Wednesday, July 09, 2003

What is that Dowd Noise?

Since she won her Pulitzer, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has become a wildly hit-or-miss read. Once you get past the jarring notion of the Times's op-ed page being littered with pop-culture references, Dowd's breezy, short-paragraph style makes for a quick skim. When she's on, she's getting inside the heads of the country's political newsmakers, from Hillary Clinton to President Bush, from Al Gore to Donald Rumsfeld, in a delightfully snarky, incisive way. But when she's off, the result is a hodgepodge of disparate sociological trends pulled together with a smug, though not very tight, bow.

Take, for instance, today's piece following up on Nicholas Wade's recent story on the evolutionary decrease in the number of genes contained in the Y chromosome. Dowd sees the news as the latest bomb dropped on a gender that has "been fretting for some years now that they may be rendered unnecessary if women get financial and biological independence, learning how to reproduce and refinance without them." Uh, okay, Maureen. Whatever you say. Then she ping-pongs to recent discoveries that female promiscuity has evolutionary advantages previously unthought-of. And to a book by a British geneticist that concludes that men are now "the second sex." And then to the shattering conclusion, channeling a recent Times "trend" story about six guys in Manhattan who use face lotions instead of soap: "Perhaps that's why men are adapting, becoming more passive and turning into 'metrosexuals,' the new term for straight men who are feminized, with a taste for facials, grooming products and home design. Better to be an X chromosome than an ex-chromosome."

Dowd is clearly a clever writer who can turn a phrase. Her Pulitzer, earned on the backs of those easy targets, the Clintons, was well deserved. And she's still capable of delivering devastating pieces. But that does that give her a free pass to publish 700 words of psychobabble on the country's most valuable commentary real estate, as she's been doing all too frequently lately? Does she get to work without an editor because she won journalism's highest prize?

(DISCLAIMER: This item was written without an editor. So maybe I'm a big, fat hypocrite. Or maybe I don't get paid the same amount as a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist and shouldn't be held to the same standards.)


Post a Comment

<< Home