Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Moms and Momness II

by Tom Bozzo

But for an upcoming blogger dinner, for which I am informed it may be useful to brush up on the attendees' blogging activities, this might have gone to the Island of Lost Posts.

The Maureen Dowd column, "Men Just Want Mommy" (get it while it's free), didn't initially register much with me, but it fired up a bunch of Ann Althouse's readers last week and subsequently Ann — who had originally noted it with a one-line post — herself.

Even though I don't think the column was very well-argued*, I have no quarrel with anyone who found it worth discussing, not least because I'm mentioning it here. And after some internal debate**, I concluded that I actually completely agree with Ann in the following:
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!

True. This requires much more thought.

* Among other things, I'm not convinced that the marrying habits of rich and powerful men constitute a new problem, and I don't care for her induction from popular media method (which can be fun when done right, but cf. Jeremy Freese). As the column is soon to disappear into the Times paid archives, here is how it goes, paragraph-by-paragraph:

1. Relates an anecdote about meeting an actress who wants to be married but can't because "men [with personal assistants or PR women] only want to marry their personal assistants or P.R. women."

2. Reports that Dowd sees a trend of rich and powerful men marrying young assistants of various types. Dowd does not name names.

3. Advances the assistance ("mommy") angle from paragraph 2 over the youth angle. Questionable.

4. Posits the Tracy–Hepburn repartee as the one-time film relationship ideal. Fine, though suggestions for the archetypal millionaire-and-the-help romantic fantasy are welcome. She doesn't mention such fare as "The Seven Year Itch," "The Apartment," or "Good Neighbor Sam." And Mark Kleiman (seemingly admitting to being part of the not unrelated beauty myth problem) touches on the actual Tracy-Hepburn relationship, a useful demonstration of the downside of casual nostalgia which I think has much broader implications here.

5. Describes features of a movie plot ("Spanglish") allegedly reflecting the paragraph 2 trend.

6. Describes features of second movie plot ("Love Actually") allegedly reflecting the paragraph 2 trend. This seems slightly less on-point. Alan Rickman does not portray a sympathetic character. Also, Martine McCutcheon is not "chubby."

7. Parenthetically digs at Kelly Ripa.

8. Asserts that art is imitating life.

9.-13. Cites reports on academic studies of marriage attitudes. See J Autumn (and Jeremy Freese's comment) and Althouse for discussion of why the cited studies are not dispositive.

14. Asks rhetorical questions about the failure of feminism, offers generalization about what "a lot" of men want.

15. Carrie Fisher confirms the thesis.

16. Relates brilliant quote from Carrie Fisher: guys are jerks. ("[K]ings want to be treated like kings, and consorts want to be treated like kings, too.")


** Both figuring out what I want to say and dealing with spousal "aren't you having dinner with these people" questions.

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