Shame on me. For all my complaints about Maureen Dowd, I somehow failed to notice that she was the only regular female columnist at The New York Times. For that, shame on the Times. In her column today Dowd points out that the Washington Post also has only one female regular.
The situation is actually worse than Dowd thinks, for the number of good female columnists at the inappropriately nicknamed “Grey Lady” is actually zero. Double shame on The Times. Her call for more female columnists is worthy of heeding. And I won’t deny there’s some truth to her complaint that
[w]hile a man writing a column taking on the powerful may be seen as authoritative, a woman doing the same thing may be seen as castrating. If a man writes a scathing piece about men in power, it’s seen as his job; a woman can be cast as an emasculating man-hater. I’m often asked how I can be so “mean” – a question that Tom Friedman, who writes plenty of tough columns, doesn’t get.
My personal observation is that this gender bias has been reduced since the advent of the blogosphere. Maybe the popularity of forums where men and women can post and comment on an equal footing, without having to worry about making a boss or editor happy, has encouraged more opinionated women to speak out (anonymity can be a benefit too), and maybe men are seeing that they can have heated discussions with female antagonists just as easily as they can with fellow men.
Whatever the cause, I believe Dowd is wrong about bloggers. Female bloggers may not equal their male counteraprts in numbers (yet), but the female contributors to the blogs I follow (such as the multiblog Blogcritics and the wide-ranging Making Light) are at least as vociferously opinionated as the men.
As for her audience, Dowd notes that although she gets a lot of mail from male readers wanting her comments on their opinion pieces but that “women hardly ever send their own rants.” I suspect that’s because the women are too smart to waste their time corresponding with an intellectual pipsqueak like Dowd. Maybe it’s only men who’ll waste their time reading and reacting to the poor writing and unclear thought processes of such a pundit-wannabee. Only men – like, um, me. Hey – did I just prove my point, or refute it? Hmm…