Sunday, March 13, 2005

Clara notes Maureen Dowd for Women's History Month

Clara: Maureen Dowd is a writer I regularly turn to for insight and laughter. Her book BushWorld was a collection of her columns [BushWorld is just out in a softcover edition] and a good place to start for anyone not familiar with her. I was reading The Third Estate Sunday Review this morning and they noted Gail Collins's "maybe in ten or twenty years" stance on
more women on the op-ed pages and how Ms. Collins's pages now boast a new hire, John Tierney. I'd add that her last newcomer was David Brooks. If women are coming to the op-ed pages it won't be via an obstructionist like Gail Collins who is oh so comfortable with this "wait, just wait, and see" attitude. (I also wonder if it's that Collins doesn't care to use her power or if she just doesn't have any at the paper. Either way she's useless.)
Dowd is someone I first noticed in 1992 when she was covering the campaigns and I've enjoyed her writing ever since. (Yes, that does include her rants against the Clintons. I don't ignore them. I may disagree but I can usually find a laugh or two even in those columns.)
While Thomas Friedman always writes in his self-important voice and twists and turns to attempt to rationalize his push for war with Iraq and while David Brooks just writes bad (forget disagreeing with him, he's just a bad writer with no grace or style), Maureen Dowd is someone I can count on along with Paul Krugman. The saddest days for me with the Times in my hands is when it's a scheduled day for Dowd's column but she's on vacation.
Today she writes:

While a man writing a column taking on the powerful may be seen as authoritative, a woman doing the same thing may be seen as castrating. If a man writes a scathing piece about men in power, it's seen as his job; a woman can be cast as an emasculating man-hater. I'm often asked how I can be so "mean" - a question that Tom Friedman, who writes plenty of tough columns, doesn't get.
[. . .]
Male bloggers predominate, as do male TV shouters. Men I know and men who read The Times write me constantly, asking me to read the opinion pieces they've written. Sometimes they'll e-mail or fax me their thoughts to read right before I have lunch with them. Women hardly ever send their own rants.
There's been a dearth of women writing serious opinion pieces for top news organizations, even as there's been growth in female sex columnists for college newspapers. Going from Tess Harding to Carrie Bradshaw, Dorothy Thompson to Candace Bushnell, is not progress.
This job has not come easily to me. But I have no doubt there are plenty of brilliant women who would bring grace and guts to our nation's op-ed pages, just as, Lawrence Summers notwithstanding, there are plenty of brilliant women out there who are great at math and science. We just need to find and nurture them.

While Gail Collins rushes to assure that things are just fine and just wait a decade or two, Dowd's dealing directly with what's going on. I remember her doing that when Brian Williams was chosen to replace Tom Brokaw as well. And I admire Dowd's "tough columns." If I knew her, I'd tell her my opinion for why no one gets upset about a "tough column" from Friedman is because everyone knows you just have to wait for the next column and Friedman will change his mind again.

Dowd's consistent and as the only woman with a column on the pages of the paper of record, she can make a difference. I think that she does.