Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Real-Life Carrie Bradshaw

I just finished reading Marueen Dowd's most recent book (and yes, I realize I'm reading it a year late, but in my defense, my final year of college I was attempting to keep afloat with classes and therefore had to take a break from popular culture). I sort of knew from the outset that it was going to be disappointing. She whines about why women are awesome and alone. She makes sweeping generalizations about gender. None of this is surprising, given her Times columns. It's sad that a woman who has the potential to be so powerful and influential -- printed alongside other public thinkers each week in the paper of record -- falls short. She sort of comes off as a silly woman.

Granted, she has legitimate grievances. One of the more memorable anecdotes is toward the end is her tale of searching for a job after the New York Star went under. She met with a married magazine editor (presumably at Time) who asked her to stay the night with him at his hotel after making a job offer. Although this is appalling, it's shocking how, er, unshocked I was to read about this. My own experience with middle-aged editors is that they constantly view their female co-workers (or, in this case, potential female co-workers) as, above all, female. The solution to this is complicated. Women are right to be outraged at such behavior, but the one thing Dowd is right about is that simple litigation will not solve the problem. What's more, there are women out there that are willing to take advantage of such sexual encounters. Unless women uniformly reject such advances, this will always be a problem. In the meantime, there are plenty of other work-related issues that can be dealt with on a uniform level: salary equality, parity in management positions, advocating for family flexibility, etc.

What's more, I'm fairly certain that Dowd has the wrong take on Muslim women. The answer is far more complicated than women ripping off their robes and standing up to misogynist Arab men. This is a topic I'd like to do a lot more research on, but any time religion becomes entangled with personal rights, it takes a lot to untangle the two.

I also have beef with the idea that Bush has a "feminist foreign policy." That may be part of the public argument, but if Bush were really concerned with feminist rights, he wouldn't be pouring money into abstinence-only aid in Africa.

I could go on and on with the points with which I disagree, but I fear I've written too much already on a book that largely wasn't worth reading.

I hope in my subsequent pop feminism readings, I'll find something more substantive. Suggestions?

2 comments:

The View From Dupont said...

"What's more, I'm fairly certain that Dowd has the wrong take on Muslim women. The answer is far more complicated than women ripping off their robes and standing up to misogynist Arab men. This is a topic I'd like to do a lot more research on, but any time religion becomes entangled with personal rights, it takes a lot to untangle the two.

I also have beef with the idea that Bush has a "feminist foreign policy." That may be part of the public argument, but if Bush were really concerned with feminist rights, he wouldn't be pouring money into abstinence-only aid in Africa."

Agreed on both points. It's upsetting to see stereotypes within the field of religion and personal freedom, particularly in work like Dowd's which is widely read, but it seems that even if we solve the problem within academia, pop culture needs to follow suit. And the idea of doing some more research into the topic is a great one!

As for Bush... I'm sad to say I worked for both campaigns of his, and was proud of it at the time. I think, though, the only reason his foreign policy is considered "feminist" is because it's in comparison to those stereotypes that the media and the administration back up. I'd love to see some research on the true statistics of Bush foreign policy in the feminist sphere vs. the other governments.

Danae said...

I'd recommend 'Scheherazade goes west' by Fatima Mernissi - AMAZING book by a muslim woman about the differences between western and arab mens view of women - it is not as misogynistic as us westerners might like to think because of the way we see how women are 'treated'. She started noting the difference when she wrote a book about her life growing up in a Harem. After the umpteenth man smirked and sniggered at the word Harem, she started looking into it and discovered Western man's view of what that was like and how far removed it was from the reality. Plus she was appalled at the western man's 'fantasy' which usually involved beautiful but mute women who would submit to their every desire. Arab man's fantasies are filled with firey and highly accomplished women who ride horses, use a bow and arrow and are highly educated and their arousal only starts with talking and being able to converse with a woman....
Oh how different our western man is!

I love what you wrote here - I found it after searching for Sex and the City stuff online due to the recent movie release (which i won't be spending money to see on the big screen) - its a complicated old world isn't it. Drives me potty sometimes.

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