Sunday, March 13, 2005

It Don't Come Easy

A reader cites a prime example of the Kerfuffle Rule, which, minus the TBogg Exception, states that one should never credit the opinion of anyone who uses the term kerfuffle to describe a brouhaha, imbroglio or rowdydow.

In her Sunday column, MoDo spouts off on the underrepresentation of women writers on the nation's op-ed pages. After digressing to talk about herself for the first half of the column.

Dowd asks why people call her writings "mean." Actually, those people mean to say insipid; they're just being polite. She gripes at length about being perceived as castrating and man-hating for expressing strong opinions, and wonders why Tom Friedman doesn't get the same criticism.

May I suggest an answer, Maureen? Your column is criticized in ways Friedman's is not because it is entirely lacking in substance. It is always filled with lame insults more appropriately found in a Tonight Show monologue, labored -- and unfunny -- premises and analogies, and egocentric whining. It lacks any point of view except that its author is more clever than everyone else. It is deviod of a coherent philosophy, insight, conviction or reporting. In a word, it's crap.

After moaning that mean people called her mean, MoDo states:

The kerfuffle over female columnists started when Susan Estrich launched a crazed and nasty smear campaign against Michael Kinsley, the L.A. Times editorial page editor, trying to force him to run her humdrum syndicated column.
That castrating hormonal harpy Estrich! Doesn't she know this country's not big enough for two mediocore female blowhards? I bet Estrich can't even work an irrelevant Shakespeare reference into most of her columns.

Anyway, I should've stopped at kerfuffle; it's all downhill from there.

MoDo goes on to explain why there aren't more women opinion columnists:

Gail Collins, the first woman to run The Times's editorial page and the author of a history of American women, told The Post's Howard Kurtz: "There are probably fewer women, in the great cosmic scheme of things, who feel comfortable writing very straight opinion stuff, and they're less comfortable hearing something on the news and batting something out."

There's a lot of evidence of that. 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.
I think that Dowd is arguing there aren't more women on the editorial pages because she doesn't believe there presently exist enough (or any) women who are capable of expressing strong opinions or who willing to do so. "It's not my fault, or Collins's fault, that the Times hasn't hired more women op-ed columnists, it's society's fault. We looked in our e-mails; we looked at the blogs getting the most press; we looked to the places where most discerning polemicists make their names -- on cable teevee and in college sex columns. We looked far and wide across the table at the people who bought our lunch. Trust us, they're just not out there."

At least Dowd offers a solution: Bombard Dowd's e-mail account with links to your favorite women columnists, bloggers and authors, or to your own work. Constantly. And offer to buy her a steak.

She wants to help.

That's . Use "Maureen Dowd Mentor Program" in the subject line for best results.

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