While women find a wide array of men attractive for a wide array of reasons, men tend to be more predictable and visual in their responses. What men find sexy has hardly changed, despite a feminist revolution, except to grow more lactic and cartoonish.
These discussions of how inevitably primitive men are bother me. Maybe the science is true; maybe I should stop hoping that equality of the sexes means that, just as women aren't all only interested in snagging a man, men are able to think above the belt. Maybe the science proves me wrong. Maybe I am denying the true nature of evolution. Early in the book, Dowd herself recognizes that, sometimes, she casts a very wide net:
I certainly understand if some men prefer to think of themselves as individuals and opt to wriggle out of one broad's broad generalizations.
But is that enough to forgive the familiar keening about men who won't commit?
An unscientific poll of my girlfriends found that they would rather have a pill that could change a man's personality an hour after sex. A pill that ensures that he always calls the next day and never gets spooked.
A morning-after pill for men.
So Dowd, whose single status and relationships seem to invariably be mentioned in reviews (a trend I am not entirely comfortable with, but seem to be continuing, possibly inevitably given the title's wink-nudge to the issue), declares that a Viagra-like solution is needed for that kind of let-down. And yet, it is a very broad generalization, one that runs counter to my own experiences.
Not all men are users. Not all men get spooked. And women sometimes use men and sometimes bolt in the morning after. (I'll confess: I've been one.) These kinds of stereotypes perpetuate a Mars/Venus model of gender relations rather than any real understanding.
Yet Dowd's discussions of what happened to feminism are important. As she says in more than one place, the backlash has lasted longer than the feminist movement itself. Under these circumstances, "even if I felt like raising a ruckus about Boys Nation, who would care?"
Dowd is an astute political commentator, particularly when she is tackling the techniques that male politicians use to appeal to woman or the ways the rules are different for woman candidates:
If a woman candidate said she would rely on the kindness of advisers to tell her what to do with the "East Timorians," or stumbled on the pronunciations of several global hot spots, as W. did, she would immediately be dismissed as a dizzy dame.
It's because of these observations, and because of Dowd's light touch with prose and her sense of humour, that I enjoyed Are Men Necessary? in spite of frequent moments of frustration. It certainly offered me plenty to think about, even if sometimes what I was puzzling was how to articulate my instinctive gnashing of teeth. Two later chapters, covering the beauty industry and Hilary Clinton, were particularly strong.