03/13/2005: Intellectual "Avengers"
Maureen Dowd reminded me of another "fictional" but TV character from my childhood that I would have "switched places with" (if that had been a "magical option")...in writing this opening to her Sunday column, Dish It Out, Ladies today:
"When I need to work up my nerve to write a tough column, I try to think of myself as Emma Peel in a black leather catsuit, giving a kung fu kick to any diabolical mastermind who merits it."
Yep...Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was Too Cool...and her partner "John Steed" (played Patrick Macnee) was so "quintessentially" a British super sleuth and debonaire "Man-About-Town" that I can still remember the enjoyment of those "Avenger" shows...currently in reruns on the BBC America channel. Plus, the show had that bit'o'sci-fi and futuristic genre coupled with plots twists that made it a "must see" series of the day. Now...what girl wouldn't have wanted to be the beautiful, sassy but talented "Mrs. Peel?"
But Maureen Dowd is positing more than just a "fictional crush" about Mrs. Peel and her "take charge" personality and Emma's "personal and professional" intellectual dueling with her crime-fighting-partner, Steed. Maureen writes:
"...As a woman, I told Howell, I wanted to be liked - not attacked. He said I could go back to The Metro Section; I decided to give it another try. Bill Safire told me I needed Punzac, Prozac for pundits.
Guys don't appreciate being lectured by a woman. It taps into myths of carping Harpies and hounding Furies, and distaste for nagging by wives and mothers. The word "harridan" derives from the French word "haridelle" - a worn-out horse or nag.
Men take professional criticism more personally when it comes from a woman. When I wrote columns about the Clinton impeachment opéra bouffe, Chris Matthews said that for poor Bill, it must feel as though he had another wife hectoring him.
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.
Even the metaphors used to describe my column play into the castration theme: my scalpel, my cutting barbs, razor-sharp hatchet, Clinton-skewering and Bush-whacking. "Does she," The L.A. Times's Patt Morrison wondered, "write on a computer or a Ronco Slicer and Dicer?"
In 1998, Bill Clinton made a castration joke about me at a press dinner, as I sank down in my seat. I called Alan Dundes, a renowned folklorist, to ask about it. "Women are supposed to take it, not dish it out," he replied. "If a woman embarrasses a man, he feels inadequate, effeminate. He wants her to go back to the kitchen."
Luckily I don't know any men like that...or if I do...I must be impervious to all attempts to subjugate me intellectually or otherwise. Lucky ME.
"...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."
Well, the NY Times can always hire ME (though I ain't holding my breath or nothing)...
Besides, where would I find the time to devote to that additional "career" tag to add to my already FULL plate here in Dennis Hastert Corner. *Smile*
Karen on 03.13.05 @ 04:59 AM CST