My girlfriends and I - all twentysomethings soon to graduate from college - couldn't stop talking about Maureen Dowd's column. But I was bothered by a number of things she mentioned - not because she was wrong but because she was so right.
The next two letters come from women who feel slurred: a mother and a female assistant to a powerful man want to be recognized as strong, powerful women too.
The last two letters are from men who represent the sort of men Dowd discounted: a powerful man who wants to find his equal in a powerful woman and a man happily married to a powerful woman.
The email I received, by the way, was in this last category. I'm a supporter of egalitarian marriages and don't deny their existence, so I'm not surprised that there are many people out there who can claim to want or even to have such marriages. I'm willing to believe that a controlled, objective study might even find that some of these claims are absolutely true, not just in the minds of those who make the claims, but in the actual division of energies within the relationship.
But Dowd never made an assertion about what all or even most men want. The core of her column consists of two questions and a statement about what "a lot of" men want:
So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? The more women achieve, the less desirable they are? Women want to be in a relationship with guys they can seriously talk to - unfortunately, a lot of those guys want to be in relationships with women they don't have to talk to.
Instead of just reflexively denying the problem, why not think deeply about equality?
I saw email and blog posts ridiculing Dowd, calling her a "53-year-old spinster," comparing her quite beautiful NYT photograph to the face of the witch in "The Wizard of Oz," and asserting that the powerful women she wrote about really can't get men because they are such nasty bitches.
Equality of the sexes is one of the truly excellent principles in this world, and there are great and complex forces militating against it. Please don't just sit back and say "I'm happily married" or "Men will have no problem with successful, powerful women as long as they are caring and loving." Look around! Think! It's not that easy!