She may be smart, incisive, witty, and keenly observant but with the release of Are Men Necessary?
--a series of pithy (some might say piqued) ruminations on the sexes--Maureen Dowd will never, ever be championed by guys. Not that she cares. Even those who seek to avoid her columns in the august pages of The New York Times
are certain to stumble over her invective in syndication. Dowd, it often seems, is everywhere. So those seeking even more via this book should be warned: Are Men Necessary?
not only asks the eponymous question; it seeks to answer it with myriad examples (some convincing, some not) drawn from the Toronto Star
to Kenneth Starr, from Cosmopolitan
to Condoleezza Rice. You can bet a lot of folks aren't going to relish the answer.
With hands on hips and eyes wide open, Dowd surveys gender relations in contemporary settings such as the workplace, the White House, the mall, and the media, comparing and contrasting as she goes. And while her secondary sources are endless--and, let's face it, the subject of gender inequality is not exactly new--Dowd manages to produce a fair share of bons mots. To wit, this pearl on the subject of plastic surgery and men: "I have yet to see a man come out of cosmetic surgery without looking transformed into some permanently astonished lesbian version of himself," Dowd quotes a source as saying. "It's terrifying. My friend's father had just his eyes done by the best, most highly sought-after cosmetic surgeon in New York City. And he doesn't look refreshed or well rested. He looks like he's being stabbed to death by invisible people." Dowd's generously dispersed anecdotes, though seldom as funny, are equally readable. In the end, though, one wishes Are Men Necessary? went beyond simply grocery listing examples of sexual disparity to offer concrete suggestions for change. Then again, maybe that's too great a task even for a woman like Dowd. --Kim Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
, collecting her amped New York Times
op-eds, hit big during the 2004 presidential campaign. This follow-up is as slapdash as the earlier book was slash-and-burn. What Dowd seems really to want to do is dish up anecdotes of gender bias in the media, which she does with her usual aplomb—everything from how Elizabeth Vargas was booted out of Peter Jennings's vacant chair at ABC during his illness ("I'm not sure if she has the gravitas," opines an exec) to the guys who won't date Dowd because she's got more Beltway juice (and money) than they. The rest is padding: endless secondary source and pundit quotes ("In Time,
Andrew Sullivan wondered: 'So a woman is less a woman if she is a scientist or journalist or Prime Minister?' "); examples of gender relations gone wrong in books, film and TV; random interview blips ("Carrie, a publicist in her late twenties from Long Island, told me...."); little musings from girlhood that are rarely revealing enough; endless career rehashes of everyone from Anita Hill to Helen Gurley Brown. A chapter on dating is a mishmash of everything from The Rules
to He's Just Not That into You
; one on reproductive science (that asks the title question for real) ends up referring a lot to orgasm. It's intermittently entertaining, but neither sharp enough nor sustained enough to work as a book.
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