Progressive politics, ideas & culture


The Modern Woman—Rebel Sold?

This Magazine Staff

Uh oh, I can feel myself slipping ever so inextricably into very hot water.

My imaginary New York Times op-ed columnist girlfriend, Maureen Dowd has a book coming out, called Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide, and her employer has graciously allowed her to preview it a bit in the weekend magazine. Check out Dowd’s essay, “What’s a Modern Girl to Do?” from last weekend’s NYT mag.


I can’t say I’m thrilled with the off-handed man-blaming that a lot of her argument seems to hinge on—for instance:

Men, apprently, learn early to protect their eggshell egos from high-achieving women.

Ouch. Maureen, don’t be so nasty. I was thinking of calling you up, but I don’t know now. (<—irony, okay?)

And this:

Decades later, it’s just an aesthetic fact, as more and more women embrace Botox and implants and stretch and protrude to extreme proportions to satisfy male desires.

Whose desires? My desires? Hmmmmm, not entirely convincing. My desires have little to do with Botox.

But, what may be most interesting about Dowd’s thoughts on feminism and ongoing sexual politics — at least to readers of this blog — is the somewhat familiar direction her argument takes near the end of the article.

Before it curdled into a collection of stereotypes, feminism had fleetingly held out a promise that there would be some precincts of womanly life that were not all about men. But it never quite materialized.

It took only a few decades to create a brazen new world where the highest ideal is to acknowledge your inner slut. I am woman; see me strip. Instead of peaceful havens of girl things and boy things, we have a society where women of all ages are striving to become self-actualized sex kittens… So women have moved from fighting objectification to seeking it.

She seems to be suggesting that the latest generation of leading women are being sold a bill of goods in the guise of a rebellious stance against the philosophical excesses of their elders. Sound familiar?

I don’t know if any THIS Magazine article has ever received more letters of complaint than Feminism for Sale.

Is Dowd’s argument more palatable? Perhaps just the fact that her tone is more defeatist than triumphant helps her argument.

By all means… please discuss.

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