Maureen Dowd trashed women’s fiction in the Times the other day. I’m pretty sure she did it to get letters because she’s fairly bright and that was the most illogical, poorly presented argument I’ve seen in a long time. My son-in-law who is professional blogger tells me that the blogs that get the most response are the ones that thrive, so many bloggers are posting deliberately incendiary posts to stir indignation and get those readers writing. Ann Coulter did much the same thing in public appearances when she criticized the 911 widows. This has the same feeling. It’s not that Dowd’s ideas are outrageous or insulting that gets to me on this one, it’s that they’re so DUMB. And she’s not a dumb woman. So I’m thinking she’s generating mail on this, not serious about her argument. Nobody could be serious about that argument. I managed to not respond to the Coulter insanity because I thought her fifteen minutes should have been up a long time ago, but on this one I tripped: I wrote the Times. They probably got six thousand letters on this article so I keep telling myself that mine didn’t make any difference, but I still feel stupid for letting her get to me and swelling her response numbers. She played me. I’m betting she played all of us. I shoulda known better.
Dear Miss Dowd, A few things: If The Bell Jar has pink on the cover, perhaps that’s a sign that making mock of all books with pink on the cover is not a legitimate approach for honest literary criticism. The “log-rolling blurbs” by other authors who write women-centered books is prompted by the fact that a blurb from Tom Clancy rarely spurs readers of women’s fiction to think, “That’s my kind of book.” This happens in other genres, too. It’s not a plot by women’s fiction writers to take over the bookstore. Even the male writers do it. Your worry that people will confuse the heroines of twenty-first century women’s fiction with the heroines of eighteenth and nineteenth century is unfounded. Readers, I have found, are generally pretty bright about things like that. I think it’s thoughtful of Leon to think that women should read The Red Badge of Courage instead of women’s fiction. I also think Leon should stop projecting his reading taste on all women in general, but I think it’s nice that he cares. I’m puzzled when you say, “The novel was once said to be a mirror of its times,” and then go on to recommend novels that are more than a hundred years old (except for that youngster, 1984). It makes it difficult to discern the actual distress behind this article. Is it that no author today is writing what you want them to? That readers aren’t reading what you want them to? That fiction is “undergoing a certain re-feminization” and that’s upsetting Leon? Or are you against “feminization” in general and you’re seeing this as the thin end of the wedge? Because I think you’re right on that one. Whatever it is, I hope your day is better today. Read a little Austen, she is wonderful, and you can probably find her books without pink covers. Oh, and my compliments on a great article for generating outraged letters. I remember the good old days when columnists were informed, logical, and incisive, but I know times change and the pink cover of commentary is now The Rant. Does the Times evaluate you on how much feedback you provoke? Because this is going to make you look so popular. Best of luck, Jennifer Crusie
And then I hit send and made her look more popular. Sigh. You know what would have been wonderful? If everybody had looked at that and said, “Sweet Jesus, this woman is dumb as a rock,” and ignored it. And then she’d have sat in her office waiting for the mail that never came. THAT would have been a great response.
42 thoughts on “RANT: Maureen Dowd Rants”
From my side…thanks for responding. Even if everyone who reads her column thinks “this woman is as dumb as a rock”, if stupid things go unchallenged, then before long, people begin to wonder if it were so dumb, wouldn’t have someone said so? Since no one challenged it, then maybe Dowd made sense.
But, really, I do get so tired of people who do not read women’s fiction, or romance, or whatever feeling they have the right to speak on a subject they obviously know nothing about.
So, thanks for standing up for us
What I’ve never understood is why people like Dowd get so worked up over this stuff. So they don’t like something. Big deal. I don’t like bananas. That doesn’t mean I have to trash them … you know what I mean.
It makes me think of people I know who say they don’t like country music. Well except for this artist and that song. Because they aren’t really country. Or so they tell themselves rather than admit that they might enjoy something that’s not elitist. Silly people. So sad really, to be that closed-minded.
But I liked your response, Jenny. It was intelligent and funny and snarky and if Ms. Dowd reads it she just might realize how very foolish her article was. Then again she probably doesn’t read the comments, seeing as how she thinks only dead white guys should be read.
I like your letter.
What pisses me off is people like Dowd don’t stand behind their own words. Look at the cover on her book, look at the title. Are Men Necessary? A flaunty gal in a red dress on the subway or a bus or something, with guys ogling her. She took the easy street and opted for a cover and title that could be mistaken for a contemporary romance … even, oh my god … chick lit? When she wanted to sell, she wasn’t behind the door when title and cover were chosen. She took the route that would strike the most interest. So, one giant raspberry for Ms. Dowd.
Great letter Jenny. So….you let one get to you….you’re only human.
Ms Dowd belngs to the same group of people who say, as MCB pointed out, they dont like country music or dont like tv sitcoms – the narrow minded group. The people who damn a whole genre or style of artistic expression because of one bad book, one terrible someone done someone wrong lyric or after watching one episode of Joey.
Literature from dead white guys has its place. But thank god this world has so much more to offer. It’s a shame people such as Ms Dowd will be the poorer for not experiencing it.
PS – Dont suppose anyones got a link to the offending article? I tried to google it but you have to be a subscriber to read it.
downundergal: linky, but you do have to log in.
I made a Dowd voodoo doll from the article and then tortured it. You can do some foul things to a paper doll. I thought your letter was far more articulate than my response. I agree with the comment above- if no one says “hey did you know you are full of it?” then people start to think “well maybe they have a point.” You are my hero- but then you knew that.
I don’t suppose that Mrs. Dowd stopped to think about the fact that she might be insulting more readers than she was informing when she says that “these books are all chick and no lit” . Coming from someone who works in a book store, I have seen many a customer start with Sophie Kinsella and Emily Giffin and move on to authors like Carol Shields and Alice Munroe. Not to mention that if she had done her homework she would know that ‘Agnes, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging’ is an (awesome) teen book. I think that women (both adult and teenage)are exposed to enough of the dark side of life (and literature) without having to be subjected to constantly be reading books that, while they may have moral value, are extremely depressing.
BTW, here is a link to a copy of the article:
Dear Maureen Dowd,
lol i dont no wut ur talken about, cuz all my frenz and i read chick lit, and we luv it, we r smart gurlz, 2. rofl.
p.s. Nice troll, but I don’t think it’s a great idea for a writer to discourage people from reading anything, you know? Truly smart people keep stretching their boundaries and exploring new genres and ideas, rather than trusting a no-longer venerable rag to tell them what’s okay to be seen reading.
just read the article (thanks SMH) and WTF? it seems to become the new thing to bash women’s fiction/chick-lit/whatever you want to call it.
i like your response but why’d you stop there, Jenny?
and Leon does realize there have been books written, about, oh, i don’t know, the war he is referring to instead of the Civil War (we have fought since then, Leon. more than once, in fact. and there’s some good books about the subjects too. some are even written by dead old white guys.)
i know, there’s so much more to be annoyed/angry about, but i’m getting used to women/men making fun of chick-lit without reading it because, hey, why research something or even give it a try when you can be a narrow-minded idiot?
and i’m with SMH. don’t dis the Agnes.
argh! someone’s going to be cheerfully murdered in my sleep tonight…
Hmmm…MD makes no comment about the little pink boxes that women end up in HIStory books. Apparently, this is not a problem.
This reminds me (somewhat) of an article published in American Libraries by David Isaacson (December 06). He was not only bemoaning the publication of such books, but also that librarians had the nerve to purchase them for their patrons.
“We should want our patrons to read good books, and then better ones, and then, once curiosity is aroused, the best ones they can find. And although this sounds not only old-fashioned but “judgmental,” I think librarians ought to have the courage to say that some books aren’t worth reading at all and don’t belong even in the most “balanced” collections.” (AL, 12/06, p.43)
and then …
“But I question the argument that libraries should go out of their way to acquire romance novels, thrillers, and other literature whose primary purpose is escape and titillation. Why should we compete with bookstores for this market?” (AL, 12/06, p. 43)
Sigh, everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. Just don’t presume to tell me what you think I should read. I am a reasonably bright woman and am sure I can pick the books I want to read without further guidance … thanks anyway.
Well even if you do regret sending it, thanks for the great chuckle anyway. You were right on the money.
So, Leon the Great says
“And when we’re at war and the country is under threat, they seem a little insular. America’s reading women [should] pick up ‘The Red Badge of Courage.’ ”
Yeah, Leon, that book about a completely self-contained internal war. That’ll help with the insularity, fer sher.
Me, being a VERY IMPORTANT writer for a NY newspaper, but with readership lagging, how do I get my male readership up…. Hmmm. I think I’ll diss my fella females. Yep! That’ll get it up. And those friggin’ females don’t read me anyway; so it won’t effect my numbers. But first I’ll take a little break. Where’s my Bet Me?
Well, I’m a little stunned. I would have thought a prerequisite of employment as a columnist would be the ability to write a coherent column. Never mind the content, that was a truly amazing display of haphazard thought process and so poorly written I might have enjoyed the irony of its intent as a criticism of writing, had it not been so painful to decipher.
Good for you, Jenny, for replying in a manner that gave her reasoning abilities the benefit of the doubt. Very nice letter.
If it were left up to Leon and Ms. Dowd a lot fewer people would be reading. Not to mention which, the dead white guys aren’t writing any more and I need a continuous supply of books.
Thanks SMH for posting the url so I could read the actual article.
You know the thing that I find both amusing and irritating is the apparent conviction that Maureen and Leon have, that if I’d just read REAL novels, TRUE literature, I’d have this blinding epiphany and realize how much of my life I’d wasted with chick lit or romance (or probably as far as they are concerned, all genre fiction).
I’ve read Hemingway, Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Conrad, and even Camus (in French!). I’ve read Plath, Voltaire, Shakespeare, Dante, Faulkner, James, and god knows who else. And honey, if I hadn’t been forced to keep reading “literature” because of high school and college requirements, I’d have run screaming into the night from everything except Shakespeare. (Why? Because the guy didn’t write “literature”. He wrote plays designed to ENTERTAIN people.)
I read romantic comedy, mystery, science fiction, thrillers, biography, non-fiction medical and historical documentary work, because I enjoy them.
People like what they like. If Maureen and Leon like “traditional” literary work and dislike chick-lit, more power to them. I don’t much care for their taste, but it doesn’t make them stupid or bad or inferior.
I just wish they’d offer the same courtesy to those of us who prefer other types of fiction, and quit sneering publically at our reading preferences. That’s like sneering at & putting down people who like brownies because you think cheesecake is “better”. It’s not particularly relevant to much of anything.
What a waste of newsprint.
That column is crap and makes me want to stop getting the NY Times headlines in my email. I notice that they have no letters in response yet up on the site. . .
Maybe they are overwhelmed; I see that Jennifer Weiner responded also.
Turns out the NYT doesn’t publish letters over 150 words and they don’t print anything that’s appeared elsewhere, so technically I didn’t respond, but it still counts that I was one of the letters that hit the desk there.
Should be interesting when they start printing the responses.
That hissing you hear is the sound my brain makes when it’s desperately trying to jettison pressure before I stroke out. Since I really want to scream at Maureen, but don’t want to give her blog the benefit of a comment, all just vent to you guys ’cause the Cherries alway understand!
Thanks! I feel better now. I had flipped my reversible “Nothing but Good Times Ahead”/”We’re Doomed” sign to “We’re Doomed” when Molly Ivins died. I’m flipping it back now, because we’ve still got Jenny.
And since my previous ire forced me out of lurkerdom, I’ll just add my urgent request to be financially exploited, to be given the opportunity to support the economy, and to be just damned well cheered up by “Jenny Stuff”. Charge us an extra dollar and give it to the charity of your choice, and it’ll be a win/win/win situation all round. A few requests:
Make the apron super washable for those of us who routinely spill the marinara.
Make license plate frames that say “Nothing But Good Times Ahead” for the front and “We’re Doomed” for the back. Or vice versa.
A reversible ball cap with the same would be good, too.
Please, please, please make something with a cartoon of Jenny and Bob looking out her sliding window at the two turkey vultures on the deck rail. And, of course, Bob could be saying, “We’re Doomed”. And, yes, I know he wasn’t really there at the time.
And, I want to be first in line for a ball cap and gardener’s apron (you know, short with lots of pockets for tools) to promote YoU AGAIN. You can sell me the matching water bottle separately, just make sure it has its own pocket in the apron.
Gee, I just got this image in my head of Jenny and Bob playing covert golf.
Thank God I live in a world that has the Cherries and The Cherry.
Well, I’m going to be a horrible replier and not even read the original document. I hate trying to log into the NYT site!! First, what’s wrong with pink covers. I love pink and it attracts the eye and now that I’m getting older and can’t see as well as I used to I know that cover artists the world over love to send me to books that I might enjoy by employing wonderful bright colors – including pink. In fact, i found a wonderful YA book at the library one day when I had my eyes dilated for an eye exam and couldn’t even read the title. The cover was bright BRIGHT pink and was a great story of a girl and her mom that communicated almost entirely through post it notes on the fridge.
Next thoughts, i haven’t read Tom Clancy since Red October was published by the Naval Academy Press so his blurbs sure don’t do it for me. Nor does RBOC. In fact, I think it was the worst thing I was subjected to reading in high school.
Personally, I enjoy women’s fiction of today because it’s about real, or real-ish, women and since our lives are a bit easier than they were 100 years ago the protagonists tend to live until the end of the book. It makes me want to read until the end instead of worrying about not getting too attached to a character because I know she’ll have killed herself before the end of the story. It’s true there were some great stories, but a bit depressing for everyday reading.
Just some thoughts.
Again, you made some great points.
I just feel the need to point out that we chick-lit readers tend to buy a LOT of books. Sometimes we’ll even buy something that isn’t chick-lit.
My issue with Ms. Dowd’s rant is that she’s raging against a faction of readers who buy a lot of books, love to read those books, and often convince their friends to buy even more books.
As people worry that the publishing industry is dying, women’s fiction has become a surprisingly lucrative medium. In fact, it’s probably the money from the millions of chick-lit readers that the publishers use to fund “serious” authors. Who might not sell a lot of books.
How do you think Ms. Dowd would feel if she got her wish, and we all stopped buying chick lit? Would she be pleased to see the publishing industry denied all of that nice, pink money?
Sigh. That’s why I just don’t understand why authors feel the need to rail on those of us who… gasp!… buy a lot of books. We are doing our part to keep the publishing industry afloat. All of those “serious” authors should thank us, not decry our choice of reading material.
And they should be more worried about the generation of teenagers being raised without an appreciation for books. Most of them don’t like books at all, not even the crap (in Ms. Dowd’s opinion) ones. If it ain’t Harry Potter, they aren’t reading it.
(Except for some of the girls. The ones who read “The Princess Diaries” series now and will grow up to read Jennifer Crusie. Except Ms. Dowd probably REALLY hates Meg Cabot’s books because it doesn’t get any pinker than that. Darn those pink-book-reading young adults! We need to get them to stop spending their money on bad books, as well.)
Today I am going to support the publishing industry by buying some chick lit. Maybe my money will help fund a “serious” author’s first novel. That “serious” author can thank me later.
Great response, Jenny!
Sometimes it just gets too uncomfortable to sit on your hands. Thanks for hitting that “send” button on behalf of the hand-sitters among us.
*lowers lids slightly, peering over the top of her glasses*
Who the hell is Leon and why should I care what he wants me to read?
For that matter… *I* decide what I read – and not one of my “trashy” romance novels every complained about having to share shelf space with Stephen Hawking stuff. My Fantasy novels have yet to push the Encyclopedia Britannica off the shelf (Granted, they are kinda heavy but my fantasy novels have dragons in them. Maybe they should just… like… uh… burn them off the shelf. Or something.)
I’ve said this elsewhere about others, but it fits so nicely in this situation. Maureen, you are a poop. That was an ill-conceived and unorganized take on women’s literature. And to prove my point I will only buy books with pink on the cover for the next month! I stopped letting men tell me what to read and how to shape my opinions when I left college. So Leon, be quiet. Thank you, Jenny, for succinctly summing up all that we have ranted about here.
This would be a good example of why I lurk and don’t comment; I missed a typo in my previous comment and can’t figure out how to go in and fix it. I know it’s not a big deal, but geez, if I’m yelling in print at someone, I’d like to seem as though I can spell. I’ve given up on grammer; I lost most of what I knew in post-menopausal memory dump. Can someone tell me how to edit after the fact? Thanks a heap!
I just read that blog, and Jenny, I’m amazed that you managed to narrow down your objections to compose the succinct response that you did.
I think above all I find it offensive that she damn an entire genre to literary hell, based on their covers. Does she notice for instance that Jennifer Weiner’s “Good in Bed” is less about sex than relationships? And not just between men and women, but between parents and children, and siblings? Does she realize that “Angus” is not geared toward the adult woamn, but adolescents? Louise Rennison addresses things in her series that teenagers think about in a sharp, funny way.
I find it hard to believe out of the 36 books Ms. Dowd claims to have take home and read that not a single one was anything more than women wandering around and trying to capture husbands. But then when one enters with a closed mind into such an experiment, I suppose it’s natural that they achieve the expected results.
You may have been adding to some bean counter’s idea of her popularity, but I’ll bet no one else came up with such a funny, honest and snarky response.
Having read the article, I can only conclude that she has a problem with pink. What else can it be???
I have read and still read literary works, as well as reading and writing romance. I enjoy both, and read newspapers regularly. What I find sad about Ms Dowd is that, in trying to recommend “better reading” for the American public, her appalling grammar and sentence structure makes The Times appear as a forum for the “I slept through college” folk to feel superior.
Superior to what, by the end of the article, remains unclear. Then, I’m just a yokel from Australia who writes romance novels (*with pink covers*), so what would I know?
Red Badge of Courage. Huh. That was assigned reading in one of my first English classes in high school. Need I say I neglected to read it? Didn’t sound like my kind of thing. It’s kind of amazing to me, now, that I got away with that argument. Ah, magnet schools. Little did I appreciate the intellectual freedom I had as a thirteen year old. Yet today, some broad, and her best bud, figure they’re going to tell me what to read???
Pardon me while I take a break for maniacal laughter.
I feel such rage at the fact that ANYBODY would berate a person for reading. It doesn’t matter WHAT that person reads, be it comic books, chick lit, telephone books, yogurt cartons, Shakespeare, etc., as long as they are engaging their brains with words instead of drugs… WHO CARES!!!! What’s next? Censorship and book burning? Alright, that was probably taking it a bit too far… The bottom line is that this is America. We have freedom of choice and freedom to express ourselves. We should not feel guilty for buying a book with a pink cover nor should we feel guilty for enjoying that book (and getting a warm, fuzzy feeling in our hearts from its content!)
LOL on your reply to MD! It would be nice to think she actually reads replies and doesn’t just measure them to count readership. She might actually have to think about that one.
And Dowd is one of the reasons I don’t read opinion columnists. (although admittedly, I loved Molly Ivins and would sneak a peek there occasionally) I only have so many angry cells to spare in my brain, and I prefer to reserve them for real conflicts. Take that, MD.
I’ve read “Red Badge Of Courage”, have it stuck away in storage. Will never re-read it. As to the “Pink” covered books, I’ve read and re-read a great many of them. Most of the current crop of authors make excellent reading as compared to the 100 year ago writers, IMO.
Ms Jenny…Loved your response…that will put Ms Dowd in her place.
Might look up the dictionary defination of “dowd”
I have to say I am not a big fan of pink.
I am also not a big fan of being told what to read. That ship sailed when I ended formal education, which included weighty tomes, literature and translating six of the 12 books of the Aeneid from Latin to English.
Also, I am not a fan of portions of the New York Times — the smug parts and the parts that are poorly written and poorly reasoned and the parts that are patronizing about everywhere that is not Manhattan.
What does that leave?
The odd story on the business page, I guess.
Really I should have written that to them, but you all get to read it now.
I now read for enjoyment. I don’t read for punishment.
Argh – I don’t get the Times and I’m not a Times Select subcriber, so all I’ve read is the snippets that other bloggers have posted. I’m a little out of the loop on this, but I think it’s a little insulting for Leon (whoever he is) to insinuate that just because someone reads chick lit, they couldn’t possibly have read The Red Badge of Courage. What an idiot. And could someone explain to me how or what reading a chick lit book ties in with terrorism? What is THAT about? Is there some kind of code in them thar pages that I’ve missed?
And, yes, you can find a Jane Austen novel that doesn’t have a pink cover. I picked up a copy of Emma before Christmas and its cover is a pretty boring beige-y tan. But then again, I didn’t buy it for the cover, but that’s just me.
Thank you SMH for posting the link.
What the? Who the hell is Leon and how old is he? What paternalistic clap trap. He sounds like he has a stick firmly jabbed up a certain piece of his anatomy.
Kim: you didn’t know? apparently in any pink book, of any genre it falls under, on page 123, the first letter of each line is oh heck, i think Homeland Security is on to me.
zaza: another one, eh? i admit, i did it too. i would also read the book and then find a modern book that got the same point across in a language kids would enjoy and respond to. they didn’t appreciate that either…
Steph: are you thinking of Feeling Sorry for Celia? it’s an Aussie teen book? good stuff.
““And when we’re at war and the country is under threat, they seem a little insular. America’s reading women [should] pick up ‘The Red Badge of Courage.’ ”
Huh. That’s lovely. A woman sees her son, husband, or boyfriend go off to war, decides to read “The Red Badge of Courage” so that she can better envision her son, husband, or boyfriend in bloody hand-to-hand combat, in constant threat of death.
Or, maybe the woman going through cancer treatment should read storiesa bout the pain and travail that she will surely go through, so that not only can she live it as she goes through it, but live it again by reading about it. Such fun.
I don’t think so. It’s not a sin to take a vacation from pain, and even to hope that maybe, maybe there’s a chance that we might get through it all right. It might even be less cruel. A lot of people are living the reality of a harsh life. They don’t have to read about it, too.
Aha! Now I know the secret. Bwahahaha! And to think, I’ve been reading for the story… silly me…
It must have been a slow schmooze day for the ol’ Dowdster. Normally, I can appreciate her point of view.
And it must be said: Anne Coulter is the devil. Never speak her name aloud. If you do so by mistake, you must turn in a circle three times, spit on the ground, and send a check for $6.66 to the Republic Party in Molly Ivins’ name. She’ll get a heavenly chuckle from it.
I haven’t read an article written by Maureen Dowd since she declared all stay at home moms weren’t real feminists. As a mom of 3 who has worked full time, part time, and stayed at home, I found her sentiment harsh and utterly ridiculous. So I’ll give her this much credit, the title of her article reeled me in. I just had to read what her latest anti-woman rant was about, and she didn’t let me down. Her opinions were as elitist and trite as the type of feminism she brags to aspire too.
Here’s a thought Maureen. Maybe this day and age we need a new type of feminism. A type of feminism that includes women from all walks of life and from all backgrounds. A type of feminism that includes women who have all types of tastes (not just the ones you deem as acceptable), and the type of feminism that doesn’t look down at our feminine qualities, but embraces them.
One thing I love about Jennifer Crusie is that (I assume) she is a real feminist, and her heroines display those qualities. Of course, since Maureen Dowd doesn’t do research (she just spouts off opinions) she doesn’t know this.
And as for the librarian quoted above. Another elitist snob no doubt. My mother is a librarian, and she doesn’t believe in censorship, and that is a whole other can of worms I will leave untouched, but that is what this all seems like to me, and I can’t stand the thought!!!
Yep, feminist here.
I think Dowd has just lost her grip on the real world. As somebody said on Salon once about literary critics in academe, she thinks she’s the elite but she’s really just marginalized. The world goes on without her and she can’t understand it because she’s so RIGHT.
Of course, I get that way myself, so I’m not in a position to throw pink covers at her.
Comments are closed.