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    But, Steed, those baddies can be so adversarial!

    People frequently compliment me for not filtering everything through my homosexuality, so I would like to take this opportunity to cash in some of that goodwill to finance a short blast of unadulterated faggotry:

    I know a lot of people enjoy taking their frustrations out on Maureen Dowd, with her prominent position and steady stream of ridiculous pronouncements. She doesn’t usually do much to get me going, but I almost had a coronary when I clicked through a link of Michelle Malkin’s and saw this opening paragraph on Dowd’s most recent emission:

    When I need to work up my nerve to write a tough column, I try to think of myself as Emma Peel in a black leather catsuit, giving a kung fu kick to any diabolical mastermind who merits it.

    Okay…Maureen? Hi! Here’s some advice you might profit from:





    Got that? Off. Your paws. Diana Rigg. Off. You no compare self to Emma Peel. To Emma Peel, you self compare, no. No, no, no. Not you compare self Emma Peel. To. No.


    I mean, WTF? I cannot think of a more un-Emma Peel-like person on Earth than Maureen Dowd, unless I missed the episode in which she plunked herself down opposite Steed and tried this maneuver:

    In 1996, after six months on the job, I went to Howell Raines, the editorial page editor, to try to get out of the column. I was a bundle of frayed nerves. I felt as though I were in a “Godfather” movie, shooting and getting shot at. Men enjoy verbal dueling. As a woman, I told Howell, I wanted to be liked – not attacked. He said I could go back to The Metro Section; I decided to give it another try. Bill Safire told me I needed Punzac, Prozac for pundits.

    Words fail me.

    So let’s try images. Now, lookit this. The Dowd photo is from her column, and the Rigg photo is from her biography here:


    He‘ll never kill again.”


    “I am so going to win that tiara this year.”

    I mean, seriously. Unlike Dowd, I’m not very photogenic, so I’m sensitive to the fact that you can’t judge someone’s whole personality from one exposure. On the other hand, it’s hard to believe that the NYT sends some guy with an Instamatic around the office to take one-click-and-that’s-it of its high-profile columnists. Someone–maybe not Dowd herself, but someone–thought she was best presented with that smug expression. It’s unfortunate, actually, because she’s a very attractive woman. (That’s an impressive head of hair.)

    But to move on…uh, the grey shell and pearls? The only way I can see that get-up on Emma Peel is if she has to infiltrate some embroidery club that’s actually a front for an assassination squad…say, whose weapons are the Petits-Fours of Death. Otherwise, no go.


    Okay, this is pretty high snark for me, and I assume it’s clear that the Diana Rigg thing, important as that is to those of us who want to preserve the torch of aesthetics in this benighted age, is not all of it.

    The thing is, Dowd is touching on a real issue. I don’t just mean the issue of how women’s impulses differ from men’s. In broad-brush terms, it’s probably true to say that, when using instinct to navigate through a scary and unfamiliar situation, more women are likely to fall back on trying to make nice and more men are likely to fall back on emotionally-detached readiness to spring into action. The thing is, both those instincts can be wrong at different moments, and no matter what your sex, it’s your job as an adult to discipline yourself into figure out what’s best and do it. The word for someone who wants “to be liked–not attacked” at all costs is not woman. Or man. It’s ninny.

    But as I say, that’s not even the big issue. The big issue is the old problem of whether equality of opportunity means equal access or equal outcomes. I could take a job I’m not suited for and then go whining to my boss that I was on edge because it wasn’t serving my strengths. Would that be the fault of the job? Dowd, defining the desire to be liked as an unalloyed womanly good, seems to figure that it is. In some cases, it might be. Some workplaces really are structured in ways that confound both employees and clients. But it’s hard to figure out how an op-ed page or its readers would benefit from telling columnists it’s okay not to be opinionated. Maybe Dowd–not women in general, but Dowd–really should have gone back to the metro section.

    In the meantime, women journalists whose nerves are not frayed are articulating opinions quite nic…uh, well. Joanne Jacobs‘s deadpan is even more refreshing than usual after Dowd’s wet-noodle prose. And she links to Anne Applebaum and Kay Hymowitz on the matter (well, Applebaum is responding to Susan Estrich). You can imagine what they have to say.

    6 Responses to “But, Steed, those baddies can be so adversarial!”

    1. Steve Burton says:

      Fabulous. Simply fabulous.
      Indeed, fabulous::whiteperil = dreary::Maureen Dowd.

    2. wheels says:

      It must be the phrasing, because I don’t consider chastising Maureen Dowd for the comparison to be a gay thing.
      I have fond memories of watching the show as a young boy of approximately the correct age to be suitably impressed by Diana Rigg as Mrs. Peel.
      My father, now, always said he preferred Honor Blackman.

    3. Sean Kinsell says:

      Now that I’ve forgotten my Analogies strategies, I’m not sure how to interpret that, but I’ll take it as a compliment. I take everything as a compliment. Keeps me from getting frown lines.
      No one ever stands up for poor Tara King. *sigh*
      Yes, it was the phrasing. I assume plenty of non-leftist straight men who watched The Avengers for more than the interesting plot resolutions were spluttering over Dowd’s lead paragraph. I think the thing that got me was…uh, I actually had a longer version of this, but the rest of it was getting directionless, so I ended it here. Maybe I’ll see whether I can get it to click and then add it.

    4. wheels says:

      Well, perhaps I’d have had a thing for Tara King if I’d seen enough of her. We left England just before I turned 12 (in 1965), and I believe that Diana Rigg had just left the series.
      Too long ago for me to remember clearly, because I do remember seeing some episodes on cable in the 80’s, and those were from the Diana Rigg years. I never saw any of the Honor Blackman shows until one of my brothers bought me some of the early shows on tape.

    5. Kelvin says:

      Okay, the only reason why I would take that post as anywhere related to your sexuality is because I have no clue to the history of those cultural references, which usually means either I’m too straight or too Asian. Or, rather, not sufficiently metro or assimilated.

      But at least I got and liked the serious analysis. :)

      (orig. posted 20 March 2005, 04:24 AM)

    6. Sean Kinsell says:

      What does a man have to do around here to get the guys to tell him he’s acting queer?

      I don’t think that not getting pop-culture references has much to do with being straight or Asian. I’m neither, and I’m about as out of the loop as it’s possible to imagine. I had no idea Paula Abdul had found a new career until last year; we don’t get American Idol, and while I’ve vaguely heard my family talk about Clay and Reuben, I really don’t know what they mean. Was there a Kelly, too? Of course, everyone assumes that if you live in Japan, you must know a lot about anime, which I don’t, either. I’m square in two languages, I guess.

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