I have some ongoing gripes about Maureen Dowd, but today's column, "Should Hillary Pretend to Be a Flight Attendant?," manages to sum up a bunch of recent studies about intelligent women and their attractiveness to men, young women's income superiority as a hindrance in dating, what men and men are really looking for, etc. without crapping all over Hillary Clinton in the process, as is her wont.
I do wish she had mentioned one additional Times article, August's "Be Yourselves, Girls, Order the Rib-Eye" by Allen Salkin, which would have made this column a comprehensive roundup of the current "state of the sexes" with a sly nod to presidential politics that doesn't, like her usual fare, hit you over the head with an agenda-mallet (you can buy one from Sky Mall) or read like a Sex and the City episode with each paragraph turning on one bad pun.
I've been complaining about Maureen for a long time because she has a powerful pulpit whose potential impact she often squanders. She asks to be taken seriously as a feminist (Or does she? I can never tell) and then publishes some infuriated screed in which she complains that young women have squandered the wages of feminism, tarring all women of my generation with the same (unfair) brush. Then she retreats into her cutesy pun-laden columns whose point is typically obscured by the need to hit a nonsensical punchline at the kicker.
Does Maureen Dowd have a "duty" or "responsibility" as the only female NYT op-ed columnist to deliver balanced, N.O.W.-approved opinions? No -- just because she's a woman with a widely read column doesn't mean she must toe a predictable feminist line. Should she be unequivocally supporting Hillary? Of course not. But I don't think it's a coincidence that her best columns lately have included consultation with experts or been written by Stephen Colbert (whose job it is to be funny; and who, not incidentally actually is funny). Her usual slapsticky style detracts from the moments (like today) when her columns are actually interesting and insightful. She doesn't need to incarnate some distaff version Krugman or Kristof, but regardless of gender, she should strive for relevance over performance.