After sticking it to the administration in Bushworld (2004), New York Times Pulitzer-winner Dowd takes on the battle of the sexes.
Like most columnists, the author is easier to take in small daily doses. Full-length exposure to the rarified world she moves in prompts the uneasy feeling that Dowd doesn’t know much about ordinary folks. Joking that nowadays women check out their prospective partners on the Internet, she seems not to realize that most people are unlikely to find mentions of their blind date on Google. “Whence the Wince?” and “How Green Is My Valley of the Dolls,” which extensively anatomize the cult of bodily perfection and chemical-induced placidity, will certainly be of interest to those whose peers can afford plastic surgery, frequent Botox injections and abundant prescriptions of Paxil, perhaps not so much to women holding down jobs and raising their kids without the benefit of full-time nannies or CEO husbands. Dowd’s habit of quoting friends and colleagues—who all seem to be media executives, political operatives or other Times writers—reinforces the perception of her blinkered perspective. Granted, she delivers her basic message strongly: “Feminism lasted for a nanosecond, but the backlash has lasted forty years.” And she’s often very funny to a serious purpose, as in her skewering of “Saturday Morning Bill” Clinton who “would mess around with women with big-cut hair and low-cut dresses,” while “Sunday Morning Bill would run and hide behind the sedate skirts of the high-toned feminists he surrounded himself with.” (Her most stinging passages skewer the hypocrisy of feminists who decried the smear tactics used against Anita Hill, then used the same tactics against Monica Lewinsky.) Still, a staunch liberal and feminist like Dowd, who proudly declares that she comes “from a family of Irish maids,” could profitably spend more time writing about the impact of the antifeminist backlash on people who are still cleaning houses.
Her heart’s in the right place, but she really should get out more.