Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Woe is Maureen Dowd

If you are pressed for time and can't possibly read all Evolutionary Psychology junk science on gender in detail, you can just read the latest Maureen Dowd column. She is summarizing them all for you and accepting their message without a single tiny question in her pretty head. Odd, that. And especially odd given the logical conclusion I'd draw from her column which is that there is no hope for women such as Dowd to find partners. No hope whatsoever, unless she packs in her job at the New York Times and takes up something more suitable, something less cerebral, something more suited for male ego propping.

A snippet:

Hillary Clinton, who is trying to crash through the Oval glass ceiling, may hope that we're evolving into a kingdom of queen bees and their male slaves. But stories have been popping up that suggest that evolution is moving forward in a circuitous route, with lots of speed bumps.

Perhaps smart women can take hope — as long as they're built like Marilyn Monroe. Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Pittsburgh have released a zany study on the zaftig, positing that men are drawn to hourglass figures not only because they look alluring, but because hips plumped up by omega-3 fatty acids could mean smarter women bearing smarter kids.

Yet Alex Williams recently reported in The Times that the new income superiority of many young women in big cities is causing them to encounter "forms of hostility they weren't prepared to meet," leaving them "trying to figure out how to balance pride in their accomplishments against their perceived need to bolster the egos of the men they date."

It is such an odd column in many ways. On one level it's all about the impossibility of a woman ever being happy if she is smart and earns too much. On another level it's all about what horrible creatures men are, but women can't do anything but go along with that. Well, those that try to do something different, such as Hillary Clinton, obviously want to be queen bees and to make men into slaves.

What can one say about this all? That Dowd probably dug rather selectively in the available studies to find those which support her own odd powerless melancholy? That perhaps she should have asked some scientists not linked to the studies for some criticisms? That she confuses cultural influences and evolution and appears to use the term "evolution" for all sorts of things which are not evolution at all?

I have never quite been able to figure out what the audience is that Dowd writes to. Sometimes I think she writes to herself. A lot of her arguments appear to center on her own experiences. If I wrote a similar column on my own experiences in the dating scene I'd argue that my smartness always served me very well, and I'd probably dig in the available studies for those which support that opinion. Note how very different that story would be. Yet it's Dowd's story the New York Times chooses to give us, not mine.
Added later: To give you an example of the kinds of studies which Dowd could have cited: There are some which show that more educated women have happier marriages and fewer divorces.