Alex Blaze

The NY Times calls out Maureen Dowd's sexism

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 23, 2008 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, The Movement
Tags: Christopher Hoyt, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Maureen Dowd, New York Times, sexism

This is pretty interesting. The public editor of the NY Times wrote up a column responding to accusations of sexism regarding coverage of Hillary Clinton at the Times. No, they weren't the worst, but they could still improve.

He goes over a lot of specific cases from news reports, but he keeps on coming back to a central conclusion: Maureen Dowd is insanely sexist. I'd say so sexist that one wonders if she has anything else going for her, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Discussing the Hall of Shame NOW set up relating to this coverage:

The Times itself, however, was barely mentioned, even though two of its Op-Ed columnists, Maureen Dowd and William Kristol, were named in the Hall of Shame.

Peggy Aulisio of South Dartmouth, Mass., said, "A real review of your own stories and columns is warranted." I think so too. And I think a fair reading suggests that The Times did a reasonably good job in its news articles. But Dowd's columns about Clinton's campaign were so loaded with language painting her as a 50-foot woman with a suffocating embrace, a conniving film noir dame and a victim dependent on her husband that they could easily have been listed in that Times article on sexism, right along with the comments of Chris Matthews, Mike Barnicle, Tucker Carlson or, for that matter, Kristol, who made the Hall of Shame for a comment on Fox News, not for his Times work.

Dowd's sexism has been on display for years, from before she said that Al Gore was so feminine that he was "practically lactating," that John Edwards was "the Breck Girl," or that Obama was Obambi, too feminine for the job of president, that he'd be overrun by that Godzilla of Hillary Clinton, the woman who's too ambitious to properly hold high office. Hell, she even called Michelle Obama out for speaking out of place.

Dowd was definitely a leader in fanning the flames of sexism:

But the relentless nature of her gender-laden assault on Clinton -- in 28 of 44 columns since Jan. 1 -- left many readers with the strong feeling that an impermissible line had been crossed, even though, as Dowd noted, she is a columnist who is paid not to be objective.

Over the course of the campaign, I received complaints that Times coverage of Clinton included too much emphasis on her appearance, too many stereotypical words that appeared to put her down and dismiss a woman's potential for leadership and too many snide references to her as cold or unlikable. When I pressed for details, the subject often boiled down to Dowd.

Wow. It seems like she's the heart of the problem. I wonder what she has to say for herself?

Politically correct is never a term one would apply to Dowd's commentary. Her columns this year said Clinton's "message is unapologetically emasculating," and that she "needed to prove her masculinity" but in the end "had to fend off calamity by playing the female victim." In one column Dowd wrote, "She may want to take a cue from the Miss America contest: make a graceful, magnanimous exit and wait in the wings."

"From the time I began writing about politics," Dowd said, "I have always played with gender stereotypes and mined them and twisted them to force the reader to be conscious of how differently we view the sexes." Now, she said, "you are asking me to treat Hillary differently than I've treated the male candidates all these years, with kid gloves."

So, here's a question: why is the way she's been treating male candidates justified?

But that's besides the point! She doesn't treat all men that way! Just the pansies. And the pansies always seem to be Democrats.

What digby said:

Her "twisting of gender stereotypes" has turned every Democrat into a mincing ponce or a blubbering mama's boy and every Republican into a macho, scotch drinking throwback or an arrogant jock. You tell me which of those are classic leadership archetypes?

It took putting an actual female in the race to make anyone notice just how offensive her sexist caricatures really were. But they've always been offensive --- and they've always been right in lock step with that stupid "mommy party/daddy party" crapola the wingnuts put to good use whenever they want to make Democrats look weak.[...]

These negative "feminine" stereotypes not only perpetuate noxious myths about female and gay leadership abilities in the culture at large, they consistently favor the right wing authoritarian philosophy. Dowd always says she's speaking truth to power, but her obsession with "playing with gender" actually serves power very, very well. She and her editors may be so dazzled by puerile cutsiness like "Obama is like an anorexic starlet," to even know that she's being partisan, but that doesn't mean she isn't. It plays perfectly into the way Republicans have run elections since Reagan. If she and her editors don't know she's doing this then they are too stupid to be working for the paper of record.

Dowd's one of those people who just doesn't get it. And she won't get it - what she's doing is making too much money for her. And a Pulitzer, for whatever reason. And it's supporting conservative candidates and policy, and I'm not going to pretend like that couldn't possibly be her goal.

It's still a good development to see someone at the Times actually notice what Maureen Dowd is doing. But as long as they keep on publishing her column, they're complicit.


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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 24, 2008 5:43 AM

It is not justifiable, but neither is dismissing McCain as "old." They are point of view driven columnists and they speak to their choir. They don't change opinion they pander to the opinions of their readers, just as Rusbo Limburger (AKA the Oxycontin Kid)does anything he can to pander to his audience.

crescentdave | June 24, 2008 2:13 PM

Bravo for your article. Two additional sites which have expended significant time and effort exposing Dowd's patronizing sexism are The Daily Howler and Media Matters. You can use their search functions, punch in Dowd, and come up with numerous examples of noxious commentary.

Dowd's apologetics miss the mark. Being an opinion columnist doesn't excuse sexist writing anymore than it excuses racist writing. Not to put too fine a point on it, either Dowd needs to find a different venue or the NYT needs to relinquish it's sobriquet as the "paper of record" and acknowledge it's second-tier status when it comes to Op-Ed.