Sunday, October 30, 2005

Feminism Sucks Because I Can't Get a Man

Oh, Maureen, Maureen. Maureen Dowd puts the smack-down on feminism again because she's a high-powered NY Times columnist who's over 40 and not married.

Yea, feminism sure has failed you, Maureen. I mean, look at all the quality men she missed out on dating:

At a party for the Broadway opening of "Sweet Smell of Success," a top New York producer gave me a lecture on the price of female success that was anything but sweet. He confessed that he had wanted to ask me out on a date when he was between marriages but nixed the idea because my job as a Times columnist made me too intimidating. Men, he explained, prefer women who seem malleable and awed. He predicted that I would never find a mate because if there's one thing men fear, it's a woman who uses her critical faculties.

This isn't the first time that Maureen has lamented the fact that everywhere she looks in her NY City superset, men are marrying their maids, secretaries, and personal assistants.

At no point does she question whether or not she or any other women with "critical faculties" would want to date these men anyway.

In fact, this entire column feels like it's been written by a sixteen year old sitting at the front of the math class chewing her nails because "boys only notice the blond chicks."

I recognize the tone because I, too, once worried and gnawed over the fact that I was invisible to all the tall beautiful blond boys in grade school. Once I did start dating in high school I tried to dress and act more fem in order to keep said man, since he, Cosmo, and my girlfriends seemed to think this was the only way to "keep" a guy, and keeping a guy was akin to finding the holy grail.

Then I grew the fuck up.

Decades after the feminist movement promised equality with men, it was becoming increasingly apparent that many women would have to brush up on the venerable tricks of the trade: an absurdly charming little laugh, a pert toss of the head, an air of saucy triumph, dewy eyes and a full knowledge of music, drawing, elegant note writing and geography. It would once more be considered captivating to lie on a chaise longue, pass a lacy handkerchief across the eyelids and complain of a case of springtime giddiness.

Who are these women? Why can't they find honest, meaningful relationships? Maybe because they're play-acting, pretending to be somebody they're not, and turning off both men and other women. So not only are they not getting laid, they don't have any friends either.

Grow the fuck up.

Today, women have gone back to hunting their quarry - in person and in cyberspace - with elaborate schemes designed to allow the deluded creatures to think they are the hunters.

And then they get angry when their prospective mates call them "deceitful." heh

"There are plenty of ways for me to find out if he's going to see me as an equal without disturbing the dating ritual," one young woman says. "Disturbing the dating ritual leads to chaos. Everybody knows that."

What planet are these women from? Just after my first date with B, I conspired to spend the night at his house. When he offered to sleep on the floor, I asked him how big his bed was.

Oh, that's not forward at all.

And oh, look, we're still together and I'm still getting laid.

A few years ago at a White House correspondents' dinner, I met a very beautiful and successful actress. Within minutes, she blurted out: "I can't believe I'm 46 and not married. Men only want to marry their personal assistants or P.R. women."

To reiterate: Why would you want to marry these men anyway? These are the sorts of guys who'll tell you to quit your high-powered job, dress more fem, stop eating all together, and dump you on the street when you're forty and marry their secretary.

What the fuck do you want with people like this? I don't even have friends like this. Why would I fuck anyone who acted this way?

So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? Do women get less desirable as they get more successful?

And here's the bit that really pisses me off everytime I read these backlash articles: why the hell are women so damned concerned about men all the time? Why are so-called feminist magazines and articles all about men?

As K pointed out when I read the NY producer line out loud, "Why's a guy need to be your mate?"

Why, indeed?

Not only are a good deal of women lesbians, but a shitload more are at least bisexual. If it's about kids, fucking adopt or get a sperm donor. And what's with having a mate? Be single. What's wrong with it? Single women suffer from less depression than married women, in general, anyway.

Pair up with another woman or a guy friend in a sexual or non-sexual pairing and buy a beach house. Learn to garden. Buy some big dogs. Why, as women, do we have to equate our success with "having" a man? Male bachelors with high-powered careers are rarely if ever berated for not "settling down." For them, having a high-powered career is enough. But as women, whether you're a doctor, lawyer, or CEO, your success is measured in whether or not you've managed to "keep" a man. Why? Why's having a relationship so important? I was single for nearly six years after high school, and you know what, I had a really awesome kick-ass time traveling around the world and getting a sweet education. Was I somehow a failure because I wasn't partnered up?

Men, apparently, learn early to protect their eggshell egos from high-achieving women. The girls said they hid the fact that they went to Harvard from guys they met because it was the kiss of death. "The H-bomb," they dubbed it. "As soon as you say Harvard Business School . . . that's the end of the conversation," Ani Vartanian said.

And my response to this is - so what? Should you have not gone to Harvard Law so it'd be easier for you to get laid? If getting married was all you were looking for, shit, you could do that straight out of high school. You could have bundles of kids by now and be living in a rented picket-fence house, and when you're forty, without education or money of your own, said guy could dump you or die and you'd have... nothing. No job experience, no Harvard Law, and bundles of kids to feed.

That sounds fun.

When Gloria Steinem wrote that "all women are Bunnies," she did not mean it as a compliment; it was a feminist call to arms. 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. Now that technology is biology, all women can look like inflatable dolls. It's clear that American narcissism has trumped American feminism.

It's been argued that American culture is, at root, an adolescent one. And I'd agree. As a teenager, I was really obsessed with all of my supposed "imperfections." I believed that because of them, no men would ever like me, and as Maureen has pointed out, there's some bizarre belief that, as a woman, not being desired by men is the worst thing in the whole world.

But, again: then I grew up.

And you know what? Who the fuck cares what guys think? Why is feminism always talking about what guys want? Why should I care? Cause guys are in power? Then maybe I should become *more* powerful. And maybe the guys who like plastic women aren't the ones I should be interested in anyway. Maybe I should look for some alternatives. There are a lot of other choices out there, and lesbians in the audience may laugh aloud at the idea that silly straight girls are spending so much goddamn time concerned about men.

Maybe you should go out and grow up first, Maureen. Maybe you should go climb Kilamanjaro and help AIDS orphans in South Africa, then come on back home to New York City and tell me just how goddamn life-shattering it is that you aren't getting laid by an NY producer who thinks smart women are gross.

Put some of this shit in perspective, you fucktard.

18 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Heh. MoDo needs to look on her "intimidating" status as a goddess-send.

Sure-fire way to get rid of tedious self-important men: tell them what I do. Pathologist - yahknow, cut up dead people..... (at least I don't wave the 12 inch long knife or the Stryker rotary handsaw at them {g} ) 

Posted by NancyP

kate.d. said...

wow, this dowd article is really causing a shitstorm huh? i need to go read the whole thing. in certain excerpts, it seems like she's critical of this trend away from feminism and towards narcissism, hiding the "h bomb," etc, but in others her own personal problems are somehow made to represent some big feminist paradox. which is it?? sheesh.


Posted by kate.d.

jeff said...

Thanks for pointing us to this article--and for your scathing (and funny, as usual) commentary.

The first thing that struck me after reading the article is the utter lack of any sort of blame--or even explanation--of the part men play in all of the games that Dowd describes. I of course agree with you that it seems strange to keep worrying what men want, but I also think that to the extend that Dowd has something to complain about at all, the men who find women 'in power' unattractive in whatever way are the ones who need to change. This is implicit in what you're saying, I think, but I wanted to bring it to the fore.

Also, Dowd's crass implict take on the women she sees as not in power (i.e. maids and women who 'only speak Portuguese', etc.) is sort of ignoring some of the complexities of the issues, I think. Certainly somebody who is a maid is making less money and has less power than Dowd, but this ignores at least some women (and men!) who would rather not live the lives that a 'high-powered' lawyer or writer want to live.

And one last thing: I think Dowd is confused about her own point--or I'm not getting it--because she *does* make all of the mistakes you mention, but then she goes on to say:

"But it is equally naïve and misguided for young women now to fritter away all their time shopping for boudoirish clothes and text-messaging about guys while they disdainfully ignore gender politics and the seismic shifts on the Supreme Court that will affect women's rights for a generation."

Seems to me that she is sort of guilty of making this same mistake by spending an entire article making the mistakes you called her on. But again, it's possible I'm just not getting it. Is she being ironic or something? Is she making a more subtle point that she does feel like she's missing out but that she ought not feel that way? I'm not following her... 

Posted by jeffliveshere

Anonymous said...

Thank you for so eloquently laying the smackdown on MoDo. This is the sort of pap backlash journalism Susan Faludi so expertly dissected and debunked in "Backlash." Come back, Susan. The feminist movement needs you.

I have to point out that Dowd's sources are, to say the least, questionable. Both the Stephanie Brown study and the now-debunked one where high-IQ women are alleged to not marry, a first-year science student could poke holes in. Then there's the Louise Story story, about which even Story's sources complained they were misled, quoted out of context, and so on. And of course, MoDo's examples of men wanting to date maids come from...the movies. Yes, Harry Potter flies a broom, so I do too! My Critical Thinking instructor would give Dowd a big, fat "F."

Lastly, I wonder if Miss Desperate-for-a-Man MoDo has ever condescended to date a construction worker? A high-school English teacher? Or are they not good enough for Her Highness? I have very little patience with the woes of the picky and entitled. 

Posted by Ailurophile

Ismone said...

Ah, give the lady something of a break. I know it isn't feminism's fault, but it can get frustrating that for the most part, men have to believe that they are smarter than you to want you. I think the problem is that while we have changed, a lot of men haven't really done the soul-searching neccessary to reject the roles foisted on them.

Because I'm in law school (home to the insecure and the type-A) I've noticed that the men who are interested in me now tend to be either younger (sometimes significantly) because it is okay if I'm smarter than they are because I've had more time to get there, or significantly older, because they've had the time to gain more knowledge, and so at my most aggressive, I'm an interesting sparring partner, not an intellectual threat. Or maybe they're just so confident that they don't care that I might be smarter than them.

Maybe we shouldn't care, but I sometimes do, mainly because I like sex. With men. And not in a craigslist created vacuum. It's not that bad for me right now, because I did meet someone who doesn't have those issues. But I just don't think there are many like him. 

Posted by Ismone

Brendan said...

I get really worried at the idea that successful/intelligent men only want stupid/less intelligent/subserviant women. It rings for me very like a female version of the Nice Guy's Lament- "hot women only date assholes".

One point which keeps coming up in responses to this article is about the ability of men to self-conceive as gendered, and to question the social construction of masculine norms and expectations of behavior. I think it's an extremely valid one, and a necessity in many respects for societal progression (de-adolescentization, if you like). But it's not as easy as rolling out of bed one day and deciding over your cornflakes to question the meaning of your social role.

Personally, I was lucky. I grew up around feminists and was exposed to that way of thinking from birth; it's also a style of thought I take to well. But people with those advantages are extremely rare in my experience. Men, as a class, lack the vocabulary to speak of themselves in gendered terms precisely because of the sexism of the larger society- when "masculinity" is the unspoken aim of things, it is difficult to see that a discussion about what masculinity is even needs to take place.

I think it's right to take those men to task who do only want to marry their secretaries (though they punish themselves even more by missing all the cool, smart women around them). But those men are not all men, and it's not fair to tar them all with that brush. Furthermore, it's counter-productive: if the aim is a wider male consideration of gender as socially constructed, then feminism and feminist literature or blogs have much to offer in terms of perspective and language. But any man interested in those things is going to have difficulty accepting them if he feels as though gender consciousness and feminism are synonymous, or if he feels he's being attacked for his supposed desires based on Maureen Dowd's run-around in the New York media biosphere.

The counterpoint is that it isn't feminism's responsibility to make men feel at ease, and I agree. But I also think Kameron's point is true: that feminism at core just isn't really about men. It shouldn't have to put them at ease, but it does them a disservice and itself a damage when it's used in advance of the evidence to endorse harmful generalizations. Give them men who are interested the tools and a fresh perspective, and let them work it out for themselves, and then listen to what they actually say, not to extreme anecdotal experiences like MoDo's, or to the advertising world's version of male desires. We'll all be better off I think, and more able to speak to each other as equals and people, and not just The Men and The Women. 

Posted by Brendan

Anonymous said...

Great response to Dowd's whiny article. As a male PhD student, I can assure you that nearly every guy in my department prefers smart women. Unfortunately, they don't want us. To whom at the Times do I send my article blaming all women for overlooking us nerds? ;-)

Posted by The Dude

Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm a guy; and all my buddies like smart, assertive career women. We're in our 20's and 30's, and grew up with our mom's working. So, I have to agree that Dowd is looking at a bunch of losers.

Recently, the big media item has been the marriage of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. Moore is known as being a smart, tough cookie. Madonna married Guy Ritchie, also younger. I think there's a generational gap here. Dowd is attracted to older men.

I think her angst about not finding the right man comes from her looking for Mr. Wrong. Why would she find someone like the Broadway producer interesting. He sound pretty frickin' gross.

Look, I think Rupert Murdoch is Satan but his wives have all been kick butt smart business women. Dowd, I think, is more concerned with finding a man of a certain age and bank account than maybe a good man who would be supportive of her and their partnership. Would it be so wrong to find a man less successful than she, like Moore or Madonna, did?

A lot of women have this crappy princess view of marriage and life. They keep looking for Prince Charming to rescue them instead of looking at the captain of the guard or chief protocol officer. Seriously, I've known a number of women who just don't get it. Their all excited about having a big, expensive wedding and then don't understand why they can't afford a down payment for a home. (Big party or down payment for an investment?) There's all this garbage about wanting to be treated like a queen. Jeez, how about being Xena and get a job and buy your own diamonds (that's what my best women friends do [including my mom!]).

I'm not advocating that someone settle for "less" but there is such a thing as not seeing the forest for the trees. There are good men out there if one is willing to free oneself of the illusions and gradiose expectations.  

Posted by Rafe

Kameron Hurley said...

Well, to come back to the "younger man" thing: I'd argue that the allure of the younger guy isn't because he's "more virile" or has "less baggage" (ha ha this ain't alway so), but because in general, men under 40 are a lot more comfortable associating with powerful women not just as friends but also as lovers. They're more likely to have been raised in a feminist-friendly society.

My boss Blaine the ex-football player partnered up with a high-powered little brunette at another company who travels just as much as he does, and my supervisor, Yellow (whose background is in construction), is constantly pining after smart brunettes (he has three sisters: a doctor, a therapist, and a lawyer). Blaine and Yellow are both 36/34, respectively.

I think that our templates of who an appropriate mate is are are changing (to everyone's benefit, I think). All of sudden, as a guy, it's OK to go out with a woman who makes lots of money, and as a woman, it's OK to date a younger guy who'll actually treat you like a person and not the latest car he's traded up.

For the record, I've always swooned over dorky guys, and I'm sure there's a lot of snobbishness around not dating dorky guys, still (until they're 40 and own a multi-million dollar company. Yawn). Smart women who don't want smart men, who, like MoDo, want a misogynist movie producer, deserve all the angst they get. If you're looking for marriage proposals from nice guys who treat you well, go for the dorks. There's a reason I've had two marriage proposals, one guy offer to run away with me, and am currently in a relationship with a guy who wouldn't mind at all getting married if I wanted to.

Smart guys are awesome. I think women are getting just as caught up in the "He has to look like a supermodel and drive a hot car" model just as much as all these NY guys Dowd quoting.

I'd rather take the guy who uses "grokked" in a sentence.

Now that's  hot.  

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Vincent said...

I think what pisses me off about Maureen Dowd here and her film producer nemesis is that they generalise. He turns all men into misogynistic kretins, with such fragile self-esteem they'd find a woman with half a brain threatening to their very existence, she turns women into self-sacrificing, self-pitying martyrs to the cause of playing to dumb to attract a man.

I know the human brain likes to generalise and pigeon-hole, because it makes dealing with the world that much easier, but even the most simple-minded, lazy intellectualising shouldn't take one asshole at a party as representing half the planet's population (even if he claims he does).

That's why I can't say I'm attracted to intelligent women. I can say I'm attracted to that intelligent woman, but frankly I find that other one over there neurotic and insecure. And that third one clearly puts her job first, while number four is a lesbian Republican who prays to Allah five times a day (though the dealbreaker in this case is that she's soap opera addict).

On the flip side, I don't mind if someone thinks I'm an asshole, but I object to that label being stuck on all men, or the English, or people who work with computers, or any of the groups I fall into, because then I become an asshole by default, rather than through any fault of my own. 

Posted by Vincent

-- said...

Everyone brings up some good points, but honestly there's this crazy thing that happens to men in NYC that really, truly, turns nearly all of them into assholes.

Supply and Demand.

NYC is filled with smart, sucessful, stylish, and stunning women. I tend to meet a lot of men who are looking for that combo, and let me tell you, it abounds. Women who come to live in NYC have big dreams, and if they can stick around a few years (I can't even tell you how many friends "couldn't take NY" and left...) they've proven how smart they are.

Trouble is, the guys here, not so much. There's the B&T (Bridge and Tunnel) types, the boys from Jersey/Queens/Staten Island--nice fellows, most of them, but really have one goal in life: get married & make enough $$ to support a wife (must be hot) & kids in the suburbs. Not exactly an appealling lifestyle for the single & sucessful gal. Then there are the "creative" types --actors/musicians/models, who tend to be so focused on themselves that creating a LTR is far from a priority (I've met some exceptions, but they're few and far between). And kids? They're financially unstable, so that's an impossibilty.

So this leaves the class of men Ms. Dowd writes about. The sucessful types, the lawyers, finance guys, etc. (And yes, the dorks too). Trouble with them is, to get to that level of success in NYC, most have had to become unbearable assholes. The dorks too. And they have their pick. Beautiful, sucessful, smart women surround them on a daily basis. At work, at charity functions, at the bars. And yes, even the dorks, while they might not have the pick of the litter, have lots of offers. And they know it.

I actually think the dorks are the worst, here. I'm attracted to dorky guys (deep down, under my new, stylish, NYC hair and clothes, I'm a total dork too) but they're just as bad as the non-dorky guys. And being rejected by a dorky guy, well, it hurts a little less if you've been rejected by some hot, sucessful guy.

I think the problem Ms. Dowd has with the feminist movement, is that we were promised "the whole package" -- husband, kids, sucessful career, equal pay for equal work, and though we've acomplished a lot, the whole package just doesn't seem to be a reality.

Y'all say "What's wrong with being single?" but what's wrong with wanting to be in a relationship?

(And btw, I'm sure that producer fellow she quotes is super smart. He wouldn't be able to have that job otherwise.) 

Posted by Kristin

Anonymous said...

There's an aspect of Dowd's plaint that has little to do with gender (Kameron alludes to it in her closing remark about the "NY producer"). Perhaps many readers are familiar with it?

A friend comes to you, distraught. They feel like they've screwed up somehow, or their dream seems unobtainable, or their life just generally sucks. You patiently talk them through the issue(s), starting at first principles, stripping off all of the expectation & hype, and slowly build them back up, step by step, to where they see the path from here to there. And they start to feel better, more secure... and then their ambition and/or neurosis kicks into gear again and they're off to the races. "But... what about xyz? I want that *too*." Or, no matter how close, it isn't *exactly* what they wanted. Or it will take too long -- they want near-instant gratification.

In Dowd's case, there are plenty of great guys (both virile and good-natured) who delight in kick-ass women... but they're nobodies -- just everyday guys, not NY producers or movers & shakers -- or (as Kameron writes again) don't look like supermodels or drive hot cars. Dowd is conflating all of her issues together and blaming feminism for not fulfilling them all simultaneously.

Posted by Blimfark

Brendan said...

Kristen, I really gotta disagree with you, in a Brooklyn sort of way.

If you're going to parse the millions of guys living in New York- one of the world's 5 most diverse cities, I'm sure- into Jersey rats, creative types, and the investment banker posse, and then assign each of those groups a monolithic worldview- wow. I'd write a blog called "Grow Some Testicles" too if those were the only kind of men I was letting myself see (and if I were gay. Ehh, you get the point).

I'm a man from New York, though maybe I don't count because I'm with someone from out of town. But I look at my circle of friends, and I'm not seeing The Investment Banker, The Creative Type, and The Jersey Mook. And I gotta tell you, I've seen "The Breakfast Club" a few times, so you'd figure I'd be pretty swift picking up on these kinds of stereotypes. Er, generalizations. Uh, categories?

No, my boys- well, you'd probably call them dorks. Actually, you probably wouldn't notice them, since they're not hanging out at charity functions (!) or singles bars. They're not assholes. They're not looking to set up the white picket fence ASAP. They're not children of privilege. They're not ultra-ambitious, but they're also not coasting through life. They're, y'know, regular people.
They have things they want, and things they don't want, and a lot of white space in the future for things they still want to fill in. I suppose you'd say they're not successful since there's no lawyers or bankers among them, but they get by and live good lives, and they're all a shitload of fun to grab a beer with. Good guys.

In most of the world, hell in most of this city, that's not a bad hand. Manhattan's a bit different though, isn't it? Chunks of Brooklyn now too, of late. I'm guessing my friends wouldn't match your stylish hair and clothes too well. The "successful" guys are too assholish for you, the "creatives" too flaky and the people I associate with aren't "successful" enough. Sucks to be you!

You're entitled to your ideal, God knows we've all got them. But it's not the fault of every man in New York that he can't live up to your generalizations about us. It's not our fault that you miss the good men because you're busy being angry about all the rest. A lot of us don't fit the framework you're using.

If you want to find decent, honorable, intelligent and passionate men who want something long-term and meaningful, they're out there, but you're going to have to look for them where they are. They might not be a perfect match to your ideals and generalizations, but that's the bitch of building something lasting- you have to deal with people as individuals and not types, and you have to make compromises. 

Posted by Brendan

-- said...


I'd be happy to meet a regular guy. But can't seem to find one to date for the life of me. Seriously, the guys I meet fall into one of those 3 categories. I can only speak from my experience, though, as you can only speak from yours.

You say the regular guys out there, but I'm going to have to look for them where they are. Mind filling me in on where that is?  

Posted by Kristin

Brendan said...

True enough about experience.

As for where the good guys are...mostly, I think they're busy with whatever it is in their lives which gives them drive. I'm not even going to go to the "join a class, take up a hobby!" advice, but I will say I think you're more likely to meet someone centered and driven on terms like those rather than in a place like a bar, where the expectations and aims are a lot more on the casual sex end of the scale. I met my current girlfriend through blogging, for whatever that's worth.

I realize using the net for this kind of stuff can land you some class-A weirdos (ye gods, I have stories), but it has the great virtue of pulling you out of your own experience and showing you a huge variety of new faces. It's also much more likly to appeal to men who may be good, kind, and considerate but also either too busy or not aggressive enough to make a habit of personal approaches.

Overall, I'd say starting from a friendly basis is most important as well. No matter how hot he is. Just that test alone will filter most of the abs-holes you run into. 

Posted by Brendan

Vincent said...

Maybe the problem is people get stuck circulating in the same social circles. One person's social circle is full of down to earth, regular folk, while another person is stuck in one populated only by lame examples of the opposite sex.

And it turns out breaking the boundaries between groups isn't easy. The internet helps. Bars and clubs help. Heck, even dating agencies help, but it's amazing how you can still run into the same kind of people, no matter how far you go.

Though if what Kristin's said is true, I'm half tempted to pack my bags and head for New York City right now. 

Posted by Vincent

Anonymous said...

I met my husband through a personal ad. A few years ago, if you'd told me I'd end up with a guy who worked in IT at a bank, who likes to play golf and is into Fantasy Football, I would have laughed at you. All my friends were artsy indie rockers or indie-rock fellow travelers.

I really think that thing about social circles is true. After a while, I just traveled in the same ones over and over. By placing the ad, I went outside my comfort zone (which was starting to seem like a prison), and I met a few frogs -- but also, my prince. And the kooky thing is, I wasn't that attracted to him on the first date -- I'd say I was neutral (not attracted, not repulsed). Obviously things blossomed from there.

So for me, going outside my normal social circles, taking a chance and ending up with a "type" I never thought I'd end up with turned out great. I ended up with a computer nerd who works at a bank and wears khaki pants. And he has a great heart. And he's a great father too.

I bet Maureen Dowd would never look twice at a guy like him.  

Posted by maxie

-- said...

Vincent, you would be snapped up in a second. 29 and British? You're a catch. Do you like tall blondes? ;)

I think you're right. I am stuck in my social circles. The B&T guys are at the bars, the creative types are the ones I meet (I'm an actress), and the "sucessful" guys are the friends of friends. Wish I could find my way into a circle of "normal" guys, but I don't think it's as easy as all that. *sigh*  

Posted by Kristin