March 15, 2007

Women and opinions.

Tom Maguire, my co-guestblogger over at Instapundit this week, observes that it's the second anniversary (tomorrow) of that Kevin Drum blog post about why there aren't more women in political blogging.

Wait! Why didn't we observe the second anniversary of that Maureen Dowd column about women columnists (which Kevin talked about):
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.
Or even the second anniversary of my blog post talking about Dowd's column and also linked in Kevin's post):
It takes a lot nerve to put your harsh, straightforward words down on paper. You can feel entirely squelched and intimidated, yet still have those things inside you, and you could say them if somehow someone managed to give you the go-ahead. I know I've found myself able to write a lot of things down in this blog, but I've also gone many, many years holding my tongue. There may be a lot of men clamoring to speak first, easily finding a way to talk over the women who have just as much to say. It may take a little something more to unleash what women can say. Maureen Dowd doesn't explain how she was able to let loose. Someone saw she had it in her and gave her the forum, and from there she had to force herself to do it. But clearly, she could.
Frankly, I didn't even feel like I had opinons until I started writing. I had to get over the barrier and start writing, then, obligating myself to write or just falling in love with writing, I had to force myself to generate an opinion. Then there was learning how to deal with the push back. It's so unfairly easier to push back women. I really identified with that Maureen Dowd column. Women pay a price for showing some nerve. Nevertheless, it's worth it.

36 comments:

Mortimer Brezny said...

Maureen Dowd is delusional if she thinks her purposely catty snark is on par with Thomas Friedman's discussion of topical issues from an intentionally even-handed perspective.

There is simply no legitimate comparison between a column on how Ms. Dowd saw Obama throw a hissy hit because Hillary's got better hair and a column about whether gas taxes will promote ethanol and so alienate Saudi Arabia, indirectly causing greater ethnic tensions elswhere in the Middle East.

Friedman's columns often do not mention personages. Dowd almost always mentions a person, using a denigrating moniker as a means to subject the public figure to psychoanalytic ridicule. Poppy Bush? Rummy-Rum? In her world, Dubya has a Daddy-complex and inadequacy problems and Rumsfeld is so self-absorbed because he's classically good-looking. I have no idea whether Dubya is on the small side peter-wise and I have no idea whether the ladies love the Rumsfeld, but I do know that Thomas Friedman has never written any columns turning public figures into silly stick-figures for cheap laughs.

Mortimer Brezny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
reality check said...

I didn't even feel like I had opinons until I started writing.

One of these days you should take responsibility and ownership of your opinions, and stop hiding behind weasel tactics like Paglia by smearing behind a veil of plausible deniability, or weasel phrases like "I am not really into politics."

It's so unfairly easier to push back women. Document or retract. Especially on the net. My take is that women on the net are placed on a pedestal.

Ann Althouse said...

"My take is that women on the net are placed on a pedestal."

Yeah, and if they dare to step off it...

Ann Althouse said...

Pedestals aren't too roomy.

Kirk Parker said...

Mortimer,

Even though Friedman's columns are almost always less catty than Dowd's, and rely less on cute names, they generally show about the same substance.

Bruce Hayden said...

Ann,

I found your suggestion that men speak over women interesting. Of course, it depends on the circumstances, but I find that my brothers and I do vie to dominate the conversation, and the women there often don't vie for dominance as we do.

But does the blogging environment change that dynamic? I would think that esp. when it is your own blog, it almost has to. If the Reality Checks and other nay-sayers get too vocal, you can just turn on comment moderation again.

What is interesting to me is that at least in the center and somewhat on the right, being shrill doesn't sell as well as being persuasive and moderate. And since it is hard to shout women down in this medium (or talk over them), it should be easier for women to be heard.

Finally, I agree with Mortimer, Maureen Dowd's problem is not that she is a woman, but rather what she says - a lot of her stuff is juvenile name calling, and is just not that interesting. Thomas Friedman is interesting because he says interesting things. So is The Althouse. But not Dowd. It isn't a sexist thing, but rather a quality thing.

reality check said...

That is a clever response, but I still think both of us are just going on perceptions here, and not data.

Bruce Hayden said...

Kirk Parker

I often don't agree with Friedman's conclusions, but I do often find him thought provoking. I don't find that with Dowd.

ASX said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Simon said...

"I didn't even feel like I had opinons until I started writing. I had to get over the barrier and start writing, then, obligating myself to write or just falling in love with writing, I had to force myself to generate an opinion."

Discovering that one does - and exploring and developing those ideas in writing - is just about the best reason to blog, IMO.

Joe said...

Ann I never would have thought that you felt this way. The printed word would seem to me to be a great leveler, the cold record so to speak. I would think that one's sex would be entirely irrelevent when discussing ideas in this medium.

vrse said...

Hey look! It's Ann Althouse carrying the torch for Women again!

Such a remarkable display of feminist courage! Almost like her NYT's column literally welcoming Romney's and Giuliani's flip-flopping over Women's Choice.

You go, Ann!!!!

Ann Althouse said...

ASX: I think women tend to put more value in being liked, and -- part of the same phenomenon -- people tend to expect women to be likeable. Women are punished more for stepping out of bounds and there are more bounds (like the expectation that you will be nice and warm and will support the Democratic party). People know or expect certain types of criticisms to be especially painful to women (like the accusation that you are not warm or you are not a feminist) and they use this knowledge/expectation to make the attack painful. People know how to make women pay for not keeping silent or saying only the acceptable things, and women know how much will be extracted.

You may say that men get criticized too, but they won't be seen as going wrong as soon, and if they do cross some line to where you think they are assholes, you still won't think they have lost their masculinity.

Ann Althouse said...

Joe: You don't see the price I pay.

AJD said...

Women pay a price for showing some nerve.

Waaaaaaah!

Revenant said...

I think that what comes across as toughness in a man sometimes comes across as bitchiness in a woman.

On the other hand, the fact that Dowd's columns tend to care more about tone and snark than actual substance is also a big part the the perception that her attacks are "mean". Friedman typically tries to demonstrate why his opponents are wrong; Dowd mostly just makes fun of them.

Ann Althouse said...

Dowd is more of a humorist. Friedman more of a scholar.

Freder Frederson said...

You have opinions? I thought you merely made observations and created art.

Who'd a thunk.

reality check said...

Ann,

Going back a few days, Columbia Journalism Review, Partisan or Non-Partisan?

Cause here's what they say about Talking Points Memo and the USA Gate:

How TalkingPointsMemo Beat the Big Boys on the U.S. Attorney Story

I am glad you found your voice. I am glad you realized it was okay to have opinions.

Now it's time for you to consider the people that are giving you your opinions for you.

Instead of it being Reynolds, make it yourself.

Instead of repeating the Republican memo, why not read the sources and find your own conclusions and form your own opinions.

There is still a few days for you to create and voice some opinions before Gonzalez resigns to spend more time with his family. But act now, because stock is going fast.

Mortimer Brezny said...

You may say that men get criticized too, but they won't be seen as going wrong as soon, and if they do cross some line to where you think they are assholes, you still won't think they have lost their masculinity.

Oh, that's not true. If he goes too far, people start speculating that he's got a small wee-wee and is overcompensating, or he's really a closet homo, or he's bitter about being rejected by women, etc. If he goes too far they go right for the cheap psychoanalysis to try to strip him of his masculinity.

Steven said...

Now it's time for you to consider the people that are giving you your opinions for you.

Ah, "reality check" being a condescending arrogant blowhard, again. It's been, what, a whole ten seconds since he last displayed that aspect of his character?

Does anybody have any evidence that "reality check" is not a deliberate parody of the left-wing? I mean, his dialogue sounds like the stuff Ayn Rand put in the mouths of her villains, only more poorly-written.

reality check said...

Stephen, you have a small wee-wee.

Beth said...

"like the accusation that you are not warm or you are not a feminist"

That's an interesting juxtaposition. The stereotype is that feminists are labeled as cold, or that old canard, frigid. And in the real world, not the blogosphere with its personality clashes and traffic competitions, my impression is that it's more usual for a woman to be criticized for being feminist, rather than for not being feminist.

Beth said...

Adding to my previous comment, I suppose that's what makes blogging interesting, and I hope more women consider blogging for that reason. While it's sometimes a messy, public meltdown of a thing, it also at least offers the chance for real, raw dialogue, and women benefit from doing that in an environment that isn't static, isn't safe.

Mortimer Brezny said...

The stereotype is that feminists are labeled as cold, or that old canard, frigid.

Frigid? I thought it was boy-crazy, man-hating, ball-busting cock-teasers.

Jim M. said...

It's so unfairly easier to push back women. .... Women pay a price for showing some nerve.

Something similar could be said of men — but don't let anyone know; if we tell anyone it means we're weak. On blogging heads you said something similar about being vilified for not toeing the line on campuses, and it resonated with my experiences as well, though unlike you I largely was intimidated into silence.

I would suggest that your experiences are substantially indicitive of being human, not just being a woman.

sonicfrog said...

Hmmm. What's wrong with me. I seem to have hit a blog-block lately. Haven't been in the mood to do much except post little blurbs and pics. I wonder what Maureen Dowd would think if she ever stooped down to my level and read my blog????

sonicfrog said...

PS. Simon, when I decided to switch careers from pool / spa repair guy to teacher of history, economics and stuff two plus years ago, I started my blog as an exercise to improve my spelling and writing skills. I think it has been a worthy endeavor, not only for the exercise of said skill-set improvements, but I also discovered I enjoy writing, and have found a whole universe of friends I dub, with deference to "pen-pals" of yore, "blog-pals".

Kirk Parker said...

Bruce,

Oh, Friedman is thought-provoking, all right: when I read him, I'm frequently thinking, "How does someone so fatuous, and so ill-informed, get a gig with the NYT?" Except for The Lexus and the Olive Tree, of course. Reading that, every time I encountered yet another variant on the stupid, clanking, pointless operating-system metaphor, my thoughts were more along the line of, "How can I arrange to meet this guy in a dark alley somewhere?" :-(

Beth said...

Mortimer, if feminists had a sense of humor, you'd have made me laugh.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Beth,

Does that mean you want to have sex?

Mortimer Brezny said...

Pedestals aren't too roomy.

Well, that's because you got all that junk in your trunk, girl...

giles said...

Dowd's column consists entirely of very personal comments on people's personalities and appearance. To describe this as "mean" is entirely accurate.

Fen said...

Does anybody have any evidence that "reality check" is not a deliberate parody of the left-wing?

Ha. I've been thinking the same thing lately. He used to bug me, but now its more entertaining. If he is indeed a parody, its nicely done.

Beth said...

Mortimer, yes, every day.

Wait, did you mean with you?