How can I not start off this blog with a few musings on the woman who’s been front and center on every news and talk show of late. Not because she’s a sweetheart but because she is — in a subtle but not too subtle way — as dangerous and controversial as they come. (No, I don’t mean Nicole Ritchie, though her public fallout with Paris Hilton could merit a spot on the low-brow end of this blog). I’m talking, of course, about Maureen Dowd. These days, she’s got everyone stirred up because of her book about men, namely about how men don’t appreciate smart, sharp, savvy, scary women. I can’t say I think many of us share Maureen’s problem. You really don’t get all that much more intimidating than her. I went to hear Paul Krugman speak the other night – and I consider him fairly smart, sharp and savvy himself – but he said he’d stopped doing highly political columns because, and I quote, “No one does scathing like Maureen Dowd does scathing.” And she certainly doesn’t retract her claws when it comes to the fairer sex. One look at the scratch marks all over the now shamed and defamed Judy Miller tells us that.

If you’ve got any doubts that Maureen is a complicated woman, just check out the article about her in New York magazine a few weeks ago. (Disclosure: This blog is not going to be one of those late-breaking news type places. Thirty-five years in, I’ve come to accept the fact that I don’t live on the cutting edge. If I’ve heard of it, chances are most other people have too.)

I like how Maureen admits she finds taking a hard-ass stance intimidating, but she takes one anyway. I’m less convinced when she throws around comments about her girlfriends, all of who happen to share her role of prominent NY Times writer, but none of who are as prominent as she is. I’m pretty convinced that Maureen isn’t the type to have a lot of close girlfriends. I think she’s too busy chasing power and influence, which is exactly the same thing Judy Miller was doing only she didn’t do it as cleverly or elegantly and that’s what nailed her in the end. As I culture, I don’t think it’s so much that we don’t like our women powerful as that we don’t like them hamfisted. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this. It seems unfair, since men are allowed to be as hamfisted as they please. On the other hand, I’m not particularly fond on hamfistedness in either gender so maybe pushing women to attack via the smooth and sinuous track is not such a bad thing.

My main point here is that the women we admire, the women we listen to and read about, aren’t the sweethearts. I personally find Maureen kind of fascinating and, yes, a little scary. I don’t know that I’d want to have dinner with her one on one — for all her grousing I think she prefers male company, powerful male company, and besides, I doubt I could keep up my end of the conversation — but I’d sure choose her as a party guest over Laura Bush or even Gloria Steinem or Marie Wilson. Maureen, bless her ambitious and evisceration-happy heart, would tell it like it is.

Note: I’m trying to compile a soundtrack of songs featuring the words woman, girl or lady. Any ideas?

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