Maureen Dowd’s book, Are Men Necessary, racked up disappointing first-week sales barely over 10,000 copies. The publication was preceded by great fanfare, a huge public relations campaign and a publicity photo of the author wearing a slinky black dress, net hose, starkly red high heels, and the sullen facial expression typical of today’s fashion models.
What went wrong?
A cutting-edge feminist and New York Times columnist, Dowd, wrote a book basically saying that feminism betrayed women.
Dowd declared that while feminism lasted only a nanosecond, the backlash has gone on for 40 years with “American narcissism” trumping “American feminism.” Dowd’s personal bitterness is palpable. She thinks that feminism has “curdled”; that the promise of a “womanly life” that wouldn’t revolve around men “never quite materialized.” She alone saw things clearly and charted her own path.
Other women are just too, too conformist in the ’60s, feminists looked and thought alike; today’s women, with a different message, look and think alike, too. Back when feminists reigned, Dowd was too fun-loving. With conservative women on the ascendancy, Dowd was too strong. Alas, men can’t handle a strong woman so, in her early 50s, she is still single; there is no justice in the world. Dowd subscribes to the men-want-to-marry-their-secretaries school; women, she thinks, are penalized when they are too independent and strong.
Further, Dowd cites all the reasons that professional women get by-passed in the marriage mart a high I.Q. hurts a woman’s prospects, high salary or other signs of career success are detriments, or the daily grind of the fast track is not family-friendly. Then, with her typical arrogance, she writes that it is “exhilarating” to see women reject the “old idea of copying men” in order to reshape the world “around their desires.” But, she opines, it is an “irritating setback” when women “cosset themselves” in a narrow world and accept “dependence on men.”
There is no question that feminism has suffered a setback.
Today’s young women don’t want to be called feminist; ironically, they think feminism is very “yesterday.” Plus, the final holdouts support such a leftist agenda that so-called “women’s rights” organizations have a hard time getting people to their meetings. Mainstream women think that organizations like NOW (National Organization for Women) “fight for the wrong things.”
Critics of feminist icon Germaine Greer commented on her recent appearance in Australia, saying that her feminism is the “worst example of Western indulgence” and that what Greer and other feminists do not say “betrays how feminism has lost its way.”
The Australian described Western feminism as “soft” in its “romanticization of other cultures” and its relativism on critical issues; the newspaper contrasted Greer’s silly rhetoric and shallow causes with the sobering courage of Mukhtaran Mai, an illiterate and working-class 33-year-old Pakistani woman who was gang raped by five men. Despite Islamic law, Mai took the rapists to court, and she has become an ardent advocate for education and opportunity for Pakistani girls.
So, while Dowd and others have their pity parties about irrelevant concerns, women in countries like Afghanistan are getting involved in politics in order to shape a brighter future for their daughters, and women in southern Asia and the Middle East are protesting “honor killings” and female genital mutilation.
No wonder women aren’t buying Dowd’s book. Who wants to read her trivial treatise about whether men are necessary? Real women are bucking Islamic regimes by taking courageous and life-changing steps to free oppressed women.
Janice Crouse is Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute.