Aug 1 2008

Dowd Must Not Read Reviews

Columnist claims critics never called her on her sexism

Maureen Dowd--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Dave Robinette

Maureen Dowd–Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Dave Robinette

“I’ve been twisting gender stereotypes around for 24 years,” Dowd responded. She said nobody had objected to her use of similar images about men over seven presidential campaigns. . . . “From the time I began writing about politics,” Dowd said, “I have always played with gender stereotypes and mined them and twisted them to force the reader to be conscious of how differently we view the sexes.” Now, she said, “you are asking me to treat Hillary differently than I’ve treated the male candidates all these years, with kid gloves.”

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, responding to charges of sexist coverage of Hillary Clinton in the column of Times public editor Clark Hoyt (6/22/08)

When liberals denigrate the president as a “boy” or as a “sissy,” to quote Maureen Dowd, homophobia doesn’t lurk far behind.

—Andrew Sullivan, Salon (10/25/02)

In her January 18 New York Times column, Maureen Dowd decided that the best way to criticize the Democratic Party was to feminize it. Calling Al Gore and John Kerry “girlie men” and equating the Democrats with “Desperate Housewives,” she argued that the Democrats do not have enough fight in them and their attacks will never yield success “as long as they’re perceived as the party in skirts.”

Dowd may be right to observe that political power structures echo gender ones . . . but she is wrong to accept these structures without challenge or critique. Working through a lens that still sees women in skirts, afraid of power or action, Dowd is a key player in the GOP’s “gender games,” and her column inadvertently suggests that tough guys with guns are the best political model, no matter how much she says to the contrary.

—Lauren Pruneski, Campus Progress (1/24/06)

NYT columnist Maureen Dowd often disparages male political figures by comparing them to women. For example, in a 11/01/05 column, to show how despicable she thought Cheney and his cronies were, she said that they were “catty,” a “Mean Girls cabal” and “hawkish Heathers” who “clawed out Colin Powell’s eyes.”

—Ann Bartow, Feminist Law Professors (2/9/06)

If the point of the stories about Edwards’ wealth is to delegitimize his arguments on behalf of the poor, the haircut obsession is designed to feminize the candidate and thereby undermine his credentials as macho-man for president—which are, by the way, those deemed to be the most important by the media. . . . Maureen Dowd use[s] the term “Breck Girl.” . . . Dowd also accuses Obama of preening like a “46-year-old virgin,” demonstrating “loose” body language and being “hung up on being seen as thoughtful,” while secretly fearing “being seen as ‘a dumb blond.'” Still, it’s a kind of progress over her Gore coverage.

—Eric Alterman, the Nation (9/13/07)

In March 2004, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd highlighted the “Breck Girl” label as an example of the “nasty Republican habit of portraying opponents as less than fully masculine.” Still, it’s a habit she can’t kick: She has used the phrase “Breck Girl” four times in three columns since then—not to mention countless other occasions when she has compared Barack Obama to Scarlett O’Hara or called him “Obambi” or otherwise indulged her own “nasty habit.”

Media Matters (3/9/07)

I’m still puzzled that Maureen Dowd devoted so many words in her Sunday column to informing readers that she was a messy eater and a fan of good ol’ American BBQ sauce before launching into a discussion of Obama and his staffers’ latest alleged problem: appearing “effete and vaguely foreign—the same unflattering light that doomed Michael Dukakis and John Kerry.”

She doesn’t tell us that Obama looks wiry and is chomping gum to ward off cigarette cravings—that wouldn’t fit her stereotype.

—Christina Larson, Washington Monthly (3/10/08)

Back in March, Dowd’s Obama was “effete.” Today, she goes for something more vivid, likening him to a “diffident debutante.”

Not yet up to Al Gore is “practically lactating” snuff. But give her time.

—Liz Cox Barrett, Columbia Journalism Review (5/14/08)

Dowd is such a credulous audience for backlash propaganda it doesn’t occur to her that she is promoting, not reporting, the problem she describes.

—Katha Pollitt, the Nation (11/10/05)

Maureen Dowd makes me lose faith in journalism. Apparently, I work in a field in which writing pseudo-intellectual gender- and machismo-based nonsense that isn’t particularly funny, witty or amusing, and which includes no actual reporting, doesn’t get you fired. It gets you eight more years in the most hallowed space the industry offers.

—Jonathan Stein, Mother Jones blog (11/19/07)